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Glossary of Perfume Terms

Here are some terms that you'll need to know for your perfume journey:       
The basic character or theme of  fragrance - a blend of several complimentary perfume notes, that work in harmony  to create a new impression. Works like a musical chord - e.g. a jazz chord versus a "spice" accord, in a fragrance.
Aldehydes are a group of synthetic compounds, which impart top notes with weight and  vibrancy and a powdery drydown quality to fragrances - first used in Chanel No.5.
Scents from the animal kingdom, such as musk, civet, amber.
The inability to smell - e.g. a person is anosmic to resins - they can't detect the smell of balsam or pine in a fragrance.
Describes a sensation which is between smell and taste - e.g. the aroma of coffee.
The universal  fragrance family which uses fresh, floral, spicy and woody notes. Referred to as "fougères" from the French word for "fern", and were used first as fragrances for men in the late 1800's.
The sweet, warm notes from resins such as balsam and other evergreens.
Base notes       
The third stage of fragrance evaporation, these notes are the foundation of a scent, and include fixatives such as woods, leathers, tobacco, and animalics.
 A perfume odour which has a metallic green quality, devoid of sweetness.
Civet is a glandular secretion obtained from civet cats, which smells like sewage, but when added to perfume, it is perceived as a radiant sexy smell. It is classified as an animalic note.
A fragrance family, a complex of moss, mixed with citrus and woody notes, combined with floral and/or fruity notes. Chypres are characterized as strong, spicy and powdery.
How a fragrance changes over time, after the inital application, to reveal different notes.
The point in time at which a fragrance reaches its heart notes, or the true character of its smell - usually about one hour after application .
From the moment of application, the length of time a perfume releases its characteristic fragrance, until it fades.
An invigorating, outdoor or nature inspired fragrance with citrus or green notes.
Either the characteristic of a specific flower, for example, gardenia, which is called a soliflore, or a blend of several floral notes, which may use different combinations of flowers such as jasmine, lily, rose, tuberose, carnation, iris, violet, etc.
French for "fern". Fougères depend upon aromatic chemicals which produce fern-like notes which combine well with lavender, citrus and coumarin, and result in "manly" scents.. They were first use in the late 1800's, and are now worn by both men and women.
The impression of full, ripe, edible fruit odours, with the exception of citrus fruits- e.g. Berries, bananas, mango, fig, kiwi, pomegranate, pineapple.
Edible food-like quality to a fragrance, such as vanilla, coconut, coffee, burnt sugar(caramel), licorice, chocolate or nuts, brandy, rum.
Green notes       
The sharp vegetal smell of fresh-cut green leaves and grasses.
The aromatic scent of herbs, such as basil, oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary, or even cut grasses, such as hay.
Refers to the alcoholic solution of a perfume concentrate, e.g. Cologne, Eau de Toilette - EdT, Eau de Parfum - EdP, or Parfum.
Built around a single accord or note, the smell is revealed at the top and does not develop significantly more in the drydown.
Middle notes       
The heart, bouquet, or middle stage of fragrance evaporation, which forms the character of the fragrance. Heart notes start to emerge after 10 to 30 minutes and can last for hours.
Musk is a secretion from the musk deer of Central Asia, collected during rutting season, and therefore extremely expensive. Classified as an animalic note, it is very potent and was used as base in perfumery to add warmth and eroticism. Today, synthetic musks known as nitromusks are used, also vegetal musks from plants, due to cost and European toxic products regulations which prohibit the use of animal musk.)
A master perfumer; of which there currently only 50 in the world, approximately. A "nose" is a professional perfumeur whose creative and technical skills enable them to push the boundaries, and establish new scent trends.
The characteristic smells of components in perfumery, either as categories -  e.g. citrus, floral, herbal, woody notes, or as individual scents -  e.g. orange, rose, mint, or pine notes.
Denotes heavy, full-bodied and long-lasting scents, with dominant amber notes.
The aroma detected in the air from a person wearing a scent - can be  referred to as the "fragrance trail".
Synthetic ingredients are used in almost all fragrances. They are duplicated chemically from the original scent compounds, and can contain no more than 20% of the original natural scent compound.
Top notes       
The first impression of a fragrance, which vanishes quickly, between 5 and 30 minutes. Top notes are characterized as volatile, or unstable. Citrus scents like orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit are very short-lived.
Scents which disperse or evaporate quickly, usually at a low temperature. Citrus, aldehydes, green, herbal, and coniferous scents are usually top-notes because they are volatile.
Warm notes       
Detected in fragrances with ingredients made from animal origins, such as civet, musk an amber. They are very long-lasting.
Linked to the aroma of freshly-cut, dry wood, or fibrous root, such as sandalwood or vetiver.
Information sources:
www.fragrance .org    Michael Edwards - Fragrance Foundation Directory