Do you know the difference between EDP and EDT? Do you know your top notes from middle notes? Not to worry, we’ve put together The Fragrance Glossary to answer every question you have about what’s in your bottle.
Sometimes reading up on the newest fragrance releases can be like reading through a deliciously scented thesaurus if you’re not familiar with your accords or Fougères, but we’re here to help you crack the codes to enter the world of fragrance more confidently. Now, let’s dive in to The Fragrance Glossary…
Absolute / Absolue
An absolute is a highly-concentrated fragrance oil. It’s similar to an essential oil but is generally more concentrated because of how they are extracted and they play a key part in the world of fragrance.
Similar to how we use red and yellow to make orange, an accord is when two or more ingredients (see: Notes) are brought together to create an entirely different scent altogether.
An aftershave is a lightly-scented astringent lotion applied to the skin after shaving to reduce bleeding from cuts. Typically it contains only aromatic compounds at a concentration of 1-3%, meaning its scent isn’t very long-lasting.
Aftershave should close pores and heal any shaving nicks, although the term has been slightly confused over the years as it’s become synonymous with male-marketed fragrance. Eau De Parfums are the more highly-concentrated fragrances, like Tom Ford Ombre Leather, that do not provide the same post-shaving benefits.
Aldehydes are fragrant chemicals found in natural settings (like flowers). Aldehydes can add a sparkle or fruit scent to fragrances.
A commonly used term to describe a sweet, woody odor in fragrance.
An adjective to describe something with a pleasant, distinctive smell (similar to how you’d use ‘fragrant’ or ‘scented’).
Balsams / Balsamic
No, we’re not talking about balsamic vinegar. Balsams are oil-rich resinds found naturally and now created synthetically for their soft and sweet scents. Ingredients like Peru balsam, Bezoin and Tolu balsam are commonly used in Oriental fragrances.
Base notes are the heaviest notes (ingredients) used in fragrance formulas, meaning they last the longest. After the top notes and middle notes have evaporated, the base notes will linger, often revealing a different scent when on their own. Common base notes include Moss, Patchouli and Musk.
An essential oil from tough outer skin of the Citrus aurantium, an inedible fruit from the same tree as Orange Blossom, Neroli and Petit Grain. It brings a bright, sun-kissed citrus freshness to fragrances.
A mix of two or more scented ingredients, i.e. an accord will blend two or more notes together.
A fragrance family (more on that below) named after the French word for the Greek island of Cyprus, which tells you a lot of what your nose needs to know: Citrus vibes, usually accompanied by base notes like Moss or one of the many woods, i.e. Sandalwood.
A way to describe a fragrance that’s citrusy in its final formula or to point to individual notes from the citrus family, like grapefruit, lemon, orange or tangerine.
See Eau De Cologne (EDC).
A technical term for a scented ingredient when talking about aromatic chemicals together.
Concentration refers to the ratio between perfume, oil and alcohol in a single bottle. Eau De Cologne, Eau De Toilette, Eau De Parfum and Parfum or Extrait are the four categories of strength concentration in fragrance because of how they differ.
A higher concentration in fragrance means it will last longer on your skin, whereas a lower concentration is a generally weaker scent that will require reapplication more frequently.
Eau De Cologne (EDC)
More commonly referred to now simply as Cologne, an EDC is the lightest concentration of fragrance. Colognes have between 2-4% of perfume oils and will generally last on the skin for up to two hours.
Eau De Parfum (EDP)
With a higher concentration than EDC and Eau De Toilettes (below), Eau De Parfums have a 15-20% concentration of aromatic notes to last between four and five hours.
Eau De Toilette (EDT)
An EDT will generally last between three and four hours on the skin because of its 10-15% concentration of aromatic notes, mixed with water and alcohol.
A natural oil which carries the characteristic smell of the plant or other source from which it’s extracted from.
Extrait / Extract
Extrait means to extract in perfumery. An extrait is the most concentrated fragrance you can purchase as its concentration levels range between 15% and 45%. These fragrances may be called an extrait or parfum.
The biggest fragrance family (more below) there is, floral refers to a fragrance with a floral essence and to individual floral notes from Rose to Jasmine or Ylang Ylang.
Named after the French word for fern, a fougère fragrance is a style of fragrance associated with herbal scents. They commonly feature notes such as Lavender or Oakmoss.
A fragrance is an overarching term to describe scents created for anyone, including perfumes and aftershaves.
Fragrance has been split up into several families to create distinctive aromatic groups to help people point to their scent preferences more clearly and simply than a long list of notes.
The number of fragrance families differentiates depending on where you look. The French Society of Perfumers (a.k.a La Société Française des Parfumeurs) uses seven categories, while Michael Edwards’ Fragrances of the World uses four. The most commonly used fragrance families are Amber, Chypre, Floral, Fougère, Fresh, Gourmand, Leather, Oriental and Woody.
Non-citrus fruit notes used in accords, including Blackberry, Apple and Cherry.
A relatively new fragrance family pointing to the food world, including Chocolate, Caramel and Vanilla.
Heart note / Middle note
Middle notes of fragrances are initially hidden by the immediate top notes then slowly revealed, lasting a couple of hours before the base takes centre stage. Fruity and Floral notes often sit in the middle of fragrances, lovingly referred to as the heart.
A fragrance family associated with smoky scents that evoke traditional leather goods. (Fragrance fact: Leather notes cannot be distilled from actual leather so whenever you see a fragrance list Leather as a note, it’ll be an accord of other ingredients.)
Musk is a frequent base note used to extend the life of a fragrance. It also adds a sensual feel, so will often be used across Eau De Parfums and Eau De Toilettes for anyone, unlike other notes which have become more typically associated with masculine or feminine fragrances.
Natural refers to any ingredient derived from natural, non-synthetic sources.
A ‘nose’ is the person responsible for creating the formula of a fragrance, also referred to as a Perfumer.
A single element or ingredient of a fragrance.
A traditional fragrance family originally used to define scents with a strong amber presence, although it has expanded over the years to refer to warm and rich fragrances featuring Musk and Vanilla.
A fragrant liquid made from essential oils, used shorthand in society to refer to women’s fragrances.
Synthetic refers to any ingredient created from chemical synthesis as opposed to those extracted from natural sources or materials. (Fragrance fact: A majority of notes used in modern fragrances are produced synthetically, with synthetic alternates replicating original natural elements.)
Finally, top notes are the first notes you smell when you spray a fragrance. They tend to be lighter than the rest of the fragrance and will disappear quickly to reveal the middle/heart notes and then the base notes afterwards.
A fragrance family describing scents that smell like, well, wood. Notes including Sandalwood, Pine, Patchouli, Vetiver and Cedarwood would belong to this family, and they are mostly middle/heart notes or base notes.
…and there you have it! A crash course in fragrance terminology.
Don’t worry, there’s no need to cram it for an exam. Simply bookmark this page to refer back to The Fragrance Glossary any time you’re window shopping online and are stuck on what a fragrance might smell like.
Remember if you ever want a clearer idea of which fragrances you’ll like, you can take our Fragrance Match quiz to find new fragrances based on what you already like – whether you want something similar or fancy changing it up for something a bit different this time. There really is a science to it!
Whether you’re the type to experiment freely with fragrance or are hesitant to commit to a new one without living with it for a while, meet scentaddict. Our fragrance subscription which allows you to try a new fragrance every month for only £12. With more than 500 fragrances to choose from, it’s an absolute dream… So, what are you waiting for?