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Learning about perfumes for dummies. – Part one.

So you want to know more about perfumes?

It’s Easter today! A good time to relax and eat brunch with your family. It’s also a good time to read something in a book or on the internet. I wanted to write this article for you guys for so long … today I’m gonna tell you things you need to know about perfume. Like a perfume-masterclass-for-dummies!

All the information in this article is collected from books about perfume I own and articles. Everything will be listed below, in case you are interested.

Welcome to part one! 

Today I’m going to talk about the “groups of notes” in fragrances. When I got into fragrances a long time ago I found it very hard to understand everything so I will do my absolute best to make things very easy to read.

The world of the noses.

Sometimes, perfumery is also compared to the art of cooking, or tasting wine. Only the best of the best can smell, taste, or create that one special product that we all will fall in love with. It will all come down to our senses. In the perfume world, we call someone that makes a composition : A nose. (French: le new) Or “The nose” behind the perfume. Due to their fine sense of smell and skill in producing olfactory compositions.

Like an artist, The Nose can create a perfume concept or mood by combining different notes together what we later on will call: a scent. Not everyone is able to do this and it takes a lot of experience and patience to develop such a high level skill. Imagine yourself smelling your favorite perfume and knowing exactly what kind of flowers they used without looking it up. That’s what The Nose can do!

Perfume groups

In perfume, we work with groups. Maybe you heard of them before. Like : Gourmand, or Chypre. I will tell you in bullet-points what they are about. All these groups also have sub-groups. I will talk about that in another article.

  • Chypre – Perfumes that are based on sharp ingredients like patchouli, moss, bergamote.
  • Oriental – Warm, spicy and exotic. Vanilla, Amber, Ylang-Ylang.
  • Gourmand – Sweet, the use of Chocolate, Whipped cream, caramel.
  • Floral – Perfumes based on mostly flowers.
  • Citrus – Fresh perfumes that contain a lot of citrus notes.
  • Woody – Sandalwood, Ouhd, woody notes.
  • Aromatic – Perfumes that are based on a lot of herbs, plants.

Sometimes, scents are also described as a : Citrusy, floral gourmand. This means that it contains a bit of everything and is not really specific. These groups are guidelines. And are used a lot in the perfume world to describe a perfume.

Perfume ingredients

In these groups we have a lot of ingredients. If you want to see every single ingredient you should check out this link, the ones that are very common in todays scents will be written down below.

Citrus – Lime, oranges, lemongrass, bergamote, neroli

Fruits – Berries, Apple, Coconut, Figs, Peach, Plum

Nuts – Almonds

Flowers – Roses, Lilly, Lavender, Cherry blossom, Ylang-Ylang, Magnolia, Lotus, Opium

White Flowers – Jasmin, Tuberose, Datura, Gardenia,

Herbs & Fouleres – Tea, Tobacco, Mint, Basil, Coumarin, Grass

Spices – Anise, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Clove, Pink pepper, Saffron,

Sweets & Gourmands – Ice cream, cacao, sugar, toffee, marzipan, cupcake, candies

Wood & Moss – Agarwood, Bamboo, Cedar, Driftwood, Vetiver, Patchouli, Sandalwood

Resins and Balsams – Benzoin, Incense, Opopnax

Musc Amber and Animalic scents – Amber, Ambergris, Leather, Musk, Suede, Cashmeran

Beverages – Cognac, Rum, Whiskey

Synthetic – Aldehydes , Smoke, Ozonic, Salt, sea water, Iso E Super

The scent pyramid.

A lot of perfumes work with a scent pyramid. This is basically a way to describe how the scent develops. We talk about:

  • A base note
  • A middle note
  • A top note.

Not every scent has this pyramid, some perfumes are linear. This means that the scent stays the same during the entire time you wear it. Also, some perfumes like Molecules 01 only include one ingredient, still the scent smells different on everybody.

The top notes are the notes you can smell immediately when you spray on the perfume. Most of the time they are a lot lighter than the base notes. This is also the reason why a lot of perfume stores ask you to first try a perfume and come back later. Chance is it will smell completely different after 10 minutes. (If a perfume store doesn’t do this, leave immediately). Top notes are there to give freshness, impact and bloom.

The middle notes give the perfume a body. This is how the scent will smell most of the time you wear it. A lot of perfumes contain flowers in the middle notes. This is also the part where the perfume will get the character. Like a Chypre, Gourmand, etc.

Last but not least, the base notes. This gives the scent deepness. A lot of ingredients that have a great longevity are used in the base. Sometimes it is possible to already smell the base notes in the top notes. I always experience this with pachouli or vanilla.

Next time in part two

I will talk about the history of perfume. A topic I definitely need to do a lot of research for but I’m already looking forward to writing it!

Please let me know in the comments what your favorite perfume-group is. I would love to know!

See you next time,

Kim.

Information

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2008/dec/06/perfume-ingredients

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfumer

www.fragrantica.com

Book: Alles over parfum – Fabienne Pavia 

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