Glossary of Terms

  • Absolute/ Absolue

    An absolute is a highly-concentrated fragrance oil similar to an essential oil, but produced via solvent extraction or enfleurage and therefore generally even more concentrated. Absolutes are key ingredients in perfumery, and the low-temperature methods used to produce them are often the only effective way to capture the natural fragrant compounds of fragile materials (like jasmine or tuberose, for example) that can't hold up to steam distillation.

  • Accord

    An accord is a blend of notes that combine to form their own distinctive blended note that smells like something else entirely. Accords are often created to represent scents that can't actually be distilled- leather notes, for example, cannot be distilled from actual leather and are therefore usually an accord of other notes.

  • Animalic

    A term used to describe musky, dirty, skanky notes traditionally derived from animal sources, like musk, civet, and ambergris.

  • Anosmia

    Often called nose blindness, anosmia is the inability to detect certain notes or odors. In perfumery, it's usually used to refer to a temporary condition caused by becoming acclimated to a certain scent- it's why it can be difficult to smell your own perfume after some time, but others can still smell it clearly. Nose blindness has a pronounced effect in the case of single-note fragrances such as Molecule 01, 02, and 03.

  • Attar

    An attar is a traditionally middle eastern perfume where the ingredients are fixed in rose essential oil instead of an odorless oil or alcohol, resulting in intense, complex fragrances. Examples of middle eastern style attars include the Al Attar and Xerjoff XJ Oud Attars lines. More broadly, an attar may refer to any essential flower oil.

  • Base Notes

    Base notes are the heaviest, longest-lasting notes in a fragrance, that usually assert themselves after the heart notes have evaporated. Base notes are often present during the middle phase of a perfume, where they provide depth and stability, but once the heart notes have departed they take on a character of their own, a phase often called the dry down. Common base notes include woods, moss, amber, and musk.

  • Chypre

    A family, or category, of fragrances characterized by mossy, woodsy base notes and generally, notes of citrus and an animalic component. Those notes were originally meant to be characteristic of the smells of the island of Cyprus (Chypre in French), and the genre takes its inspiration from a 1917 Francois Coty fragrance of the same name. Check out Parfums MDCI Chypre Palatin or Bruno Acampora Bianco. *Because oakmoss has become heavily regulated in modern perfumery, many classic chypres have undergone reformulation and lack their original mossy character; as such, it can be a confusing category to understand and has been eliminated or redefined in some current forms of fragrance categorization.

  • Coffret

    A collection or box set that often contains either smaller sample sizes of several fragrances in a line, or a fragrance and its accompanying bath products.

  • Cologne

    See Eau de Cologne

  • Drydown

    The last phase of a fragrance's lifecycle, the drydown refers to the final hours of a fragrance's detection, when the top and heart notes have completely disappeared and only the longest lasting part of the base remains.

  • Eau de Cologne (EDC)

    The least concentrated style of fragrance, with a perfume oil to alcohol ratio of only 2-5%. Originally referred to a specific style of lightly concentrated citrus-heavy fragrance created in Cologne, Germany, but is now used much more generally. Due to its lightness, an eau de cologne is typically bottled in large sizes and meant to be splashed on throughout the day.

  • Eau de Parfum (EDP)

    A fragrance with a 10-15% concentration of perfume oil to alcohol.

  • Eau de Toilette (EDT)

    A fragrance with a 5-10% concentration of perfume oil to alcohol.

  • Enfleurage

    A traditional process for creating a fragrance absolute wherein the material is infused into animal fat, and then extracted from the fat into alcohol. The alcohol is then evaporated down to create an absolute. This highly traditional method is now considered inefficient, and has largely been abandoned in favor of modern processes like solvent or CO2 extraction.

  • Essential Oil

    A concentrated distillation of a fragrant plant material that is often used as an ingredient in fragrance. Usually extracted via steam distillation.

  • Extrait/extract

    A fragrance with a 15-45% concentration of perfume oil. Extraits are generally the most concentrated form of perfume available to purchase.

  • Factice

    A replica bottle of a fragrance meant for store or advertising display that does not actually contain the fragrance itself.

  • Flanker

    A fragrance release related to a popular or distinctive pre-existing fragrance, a flanker is usually similar to the first fragrance but with one or two key alterations. More common in mainstream perfumery- think Chanel Coco & Coco Madamoiselle or Thierry Mugler A*Men and A*Men Pure Malt. Generally, EDP versions of existing EDT fragrances (like Parfums de Nicolai's New York & New York Intense) are not considered flankers.

