Speaking Perfume : A-Z of Common Fragrance Descriptions

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The inability of our language to fully capture the nuances of scents can be very frustrating. We associate scents with something – a place, a memory, a flavor – but most people struggle to describe smell on its own terms. Perfumers and professional fragrance evaluators overcome some of the communication issues by being trained to use specific terms to define fragrances. Often this language finds its way to press releases and perfume counters, but lacking an explanation, it is often meaningless. Who would ever guess that “aromatic” in perfumery parlance means green, camphorous, herbal notes, as opposed to “having an aroma,” as a dictionary would define it? Or how would one define balsamic, aldehydic and floralcy?

A few months ago we chatted about the terms we found confusing, and based on that discussion I made a list of common terms and perfume descriptors. This list is constantly updated, and for more information on a specific term, please click on the link associated with it. Please feel free to suggest other terms to add.

A B C F G H I L M O P R S T V W Z

A

Accord—a perfume is more than the sum total of its parts. An accord is a combination of two or more different materials that create a novel effect that smells very different from the materials experienced on their own. The personality of a fragrance is determined by its basic accord. For instance, the accord between patchouli and a cotton candy note gives Thierry Mugler Angel, Prada Eau de Parfum and Chanel Coco Mademoiselle their distinctive character.

Aldehydic-—a general term that usually refers to metallic and starchy notes like the top notes of Chanel No 5 or Estee Lauder White Linen. Many modern fragrances do not contain aldehydes in such large doses because they are perceived to be old-fashioned, but a trace presence can give a beautiful sparkling effect. For instance, the aldehydic flourish in the top notes of Lalique Encre Noire Pour Elle lights up this osmanthus and rose composition. Aldehydes are not limited to starchy-waxy notes, however. Cinnamaldehyde is responsible for the aroma of cinnamon. Benzaldehyde smells deliciously of bitter almonds. Vanillin is probably the most commonly used aldehyde material in perfumery, and it smells sweet and creamy.

Amber and Ambergris–some ambers are balsamic and sweet (Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan,) others are dry and woody (Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue) and yet others, especially the materials in the ambergris family, are animalic and marine (Hermès Eau des Merveilles).

Animalic—a general term describing scents of animalic origin such as some types of musk (musk deer), civet (civet weasel) and castoreum (beaver). Today the animalic materials have been replaced by synthetics, and the term animalic can apply more widely. Some plants also have animalic characters. Costus oil distilled from the roots of Saussuria costus smells like dirty hair and mutton grease. Cumin oil obtained from the dried seeds of the cumin plant is warm and sweaty. Serge Lutens Muscs Koublaï KhanL’Artisan Dzing! and Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum are some of the distinctly animalic fragrances.

Aromatic—green camphorous notes present in herbs like lavender, rosemary and sage. The top notes of Dior Eau Sauvage, Caron Pour Un Homme and Guerlain Habit Rouge illustrate this idea.

B

Balsamic-—unctuous, sweet, heavy scent that calls to mind sticky sap. If you associate balsamic and balsamic vinegar, you are spot on—true wooden cask aged balsamic vinegar has the characteristic sweet, thick and dark character of the balsamic notes in perfumery (benzoin, styrax, balsam Tolu, balsam Peru). The drydowns of Guerlain Shalimar, Ormonde Jayne Tolu and Clinique Aromatics Elixir have a strong balsamic note. I also love the balsamic scent of benzoin scented incense like Armenian Paper. It was the inspiration behind Guerlain Bois d’Arménie.

Butyric—do you know the smell of butter that has been sitting in the fridge too long? That’s a butyric odor! Derived from a Greek word for “butter,” butyric acid is used in flavorings as well as fragrances. In minute quantities, it can give a very surprising savory effect, but generally, if a perfume smells like rancid butter, something has gone wrong.

C

Character—the defining idea of a fragrance. Calvin Klein Obsession has a lot of character, Burberry Body hardly any.

