All In The Scent Family

All In The Scent Family

What's your fragrance family?

Just like colors and flavors, fragrances can be divided up into primary categories.  There are a number of ways that these are cataloged, but the most well known method is the "Fragrance Family" created by the perfume guru Michael Edwards in his book "Fragrances Of The World".

Edwards breaks down scents into four main types which are then further divided into 13 subgroups that he calls families.


The Fragrance Wheel created by Michael Edwards.

The 4 principle groups are Fresh, Floral, Woody and Oriental.

Fresh Notes
These are the fragrances that are most commonly referred to as botanical, herbal or aquatic and also in cludes citrus notes.  

Edwards breaks down Fresh notes into green, aquatic and citrus.  Green notes are ones that evoke a sense of nature and the outdoors, such as grass and herbs.  Aquatic notes are the scents of rain and the sea while citrus, one of the oldest categories of scents used for perfumery consists of lemons, oranges, bergamot, grapefruit and mandarins.

Floral Notes

The fragrances of flowers are sufficiently diverse to justify being their own family as opposed to being a part of the Fresh Note family.  Floral notes remain popular with perfumers for both their traditional appeal and their variety, with new notes being introduced regularly.

Edwards' fragrance wheel divides Florals into a number of subgroups - from soft florals which evoke the lighter, more powdery blooms to floral Orientals which are the stronger fragrances with sweeter and spicier notes.

Oriental Notes

This is the group that Edwards uses to categorize stronger notes with a more sweet or spicy character.  Oriental notes include any fragrance that can be easily described as "exotic" and includes notes such as cardamom and clove all the way to softer, sweeter scents like amber, chocolate and vanilla.  Overall, this category sits between Woody and Floral notes in the scent wheel.

Woody Notes

This one is pretty self explanitory!  All of the most popular wood notes are included - from sandalwood and cedar through to more resinous scents such as patchouli.  

There are some general rules of thumb on how to characterize scent groups:

Fresh Notes are outdoorsy - green and aquatic.
Floral Notes are any of the spectrum of blossom scents.
Oriental Notes are the strong, exotic sweet and spicy fragrances.
Woody scents are just that - your favorite aromatic wood note.

What's that one in the middle of the wheel?

Fougere - one of the most classic scent blends in perfume is a balanced accord of all of the scent families, with a base of green and woody notes with softer florals and fresh notes that are used to offset the sharpness.  As Fougere blends tend not to be oriented towards one group in particular, they are placed in the center of the wheel to illustrate their unique nature.


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