  • Fougère

    A style of fragrance named for the French word for fern. Fougères are usually herbal scents featuring lavender, oakmoss and woods, and they take their name from Houbigant's Fougère Royale, which was created in the late 1800s.

  • Fragrance Families

    There have been various attempts over the years to break down the world of fragrance into classifiable categories. While there is no unchallenged standard, the often cited 7-category system used by the SociTtT Frantaise des Parfumeurs is as follows: citrus, floral, fougere, chypre, woody, amber and leather. Conversely, Michael Edwards' Fragrances of the World uses a wheel of 4 categories: fresh, floral, oriental and woody. In either system, there are multiple subcategories of further specificity. Other versions may use overlapping terms from both. As there is no universal system, it is common to see a single fragrance categorized in multiple conflicting (or non-conflicting) ways, which is why it's best to use the families as loose guidelines and not rely on them too heavily.

  • Gourmand

    A gourmand fragrance is one that primarily evokes food, usually dessert. This can include notes of vanilla, chocolate, fruit, caramel, and more. Some of our most notable gourmand scents include Viktoria Minya Hedonist and Indult Tihota.

  • Heart Notes

    The heart notes, or middle notes, of a fragrance are the primary notes that define the way a scent is described and categorized. The heart notes generally assert themselves in the first 10 to 20 minutes of wear as the top notes fade, and they make up the strongest impression of the scent. Florals, spices and botanicals are common heart notes.

  • Middle Notes

    See Heart

  • Natural

    Used shorthand for any perfume ingredient derived from natural, non-synthetic sources.

  • Nose

    A nose is the person responsible for creating the formula of a fragrance. While a creative director or brand may be involved in conceptualizing, the nose is the one with the training and expertise to actually combine the precise ingredients- noses often have advanced degrees in chemistry, which are required for entry at many of the world's top perfumery schools.

  • Note

    A single element of a fragrance, the building block level of a scent.

  • Oriental

    Another traditional fragrance family, orientals were originally defined as scents with a strong amber presence, but the term is now taken more generally to include all very heavy, persistent, warm fragrances, often with other rich ingredients such as musk, vanilla, and resin.

  • Parfum

    See extrait.

  • Perfumer

    See Nose.

  • Projection

    Term for how far away from the wearer someone else would be able to smell the fragrance. Often estimated by how many inches away from the skin a scent projects.

  • Sillage

    A French term that describes how much of a trail of scent is left behind the wearer. Differs slightly from projection- sillage is more about how long a scent would linger in the air after the person wearing the fragrance has left the room.

  • Skin Scent

    A scent with minimal projection (i.e., one that can only be detected when extremely close to the wearer). Because of the kinds of ingredients that tend to have this effect, many skin scents have similar characteristics: soft, sheer, and musky.

  • Soliflore

    A soliflore is a fragrance that highlights the notes of one specific type of flower (although the ingredients may actually contain more than one). Notable niche perfume soliflores include By Kilian Love and Tears (jasmine), Ramon Monegal Impossible Iris, or Van Cleef & Arpels Gardenia Petale.

  • Solvent Extraction

    The most common method for extracting fragrance from natural materials, solvent extraction consists of submerging/macerating the raw material in a chemical solvent (such as hexane) and then vacuum-separating the now extracted fragrant material from the solvent. This produces a solid known as a concrete, which can then be dissolved and distilled again with alcohol to produce an absolute.

  • Synthetic

    Used shorthand for any perfume ingredient that is created via chemical synthesis, as opposed to those extracted from natural material. Many of the notes in modern perfumes are now produced synthetically. Some, like ambroxan, a synthetic form of ambergris (ambroxan is the central ingredient of both Molecule 02 and Not A Perfume), were invented to substitute for natural ingredients that have become too expensive or environmentally hazardous to collect and distill. Others, like Calone (featured prominently in Parfums de Nicolai Musc Monoi and Le Labo's Calone 17 candle, amongst others), which is used to give off a fresh, ozonic, salt-water type of smell, have no antecedent in nature.

  • Top Notes

    The top notes are the first notes that one smells after applying a fragrance. Top notes tend to be made of lighter molecules than the rest of a fragrance, meaning that they disappear first as those molecules evaporate, revealing the heart of the fragrance (see Heart Notes). Various forms of citrus are often used as top notes.

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