Camphorous, camphoraceous—sharp, cooling scent associated with camphor, a material made synthetically or derived from natural sources like camphor laurel. Camphorous notes are present in many herbal oils such as eucalyptus and lavender as well as in patchouli.

Chypre—a fragrance family based on the interplay of citrus, floral, mossy and ambery notes. Chypre fragrances were used as far back as the Roman Empire period, and an oakmoss based powder called chypre was also fashionable at the time of Marie-Antoinette. François Coty modernized and stylized the chypre idea with Chypre de Coty, a fragrance launched in 1917. It was a bold and startling blend of green notes, jasmine, leather and moss. Perhaps, too bold and too startling for the contemporary public, but it set a trend. The gold standard classical chypre is Guerlain Mitsouko, while Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum is a beautiful modern chypre that takes its inspiration from Femme de Rochas and Gucci Rush.

Cool—some perfumes feel cool because of their association with freshness and marine vistas, while others have an actual cooling sensation thanks to materials like mint or patchouli. Cartier Roadster with its fresh minty note has a cool effect, as does a watery spicy blend like Hermès Un Jardin Après La Mousson.

Creamy—Some perfumes smell creamy thanks to the large doses of vanillic, musky and milky notes. For instance, Coty Vanilla Fields is a familiar creamy vanilla fragrance. An opposite of that is a dry and sharp sensation, similar to the one produced by amber in the base of Paco Rabanne Black XS.

F

Fatty, Unctuous—an impression of thickness, heft and richness. A French term for it is “gras,” fat, and it is a trait that you often find in classical fragrances. This quality is often imparted by natural raw materials, especially floral essences. Jean Patou Joy is a quintessentially rich perfume, since it contains large proportions of rose and jasmine.

Floralcy—a jargon term meaning that a fragrance has a floral element or a floral character. Sometimes it means an abstract floral sensation that does not refer to any one flower in particular. This can be a radiant, bright effect as in Christian Dior J’Adore, or a blur as in Katy Perry Purr.

Fougère—a fragrance family inspired by Houbigant Fougère Royale (1882,) the first fragrance to combine natural materials with synthetics. Perfumer Paul Parquet added the synthetic material coumarin to the classical eau de cologne accord of citrus, lavender, geranium, amber, musk and oakmoss. Fougère means fern in French, and it was also the first abstract perfume—ferns are scentless, after all. Other great fougère fragrances include Yves Saint Laurent Kouros (1981), Guy Laroche Drakkar Noir (1982) and Davidoff Cool Water (1988). My current favorites are Penhaligon’s Sartorial and Tom Ford Lavender Palm, which is a twist on the fougère theme.

G

Gourmand—an edible, dessert reminiscent fragrance. Vanilla, caramel, toasted almonds, cotton candy, chocolate, and marshmallows are the most recognizable gourmand notes. Thierry Mugler Angel is the gourmand trendsetter, but many feminine launches today have some sort of gourmand effect.

H

Herbal vs Grassy—herbal refers to the camphorous, green, dry aroma of herbs like lavender and rosemary (Guerlain Mouchoir de Monsieur), while grassy is green and sharp like the scent of a freshly mowed lawn or crushed leaves (Balmain Vent Vert, L’Artisan Premier Figuier).

I

Indolic—a moth-ball like scent present in large doses in jasmine, orange blossom and tuberose. Indole is sometimes described as fecal, but while it is present in products of decay, it does not have the sweet, rotten scent. In low concentrations, it smells pleasantly floral. Annick Goutal Néroli is an orange blossom cologne, which is rich and indolic, whereas Jo Malone Orange Blossom Cologne is a similar idea that uses indoles with a light touch.

L

Lactonic—milky, creamy, sweet. Lactonic scents are reminiscent of fresh dairy products, coconut, almond or peach skin, since lactones naturally occur in dairy products, pork, apricots, plums, peaches, figs and other fruit. For this reason, the combination of peaches and cream or figs and ham is so successful. In perfumery, Lancôme Climat uses a peach-like lactone to soften its dark mossy richness. The lactonic notes in Hermès Santal Massoïa lend softness to its warm woody accord.

