Olfactive families

Volatile, abstract, intangible,
generating subjective reactions,
perfumes are difficult to describe.
It is therefore necessary to define
a common language.
Each fragrance house has developed
its own olfactive classification,
but the main olfactive families
are shared by the perfumery industry.



The Citrusy family includes citrus fruits
such as Bergamot, Lemon, Orange,
or Grapefruit.
They are very volatile and mainly used
as top notes.

Bergamot (Earl Grey tea, pepper, aromatic)
Grapefruit (bitter, aldehydic)
Lemon (acidic, green, verbena)
Lime (acidic, green, cola)
Mandarin (fruity, aldehydic, orange blossom)
Orange (fruity, juicy)


The Floral family is the dominant
category among all olfactory groups.
Floral notes are mostly used in feminine
fragrances, but are present in some
successful masculine perfumes.

The floral spectrum is wide:
from vegetal and fresh floral notes,
or young floral & fruity accords,
to sophisticated bouquets
and sensual floral fragrances.

Rose (lychee, artichoke, lemongrass)
Jasmine (animalic, honey, banana)
Orange Blossom (marshmallow, honey, green)
Orris (carrot, powdery, violet)
Tuberose (animalic, green coconut)
Ylang-Ylang (animalic, medicinal, spicy)


The Fruity family emerged in the 2000’s
with direct and powerful fruity accords
inspired by toiletries’ scents (shower gels,
deodorants, shampoos…)
Fruity notes are often used to give
a modern and young appeal to classic
The odoriferous molecules of fruit can’t
be extracted
with classic extraction
However, perfumers can recreate fruit
smell (exotic fruit cocktail, orchard fruit,
red fruit)
, using synthetic raw materials.


The Fougere family was named after
Fougère Royale by Houbigant in 1884.
It refers to a perfumery accord made of
Citrusy, Lavender, Geranium, Woody
(Oak Moss & Patchouli) and Coumarin
Jicky by Guerlain is the oldest fougere
perfume (1889) still existing. Intended for
women, it was mostly worn by men.
The fougere accord is often blended with
aromatic notes in classic masculine scents.

Bergamot (Earl Grey tea, pepper, aromatic)
Geranium (rose, lemon, mint)
Lavender (Provence, aromatic, mushroom)
Oakmoss (moist, salty, woody)
Patchouli (earthy, camphor, dark chocolate)
Tonka Bean (almond, hay, tobacco)


The Woody family includes varied scents
of woods:
opulent milky notes of Sandalwood,
warm earthy notes of Patchouli,
dry notes of Cedarwood
as well as the smoky facets of Vetyver.
Mainly masculine, this family counts a few
outstanding feminine fragrances, like
Féminité du Bois, that have left their mark
in the perfumery history.

Cedarwood (lead pencil, dry)
Oakmoss (moist, salty, woody)
Patchouli (earthy, camphor, dark chocolate)
Sandalwood (hot milk)
Vetyver (earthy, smoky, peanut)



The Chypre family doesn’t refer to any
specific natural element.
The name comes from the successful
“Chypre” fragrance created by Coty in 1917
which became the founder of this olfactory
The Chypre accord is based on the contrast
between a fresh Citrusy top note and a
background of Oak Moss & Patchouli.
Chypre fragrances made their comeback in
2001 with best-selling Coco Mademoiselle
by Chanel, followed then by many feminine
Chypre perfumes.

Bergamot (Earl Grey tea, pepper, aromatic)
Oakmoss (moist, salty, woody)
Patchouli (earthy, camphor, dark chocolate)


The Oriental family refers to a specific
perfumery accord based on:
Citrusy top notes, laying on Vanilla and
Ambery back notes
Also called Ambery (or Opoponax),
the Oriental family is described as
warm, rich, powerful, sensuous
and sophisticated
Shalimar, created in 1925, remains
the iconic fragrance of the Oriental family

Bergamot (Earl Grey tea, pepper, aromatic)
Vanilla (sugary, milk chocolate, animalic)
Tonka (almond, tobacco, vanilla)


The Ambery facet is given by
soft, warm, balsamic notes of
resins, gums and balms
like Myrrh or Benzoin.
These dry-down notes, often
present in Oriental or Woody
fragrances, bring richness,
and sensuality.

