The world of fragrance categories can be a little bewildering to the uninitiated and even, at times, to the experienced perfume aficionado. The dizzying array of different categories, many of which use obscure words and overlap with one another, can be a minefield for those seeking to understand how certain types of fragrances should smell.
Here we attempt to alleviate your confusion and provide an accessible breakdown of some of the most common types of fragrance.
It should be remembered that these categories are merely descriptive and all have room for considerable variation and exceptions within them.
This the name given to a family of fragrances characterised by citrus opening notes, a heart of cistus labdanum and a base of mossy/animalic accords usually centred around oakmoss. The term Chypre is French for the island of Cyprus and the application of this word to a fragrance originated with Francois Coty’s perfume named “Chypre” which was released in 1917 and featured many notes from Mediterranean countries. Hence, a new genre of perfume was born. Chypres can have many different sub-categories depending on the non essential notes which are included in a scent, so we may talk about “fruity chypres” or “chypre/floral” scents.
Popular examples of Chypre fragrances include:
Creed - Aventus
Guerlain - Mitsouko
Tom Ford - Noir de Noir.
Aromatic perfumes are by definition those high in spicy and citrusy notes and they are often grassy and/or spicy. Blends of spices such as cumin, lavender, sage, rosemary and many other distinctive plant varieties typify the Aromatic fragrance genre. Aromatic fragrances have most often been marketed towards men and, as with Chypres, there are many sub-categories such as Citrus Aromatic or Spicy Aromatic which accentuate certain facets of this style.
Popular Aromatic fragrances include:
Aramis - Black
Versace - Tabac Imperial
Mugler - Mystic Aromatic.
Real amber, which exists in nature, takes millions of years to form and is not actually used in perfume. It is a fiery looking red rock-like substance and this implied fire and warmth gives this scent category its name. The term Amber when applied to perfume refers to scents which give a warm and comforting feeling. Three ingredients which will often, but not always, be found in Amber fragrances are vanilla, labdanum absolute and benzoin. The warm woody qualities of labdanum, the resinous semi-sweetness of benzoin and the eternally comforting note of vanilla are all perfect for creating a warm or “ambery” feeling in a fragrance.
Well known Amber fragrances include:
Prada - Amber Pour Homme
Serge Lutens - Ambre Sultan
Maison Francis Kurkdjian - Baccarat Rouge 540
Floral fragrances. You’ve guessed it... these are perfumes with dominant floral notes. Notes such as Rose, Jasmine, Iris and Violet are amongst the most recognisable in perfumery and have been used for many centuries in aroma creation. There are rather more floral fragrances aimed at women than men. As with the other categories, we very often find that a fragrance is categorised not purely as “floral” but rather the description uses other terms in combination with “floral”. Hence, we often talk about Woody Floral Musk scents or Floral Gourmands.
Famous Floral scents include:
Gucci - Flora
Dior - J’Adore
Viktor & Rolf - Flowerbomb
As the name suggests, this type of scent is centred on notes coming from woods such as cedar, sandalwood and rosewood. However, some grasses, leaves and roots such as patchouli and vetiver have woody scents and can also be central in creating a Woody perfume. A sub category of the Woody fragrance genre is that of Oud fragrances. Oud is an exotic ingredient which comes from a particular type of mould growing on the agarwood tree. Oud has been used for many centuries in the Middle East and Far East and is famous for its resinous, exotic and mysterious aura. As with many other fragrance categories, we often find the Woody style of fragrance crossed with other types. Hence, we commonly talk about Woody Aromatic or Woody Chypre scents etc.
Well known examples of Woody fragrances include:
Penhaligons - Halfeti
Dunhill - Indian Sandalwood
Tom Ford - Oud Wood
Finally, we have the very popular fragrance group known as Citrus scents. The vibrant, invigorating and refreshing aromas of citrus fruits are hugely important in creating many of the world’s most well loved olfactory creations. Most fragrances, of whichever type, will contain one or more citrus notes. Citruses provide freshness in the opening of many perfumes which are not centred on these zesty fruits. However, those fragrances belonging by definition to the Citrus family of scents draw their primary characteristics from the use of the oils of lemon, bergamot, orange, mandarin, lime etc. The leaves and flowers of citrus fruit plants are also used in creating citrus scents. Lemon verbena, orange blossom and neroli are certainly somewhat citrusy in smell despite not being fruits in and of themselves.
Examples of Citrus fragrances include:
Dolce & Gabbana - Orange
Acqua di Parma - Colonia Essenza
Jo Malone - Lime, Basil and Mandarin
As we can see fragrance descriptors and categories offer only an indication of how a perfume will smell. Much as musical categories such as pop, rock, jazz, blues, rap and country often overlap, fragrances can rarely be understood simply from the designation ascribed to them. The rich and complex world of fragrance is infinitely varied and no two perfumes really smell quite the same. Explore as many different styles as you can, be open minded and let your own nose and taste be your true guide