Leathery—a note recalling the tangy and animalic quality of fine leather. It can be smoky and dry like the birch tar based leather of Chanel Cuir de Russie, Knize Ten or Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque. Or the leather note can be salty and green like the leather in Robert Piguet Bandit and Aramis.

Linear—a fragrance that doesn’t differ dramatically in its development. Its top notes show little variation from the bottom notes, so you experience right away its character. Linear doesn’t mean dull or uninteresting. It is simply a different type of fragrance experience. Among linear fragrances you can find such classics as Lancôme Tresor and Bulgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert.

M

Musky—There are many different types of musk, and every fragrance contains at least one of them. Some musks smell metallic and earthy, others are sweet and creamy. White musks, for instance, have a freshly ironed linen impression. Luminous musks, radiant musks, solar musks and other exotic musks that crop up in fragrance descriptions usually fall into the modern white musk category. One of the most distinctive musky fragrances is Narciso Rodriguez for Her.

O

Oriental—a fragrance family that uses rich notes of vanilla, balsams, sandalwood, patchouli and musk to create a heady, sensual aura. Guerlain Shalimar is the quintessential oriental, and Estee Lauder Youth Dew, Yves Saint Laurent Opium (including the new version,) Chanel Coco and Lolita Lempicka are the other excellent examples of this genre.

P

Petally—soft, waxy sensation evoking the feel of flower petals. It is a very common jargon term, especially since many feminine fragrances today need to have this feeling. Estee Lauder Pleasures is a good example of a petally fragrance as is L’Artisan La Chasse Aux Papillons.

Phenolic—smoky, dry, slightly acrid scent that can be used to describe various leather notes, including that in Chanel Cuir de Russie as well as blackcurrants, tea, chocolate, coffee, pomegranates and yerba maté. It does not pop up often in marketing copy, but it can be used to describe the scents of certain raw materials.

Powdery—a soft, hazy, opaque sensation imparted by the combination of heliotrope, violet, almond, and musk with herbal and citrus notes. Powdery fragrances can suggest makeup or Johnson & Johnson baby powder. Jean-Charles Brosseau Ombre Rose and Love’s Baby Soft are the traditional examples of powdery perfumes. Among the new launches, Chanel No 19 Poudré and Love, Chloé explore these notes in a modern manner.

R

Resinous—a term describing dry, sharp odor of resinous materials like frankincense and elemi. A great example of a perfume rich with resinous notes is Armani Privé Bois d’EncensDonna Karan Black CashmereL’Artisan Parfumeur Passage d’Enfer, and Yves Saint Laurent Nu also use resinous materials in their compositions.

Rich—a general term that suggest an idea of opulence, heft, or a strong presence. Frédéric Malle Le Parfum de Thérèse can be described as rich for its lavish use of floral absolutes. The main accord in Narciso Rodriguez for Heris rich due to the generous dose of musks, while the perfume on the whole seems luminous, rather than heavy or fatty.

S

Sillage—the trail left by a perfume in the wake of its wearer. Guerlain L’Heure Bleue and Calvin Klein Euphoria are fragrances with a strong sillage, while Guerlain Tonka Impériale stays close to the skin. Light fragrances can also have a tremendous sillage. Such examples include Dior Eau Sauvage and Bulgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert.

Soapy—If you’ve ever tried making your own soap, you might be familiar with the scent that rises up as you mix oils or fats with an alkaline solution. However, commercial soap is usually scented to cover up this residual sharp odor, and when we speak of soapy, we mean the scents associated with the common soap perfumes. It is a vague term because soap smells very differently depending on where you grew up. However, when soapy is used to describe a perfume in North America, it usually means that a perfume is either aldehydic, fatty and waxy, has a strong white, laundry-type musk or an orange blossom note. Some fragrances I have seen described this way include Thierry Mugler Cologne, Prada Infusion d’Homme and Chanel No 22.

