I present to you a glossary of perfume terms to help you navigate the complex and often incomprehensible world of perfume descriptions and reviews. It is not in its final form as it will be constantly updated. At the bottom, I will leave you the literature I used to create this vocabulary for anyone who wants to further expand their knowledge.
ACCORD – A blend of fragrant raw materials in a perfume that produces a satisfying effect. It is mainly composed of upper, middle and lower notes (according to Jean Carles’ classification). Generally, the chord designates the building blocks of perfume. The term is taken from musical terminology.
ALDEHYDE – A term used to describe a fragrant experience when using large quantities of aliphatic aldehydes such as C10, C11, C12… C18.
ALCOHOL – Used as a solvent in the production of perfumes, most commonly in the form of ethyl alcohol.
AMBERGRIS – An odorant mixture that originates from a sperm whale. One of the most expensive ingredients in the perfume world. In this glossary of perfume terms, it is only described sketchy, for a more in-depth explanation of a specific fragrant note, click on a blue link.
AMBER – A blend of fragrant resins, mostly styrax, benzoin, and labdanum, traditionally used in oriental perfumes.
ANOSMIA – Inability to perceive odors. It can be general, in the case when a person cannot perceive odors at all or partial – when a person has trouble perceiving only certain odor molecules. In the case of general or total anosmia, the quality of life is significantly impaired because the person in this case also has a reduced perception of taste, while partial anosmia occurs in a large number of people and even professional “noses”.
ABSOLUTE – Natural fragrant substances obtained by alcoholic concrete extraction (essence concrete). Absolutes are very expensive because of the high quality of the product and the degree of preservation of the odor during a complex and complicated process.
AROMA – A term that denotes the sensation between smell and taste. Example: coffee aroma.
BALANCE – A combination of fragrant notes so that neither dominates the other.
BALSAM – The sticky secretion that plants release when their outer sheath is damaged. It can be used directly, without the extraction process.
BASE – A multifaceted term in the perfume industry. It can indicate a building block of perfumes, kind of like a mini perfume within a perfume. In the latter case, it may refer to an odorless medium to which odorant substances such as cream are subsequently added.
BASE NOTE – The third and last part of the perfume, which is the most lasting part because it is composed of fragrant raw materials of very low volatility such as amber, musk, and cedar. Sometimes it is felt in the top note as well.
BERGAMOT – A strong citrus oil, very often used in the perfume industry, obtained by cold pressing from the bark of the bergamot small wood. In this glossary of perfume terms, it is only described sketchy, for a more in-depth explanation of a specific fragrant note, click on a blue link.
BLOTTER – A thin, highly absorbent paper strip used for perfume testing.
BOUQUET – A combination of multiple floral notes.
BODY WATER – A perfume solution containing only 1 to 3% of perfume oil, which is intended to refresh the entire body after bathing or showering. Mostly mild and unobtrusive scent.
CLASSIC – A perfume that has existed on the market for a long time, has outlived every fashion, or set its trend, and has an almost instantly recognizable composition. Example: Kouros, Opium, Chanel no. 5, Shalimar.
COMPOSITION – Harmonious combination of fragrance notes in a perfume to give a characteristic and different scent from the starting points. The creative process of perfume makers.
CONCRETE – A solid wax-like substance that remains after evaporation during that extraction time. After the administration of alcohol, an absolute is formed.
DISTILLATION – The process by which essential oils are obtained from plants using water vapor.
DESIGNER PERFUME – A perfume that bears the name of a fashion designer and is produced in-house or with the permission of a cosmetic company. Example: Chanel, Dior, Versace.
EAU DE COLOGNE – A solution of 3 to 5% of perfume oil in alcohol. Abbreviation: EDC.
EAU DE PARFUM – A solution of 15 to 18% of perfume oil in alcohol. Abbreviation: EDP.
EAU DE TOILETTE – A solution of about 10% perfume oil in alcohol. Abbreviation: EDT.
EXTRACTION – The most common process for obtaining fragrant substances from raw materials using volatile solvents. During this method, low temperatures can be used to preserve more aromatic substances during processing.
EXTRACT – Pure perfume or Perfume. A solution of 25% or more of perfume oil in alcohol.
EXPRESSION – Cold process of obtaining fragrant oils from citrus fruits, extruding aromatic substances from the outer skin of southern fruits such as lemons, oranges, bergamot. It is also commonly referred to as cold pressing, and this method is used because otherwise citrus oils would be degraded if it went through a process such as distillation.
ENFLEURAGE – A very difficult and rare way of getting fragrant substances, usually from white flowers like tuberose and jasmine, It is done by immersing the flowers in animal fat, and then separating the odor from the fat with solvents.
ESSENTIAL OILS – Fragrant oils obtained from plants by the process of distillation or expression. In this glossary of perfume terms, it is only described sketchy, for a more in-depth explanation of a specific fragrant note, click on a blue link.
FLANKER – A perfume version inspired by the original. Example: Shalimar Souffle is a flanker of Shalimar.
FLACON – A small, decorative bottle, mostly made of glass that holds perfume.
FIXATION – Fixatives are used to prolong the effect of highly volatile perfume components such as citrus oils. They are mainly resinoids or fixatives of synthetic origin like Iso e Super.
FORMULA – A list of fragrant ingredients with their ratios necessary to produce the desired olfactory effect.
HEAD NOTES – The first part of the perfume that we feel upon application. It evaporates very quickly, lasts up to 15 minutes mostly, and is replaced by the middle and lower notes, which are sometimes announced in the top note.
HEART NOTE – The second, central part of the perfume that connects the top and bottom notes. Mostly floral or spicy aromatic substances are used for these purposes.
PERFUME CREATOR – The professional title of a person who creates fragrant compositions. Mostly the term “nose” or “le nez” is used.
FRAGRANT COMPONENTS – All the ingredients used to make perfume. They include raw materials of natural or synthetic origin, ie. aroma chemicals.
NATURAL SUBSTANCES – Perfume materials of natural origin, obtained straight from nature.
NARCOTIC – Used to describe high-perfume white flowers such as tuberose or jasmine.
NICHE PERFUME – A perfume that is produced in limited quantities or which is marketed in a small number, specially selected stores. Example: Amouage, Houbigant, The Different Company.
PERFUME – The most concentrated and expensive solution of perfume oil. See extract.
PERFUME CONCEPT – The category that perfume can be classified into. This generally refers to perfume lineages or families such as sculptural, oriental or floral.
SHADER – A fragrant substance that supports and completes major odor carriers.
SOLIFLOR COMPOSITION – A perfume composition that focuses on presenting only one flower, such as a rose. In this glossary of perfume terms, it is only described sketchy, for a more in-depth explanation of a specific fragrant note, click on a blue link.
STABILITY – A perfume is more stable if it needs more time to evaporate. Good stability (longevity) is a very desirable feature for most perfumes and is achieved through the use of a fixative.
SYNTHETIC SUBSTANCES – Fragrant substances obtained synthetically that are not identical to those found in nature, ie. natural and naturally identical substances. Example: Iso e Super, Ambroxan.
If you enjoyed reading Glossary of Perfume Terms, don’t forget to share it with your perfume loving friends.
Small lexicon of perfumes, Tobias Pel and Silvia Jonas.
The Chemistry of Fragrances by Charles S Sell.