Benzoin (vanilla, dried fruit, medicinal)
Labdanum (resinous, fruity, leathery)
Myrrh (resinous, mushroom, hay)
Peru Balsam (vanilla, spicy, floral)


The Green facet captures the sharp
vegetal notes of fresh-cut grass,
crushed leaves or pea pods,
evoking springtime & naturalness.
This facet appeared just after World
War II with the emblematic fragrance
“Vent Vert” by Balmain: the greenest
existing perfume, with its galbanum

Blackcurrant Buds (blackcurrant, sulfureous, cat pee)
Galbanum (green bean, earthy)
Narcissus (hay, animalic, apricot)
Violet Leaf (violet, cucumber)


The Spicy facet groups two types of
spices :
-Warm spices (Cinnamon, Nutmeg,
Black Pepper…) which bring warmth,
personality and intensity to fragrances.
- Cold spices (Cardamom, Ginger, Pink
Pepper…) that reinforce the freshness
of Citrusy or Aromatic notes

Black Pepper (resinous, animalic, spicy)
Cardamom (lemon, aromatic, eucalyptus)
Cinnamon (gingerbread, dusty, woody)
Clove Bud (dentist surgery, carnation, cocoa)
Ginger (lemon, soapy)
Nutmeg (dusty, woody)
Pink Pepper (turpentine, metallic, fruity)


The Musky facet brings long-lastingness
and sillage to fragrances.
The natural Musk (also called Tonkin
Musk), originally obtained from the fawn,
had a strong animalic, woody, dry and
sensual scent.
It has been replaced by synthetic
molecules, whose notes are softer
and clean, round and comfortable,
with a skin-like effect.


The Leathery facet is an old perfumery note.
The classic leathery construction combines
natural raw materials with characteristic
smoky, tar-like, burnt wood and animalic
scents which make it uneasy and polarising.
But its
warm ambery and tobacco-like
nuances bring sensuality and depth to
The modern leathery perfumes rather play
synthetic suede accords: more subtle,
less aggressive, they evoke a
soft velvety
texture and are used in masculine as well as
feminine fragrances.

Castoreum (animalic, fruity)
Cistus-Labdanum (incense, smoky)
Styrax (balsamic, shoe polish, animalic)


The Gourmand facet appeared in 1992
with Angel by Thierry Mugler
It refers to
mouth-watering, sweet,
sugary, regressive notes of:
Chocolate, Liquorice, Coffee, Honey,
Marshmallow, Caramel, Praline, Sweet
First included in Oriental fragrances,
Gourmand notes are now present in
Chypre or Floral perfumes.

Apple Brandy (calvados, sirupy)
Cocoa (powdery, sweet, animalic)

Coffee (burnt, woody)

Liquorice (anise, woody)

Rum (alcohol, woody, pear)


The Tobacco facet, rich and warm,
is mainly used in masculine fragrances.
Its scent is characterized by different
the smoky side of Immortelle / Everlasting
the sweet smell of Honey,
the dry grass odour of Hay,
the balsamic and almond-flavored scent
of Tonka Bean

Immortelle / Everlasting (celery, dried fruit, moss)

Hay (moss,honey,aromatic)

Liatrix (animalic, liquorice, almond)

Tobacco (hay, honey, woody)

Tonka bean (almond, tobacco,vanilla)



The Animalic facet was originally used for
fixative properties.
The animal secretions (Ambergris coming
from the sperm whale stomach, Castoreum
scratched from the beaver genital parts…)
with their
faecal, ammoniac and tar scents,
have been replaced by
synthetic notes,
vibrant, warm and sensual.

Ambergris (iodine, ambery, woody)

Castoreum (leathery, black olive, fruity)

Civet (faecal, hay, fruity)


The first Marine notes appeared in
the United States at the beginning of
the 1990’s.
They refer to fresh, transparent but
powerful sea-breeze, waterfalls,
and wind scents.
Mane created in 1990 “New West for
Her” by Aramis, the first true marine
perfume with strong iodine notes.
It was then followed by numerous men
and women fragrances with marine or
aquatic facets.


The Aromatic facet refers to herbaceous
plants from the Mediterranean basin,
commonly used for cooking.
Mostly present in masculine fragrances,
often associated with Fougere or Woody
notes, they bring a lively and tonic
Aromatic notes vary from lavender
scents to minty, camphoraceous
or aniseed notes.

Anise   (pastis)

Basilic (pesto, green ,spicy)

Clary Sage (lavender, tea, hay)

Lavender (Provence, aromatic, mushroom)

Peppermint (icy mint, spicy)

Rosemary (resinous, animalic, spicy)

Spearmint (green mint)

Thyme (resinous, petrole, woody)