T

Terpenic—sharp, piney and biting. If you have ever used the Pine-Sol cleaning products, you are familiar with this pungent scent. What comes as a surprise is that in perfumery terpenic facets show up in the most delicate of floral accords such as lilac and freesia. A small degree of sharpness can cut the richness and create an interesting interplay of sensations, but an overly terpenic scent in a fine fragrance is not pleasant. Some of my favorite examples of mild terpenic notes include Gendarme and Acqua di Parma  Mirto di Panarea.

V

Vanillic—can refer either to vanilla or to vanilla redolent materials: benzoin, tolu balsam, vanillin, etc. Dior Addict and Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka rely on a blend of different vanillic materials.

W

White Floral—a very general term that encompasses the jasmine-family florals (jasmine-like in terms of scent night blooming flowers like jasmine, orange blossom, tuberose, gardenia, frangipani, etc. Robert Piguet Fracas is a stellar example of the narcotic, heady effect of these notes. It is a term I personally find very confusing, because it does not describe anything in particular. Roses and lilacs can be white as well. More about white florals with specific note descriptions can be found at Building Perfume Wardrobe: White Florals/Jasmine.

Woody—evoking the dry, resin-like scent of pencil shavings. Some materials can smell woody even though they are not woods: the grassy plant patchouli smells dry, pungent, earthy and woody; Cashmeran is a type of musk with a strong woody-ambery nuance. Sandalwood, on the other hand, does not smell classically woody. It is a creamy scent reminiscent of dried rose petals and fresh milk. Serge Lutens Féminité du Bois and Guerlain Samsara are great examples of woody accords, the former is dry and the latter is creamy.

Z

Zesty—a citrusy, fizzy and astringent sensation reminiscent of grated citrus peel. Hermès Eau d’Orange Verte is a classical zesty fragrance. For a modern take on zesty, I enjoy Jo Malone Lime Blossom and Basil.

Photography by Vera, lavender fields in Grasse, France.

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65 Comments

  • Martin: Great post! I like that you give examples too. Today I went “zesty” with Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine.

    Thank you for being so generous in sharing your knowledge. February 3, 2012 at 9:38am Reply

  • LadyShine: Sending you “hearts” – LOVE this, and thank you a million times. Often I can’t put a word or description to the aroma I’m experiencing — this helps mucho!

    Diane February 3, 2012 at 9:39am Reply

  • Elisa: I think in America “soapy” is also used to describe a dry orange blossom note, I guess because soaps are commonly scented with orange flower water?

    I think “detergenty” should be the term for laundry musks. :) February 3, 2012 at 10:13am Reply

  • Victoria: Martin, you are welcome! I am glad that it is helpful.
    I just sprayed on a bit of Love Chloe, so I am in the powdery territory. :) February 3, 2012 at 10:15am Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, you are most welcome! :)
    Describing aromas is so hard, but it is also fun, because it forces us to think differently about familiar things. Smelling things is like learning a new language. That’s the best analogy for me. February 3, 2012 at 10:26am Reply

  • rosarita: What a wonderful post, so very helpful! Thank you so much for your hard work. I don’t say often enough how much I enjoy your writing style, and appreciate your knowledge. I have learned a great deal from your blog, and it’s always such a pleasure to read. February 3, 2012 at 10:35am Reply

  • Victoria: LOL! Detergenty is a good one. Since more and more perfumes start smelling this way today, it would be a widely used term.

    Good point about orange blossom and soap scents! I will add it in. This is probably the reason why many people call Jo Malone Orange Blossom cologne or Neroli Portofino by Tom Ford soapy. In France and Italy, orange blossom is very common in baby products, and it evokes such a tender, comforting image. IUNX has a wonderful orange blossom cologne called L’Eau Baptiste. I still get its soothing reference, even though I’ve never used any of orange blossom scented baby products. My own most vivid soap memory is the kind that my grandmother would buy by weight to use as a floor cleaner. Sharp and bitter-acrid, but oddly pleasant. February 3, 2012 at 10:39am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you for your kind words! I enjoy so much our exchanges that it doesn’t really feel like work. Of course, blogging is time consuming and I have my moments of burnout, but on the whole, starting BdJ is the best thing I’ve done 7 years ago. So many friendships and new encounters resulted from it, and there is always more to anticipate. February 3, 2012 at 10:48am Reply

  • Elisa: I enjoy orange blossom, inside or outside of soap! My favorite OB soliflore so far (there are many I’ve never tried) is the sadly discontinued/limited edition Frederic Fekkai Sensuelle. Have you tried it?

    My least favorite soapy note is the green, sharp scent in original Palmolive (the green dishwashing liquid), which I detect in Tocade and some other florals, as well as Cool Water. Do you have any idea what that material is? February 3, 2012 at 11:28am Reply

  • Victoria: Unfortunately I haven’t tried Frederic Fekkai Sensuelle. I’ve read the description of it and it sounds so good. Too bad that they discontinued it. I also love orange blossom in all possible forms, in food, perfume, etc. My favorite refreshment is mineral water with a bit of orange blossom water mixed into it.

    Green sharp scent in Palmolive… Maybe, it is the same pineapple type note that is used in Cool Water. I need to smell the original Palmolive though. We bought some new fancy scent, and it was so perfumey that I could not even finish the bottle. I felt like I was washing my dishes with Chamade. February 3, 2012 at 11:34am Reply

  • Elisa: For a while it was flooding the discounters (I found a bottle for under $10), but now it seems to be pretty much gone.

    Ha! Seventh Generation makes a Lavender and Mint dish soap with a surprisingly nice floral scent. February 3, 2012 at 11:44am Reply

  • Vanessa: This is excellent, thanks! I was hoping to have my view of Joy as “fatty” and “unctuous” confirmed, and there it was cited as an example. Fracas and Scandal are in similar fatty vein, I would say. : – ) February 3, 2012 at 12:43pm Reply

  • Austenfan: For me soap is indelibly linked with the wonderful Marseille soaps. A really soft and green fragrance. My mother used to wash the floors with a soap that smelled rather similar. February 3, 2012 at 1:14pm Reply

  • Austenfan: This was a very informative post, thank you for elucidating all these terms. February 3, 2012 at 1:15pm Reply

  • Raluca: Thank you so much for educating us! I feel so sophisticated that I now know what sillage means. :) Actually I read that in one of your previous post but I don’t remember which one. :) February 3, 2012 at 3:01pm Reply

  • Victoria: I tried Marseille soap for the first time a couple of years ago, and now I don’t want anything else. Its gentle fragrance is very soothing. Plus, it leaves my skin very soft. February 3, 2012 at 3:46pm Reply

  • Victoria: I need to check it out. One time I bought some organic brand from Whole Foods that smelled great and was bio-degradable, etc. But it refused to lather. Even though I know that lather does not equal cleansing power, I did not enjoy using it. February 3, 2012 at 3:48pm Reply

  • Victoria: Fracas and Scandal are as fatty as a piece of triple-cream cheese! :) I just love this quality in perfume. Well, in food too. February 3, 2012 at 3:51pm Reply

  • Victoria: You are welcome! I am going to add rich, terpenic and fresh vs crisp later. February 3, 2012 at 3:52pm Reply

  • Victoria: You probably mean this one?
    http://boisdejasmin.typepad.com/_/2011/02/perfume-vocabulary-fragrance-terms-sillage.html

    Thank you! I in turn learn a lot from all of you. February 3, 2012 at 3:54pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Alep soap is even better! February 3, 2012 at 3:59pm Reply

  • Victoria: I didn't know what Alep soap was, so I googled it. Based on the pictures and the descriptions, it looks exactly like the type of soap I've used in the Middle East. I have been looking for it for ages, so a big thank you for mentioning it. I bet it will bring back some nice memories.

    Also, I love the red Lifebuoy soap popular in the South Asian countries. It smells like a disinfectant, quite sharp, but it is a very familiar scent. 
    And Dove, Caress classical, Irish Spring, Ivory–these are some very memorable soap scents. February 3, 2012 at 4:14pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Alep soap smells quite strongly of bay leaves, it’s even nicer on the skin than ordinary Marseille soap. And I am sure you must have used it there, it must be even better with those memories attached to it. I first discovered it in France.
    I don’t know any of the other soaps you mention. But I do remember another lovely soap called Maja soap. My favourite grandmother used that and it smelled really nice on her. February 3, 2012 at 4:32pm Reply

  • Kym: Great post! February 3, 2012 at 4:33pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, Kym! February 3, 2012 at 4:37pm Reply

  • Victoria: I heard that the original formula for Maja soap was created by none other than a genius perfumer Jean Carles (Miss Dior, Ma Griffe). I haven't smelled it recently, but it used to be excellent.
    And Mitsouko soap was a gem. February 3, 2012 at 4:39pm Reply

  • OperaFan: Thanks for the refresher course and clarifications, Dear V. I’m off to attend Anna Bolena at the Met tomorrow and will be sure to choose a fragrance with both CHARACTER and good SILLAGE – perhals an ORIENTAL or something POWDERY….
    a:) February 3, 2012 at 6:05pm Reply

  • Malbec: Thanks for the glossary. I’ve read Luca Turin’s book and Chandler Burr’s books and am fascinated with perfumes and their science. In reading Burr’s book on the perfume industry he talks about a new perfume needing maceration (I love wine so I get that) before it is ready to ship. So how does a perfumer judge their just measured blend? February 3, 2012 at 6:38pm Reply

  • Andy: So helpful. I’ll definately be using this resource on a regular basis! (that is, until I memorize all the terms!) February 3, 2012 at 8:24pm Reply

  • Lindaloo: Thanks for this post — great information as usual, especially with the references to specific perfumes.

    I’ve also been meaning to mention that I like the new page style you settled on. It has a modern and deservedly authoritative look and, for me, still a touch of softness that recalls the previous lovely vintage feminine look. I think the highlights box is very effective.

    Lots of hard work, I’m sure. February 4, 2012 at 3:52am Reply

  • Victoria: Enjoy the performance! And please tell me what perfume you ended up selecting for the evening? February 4, 2012 at 10:30am Reply

  • Victoria: That’s a good question, but the answer to it is not all that straightforward. Often, I am sorry to say, there is no time to macerate anything. A perfumer makes the new modifications based on his/her client’s instructions and then smells as soon as his lab tech finishes mixing the formula. With experience, it is possible to figure out what facets will be more subtle or more pronounced, but unfortunately, the time slots devoted to developing a new fragrance are constantly shrinking.
    Plus, on the brand manager side, the desire is to keep the inventories down. As a result, maceration is becoming an exception rather than a rule. Some degree of maturation happens at the plant when the perfume concentrate is made, but it is definitely not to the same degree as was the standard in the past. February 4, 2012 at 10:41am Reply

  • Victoria: You already know them! :) February 4, 2012 at 10:42am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you very much for your feedback! I’m very glad to hear that you like the new format. I am aiming for an easy to read, simple format, a bit airier than the previous one. So, I hope that I was able to achieve it, at least in part. February 4, 2012 at 10:51am Reply

  • Andy: Phenolic and butyric were new, but otherwise, thanks to reading your blog, I was familiar with most of the others! By the way, I was at Longwood Gardens last weekend, and the acacias were, as I had hoped, just coming into bloom. There were also some very fragrant grapefruit blossoms, which reminded me of Tom Ford for Men. February 4, 2012 at 11:25am Reply

  • Victoria: Sounds wonderful! I need to schedule a visit within the next few days. You know, I’ve lived in the area for so many years, and it’s a shame I still haven’t visited Longwood Gardens. February 5, 2012 at 1:35pm Reply

  • Liz: This is so great! I am just starting to learn about perfumes – and blogging about it at perfumerookie.blogspot.com – so your post is very helpful. One term I hear sometimes in terms of perfume is leathery – and I get that this refers to leather – but I’d love to hear your take on the term, and some great examples. Thanks! February 5, 2012 at 2:25pm Reply

  • Victoria: Liz, thank you–welcome to blogging!
    I’ve added leathery to the list above with a couple of examples. HTH! February 5, 2012 at 5:19pm Reply

  • Katherine: Thank you so much for this! Now I need my Perfumer’s Apprentice kit and I’ll be much more knowledgable with the bewildering terminology! February 5, 2012 at 6:31pm Reply

  • Victoria: You are welcome, Katherine! I keep hearing such good things about the Perfumer’s Apprentice kit from other commenters and bloggers. February 5, 2012 at 10:07pm Reply

  • Bellatrix: Bravo Victoria!!
    Great stuff. February 6, 2012 at 9:45am Reply

  • Victoria: You're welcome! Hope that it is helpful. February 6, 2012 at 9:47am Reply

  • OperaFan: Popping in to let you know – All week leading up to Saturday I was planning on Amouage Lyric, but at the last minute I changed to L’Heur Bleu. It was perfect! February 8, 2012 at 9:18pm Reply

  • Victoria: L'Heure Bleue sounds like a perfect choice! Hope that you enjoyed the performance. February 9, 2012 at 7:30am Reply

  • OperaFan: I think we’re in a golden age for opera. And Ms. Netrebko definitely earned her stature.
    a:) February 11, 2012 at 1:54pm Reply

  • squeekie2: Thank you so much for this blog! Now i can pretend i know something!

    In the last weeks i have been searching relentlessly for the old Maja by Myrurgia. in 2000 the Purig a Company in Mexico bought this timeless classic perfume from Myrurgia and in trying to improve it they reduced it to a cheap aftershave. Now n the last Year another Company by the name of Grisi purchased the right to Maja. My Family is from Barcelona and i grew up on the original Maja. I cannot tell you the sadness i feel in not having it for it conjures many warm memories of Home. I am praying Grisi will bring back that old and wonderful scent. If only there were a way to chemically analyze the ingredients of the old Maja and then reproduce it! A vintage bottle goes for 500.00 now. Do you know of any perfumes that smell close to Maja?

    Thanks! June 5, 2012 at 11:29pm Reply

  • Tamara Morgan: Victoria, I stumbled upon your site when I was trying to remember how deep to plant my tuberose bulbs. Several hours later, my mind reeling with secrets and enchantments! I feel like the accidental tourist who wanders from the tour, clumsily trips over a stone and turns to find that the falling stone opened the hidden gate to a secret garden. I want to hide you lest the dispersion of your knowledge dilutes it’s power. Of course, quite the opposite is true…Thank you!

    My ‘personal scent’ was Chanel 19 for years until I could no longer find it. Now that you have lead me to it again, I will order some. However, I will heed what you have taught about noting the color.

    A bit off topic, but another scent that I have scoured the internet for sans any luck in finding is cucumber oil or any EdP or EdT reminiscent of it. I wore it in my very early years of college (I saved Chanel for special occasions). I loved the crisp, earthy, fresh scent. Any suggestions? July 8, 2012 at 4:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: What a nice comment, Tamara! Thank you very much for your kind words. So glad that you found BdJ!

      Have you tried No 19 in Eau de Parfum? It’s a more modern version, richer floral, but such a gorgeous fragrance. It has been one of my favorite No 19 versions lately.

      If you like crisp and earthy scents, then why not look into the vetiver or violet leaf dominated perfumes? I’m not sure what you have easily available to you, but perfumes like Balenciaga Paris (violet leaf), Diptyque Vetyverio (vetiver), Annick Goutal Duel might be very interesting for you to try. I have some more suggestions here, listed under their specific note:
      http://boisdejasmin.com/perfume-fragrance-reviews/perfume-reviews-by-note July 8, 2012 at 5:35pm Reply

  • Kat: Many thanks from Ukraine! This information very helpful and interesting. October 29, 2012 at 10:49am Reply

  • Katherine: Victoria,

    This is amazing. I remember looking at your “guides” when I was first learning about perfumes, and they were so incredibly helpful. They still are. Thank you!

    Katherine February 5, 2013 at 11:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Katherine. I’m so glad to hear this! February 6, 2013 at 7:28am Reply

  • Brian Shea: Great collection of definitions, very descriptive and helpful. It’s funny , I’ve always found the term ‘aromatic’ to be rather redundant; it’s a perfume of course it’s going to be ‘aromatic’! :D Also, have you heard of the term ‘agrestic’ in reference to scent? March 14, 2013 at 12:45pm Reply

  • Christina Findell: Thank you so much for this wonderful, interesting and useful A-Z list. You explain each definition so clearly and in a way we can all understand and relate to.
    I think that scents always evoke our emotions and through my own business FM Lifestyle I am learning so much more about how perfumes can really help us too. For example: I did not realise that rose oil can help with memory and lower blood pressure just by smelling this gorgeous perfume! I also learnt that in Japan Cherry Blossom is a symbol of ephemeral beauty!
    In the UK our Cherry Blossom trees are just blooming and it is so pretty to see – such a lovely time of year with new beginnings!
    Have a great springtime.
    FM Lifestyle May 18, 2013 at 5:58am Reply

  • Gritton Gale: Ohhh…how I love perfumes! I already have a handful of perfume collections. But still I am happy reading these perfume descriptions / specifications. June 7, 2013 at 10:42am Reply

  • Shielding: Could this be the beginning of the world’s first Enscentclopedia? What a useful tool this would be – for writers like me and many others, particularly for emergency response personnel struggling to identify and record odors signifying hazardous conditions! June 11, 2013 at 11:54am Reply

  • Lily: Awesome post. thank u :).
    I’ll go with the ORIENTAL. but i would like to know where Poison Dior is categorized, definitelly my thing. July 29, 2013 at 12:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that you liked it! Poison is floral oriental, since it combines both really well. July 29, 2013 at 3:14pm Reply

  • E K: I feel like a fool for asking, but what does “linear” mean in reference to perfume? December 22, 2013 at 5:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: You shouldn’t! It’s a very good question, and I’ve just added the definition for “linear.” Of course, if you want more information, please don’t hesitate to ask. December 22, 2013 at 6:20pm Reply

  • M K: Incredibly informative–happy to have stumbled upon this after desperately typing in “fragrance 101″ in the search bar. Thanks for sharing. February 6, 2014 at 12:35am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! Glad that you found it helpful. :) February 9, 2014 at 11:24am Reply

  • dpw: Thank you for simple, descriptive definitions. Do you have any suggestions for a similar list or resource for pronunciations? Every time I read a perfume or fragrance article or blog, I stumble my way through the French, Italian, etc., and sound like a fool. Even the names that most people familiar with fragrance through reading, but never say aloud, are challenging! How does one pronounce Figuier? Thierry? Lutens? Cuir? I just recently found out the chypre sounds more like an animal (sheep) and less like “ci-pher”. So I have always secretly wished that all perfume reviews had pronunciation assists. When I was a radio announcer, the news feed always spelled things phonetically if there was any question. That way you didn’t seem such a fool on the air when you read “sarr-koh-ZEE” as opposed to saying “sarr-KOH-zi” when reading about French news.
    Any suggestions for a good resource would be appreciated, because I frequently have fragrance conversations and often do not speak because I don’t know how to say something correctly.
    Thank you! March 11, 2014 at 10:08am Reply

    • Victoria: There is indeed a great blog with nothing but perfume pronunciations:
      http://fragnameoftheday.blogspot.be/
      And if you can’t find the word you would like to learn, just leave a comment under the top post with your request. Bela, the blogger behind this project, is very helpful. March 11, 2014 at 10:21am Reply

      • dpw: Oh, I can’t wait to read it! Thank you for the suggestion. I knew you would know. I’ll be dropping fancy names like a socialite in Paris in no time. ;-) March 11, 2014 at 10:25am Reply

        • Victoria: :) With Bela’s help, you will. She’s a professional, after all, and used to read the news on the BBC French Service. March 11, 2014 at 10:35am Reply

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