Perfume’s vocabulary

Perfumery, as a lot of other fields, has its own vocabulary. Sometimes, it can seem strange, to not say incomprehensible. Here, I propose you the explication of some terms to familiarize yourself with our jargon.

These terms are used by all the actors of the industry, perfumers, evaluators, the marketing, the legislation or the central purchasing. A specific vocabulary usually borrows from the musical lexical field, sometimes to the taste or to that of the textures.

Today, we want to share with these definitions so you can be well welcomed in our universe. If we forgot some of them, do not hesitate to suggest them to us in the comment 😉

Absolute : Odorous substance obtains after alcohol washing of resinoids or concretes to remove wax.

Accord : Mix of minimum two fragrant raw materials giving birth to a new odour. Sometimes we say “simple accord” when we talk about a rose or jasmine reconstitution, for example.

Aldehyd : Synthetic raw material from chemistry. Those molecules exist naturally in the citrus fruits for example. Their odours are very powerful, usually describe as metallic, greasy and warm. We can also describe it as the smell of iron steam. The perfume that highlighted these notes is Chanel’s iconic N°5.

Amber : Olfactive family. Makes us travel around vanilla, warm, spicy and resinous notes.

Anosmia : Temporary or definitive loss of sense of smell, the impossibility of smelling an odour. Since taste is related to the sense of smell retronasally, this also impacts its perception.

Aromachology : Science of the odours and their psychic effects. In this way, odours are used to encourage wellness, stimulate the memory or even influence behaviour.

Aromatherapy : Sciences of essential oil’s effects for therapeutic ends. The essential oils deposited in contact with the skin influence the body and physical aches.

Aromatic : Vegetable raw material well-known in gastronomy but just as much used in perfumery thus belonging to the olfactory family “Aromatic”. Brings fresh or tonic top notes.
Example: Mint, Rosemary, Lavender, Basil

Balm : Resinous substance from plants. These ingredients have a common odour which is said to be embalmed. A suave, lightly sugary/sweet and animal odour, but also solar and honeyed.

Base : Olfactive composition commercialized and used as an ingredient in its own right.

Base note : Fragrant facet of a perfume developing after a few hours up to several days or even weeks or months. Example: woody or animal notes.

Bottle : Container containing the finished perfume, exists in different shapes and design.

Chypre : Olfactory family whose name comes from the perfume “Chypre” by François Coty created in 1917. This perfume’s characteristic accord and therefore of this family is an association between bergamot, oak moss, labdanum and patchouli.

Civet : Substance extracted from the annal glands of the animal with the same name. Today, its use is prohibited in perfumery.

Cologne : Perfume family whose name comes from L’Eau de Cologne, Aqua Mirabilis. Its creation remains unclear between Giovanni Paolo Feminis and Giovani Maria Farina in the seventeenth century. These fragrances are not very concentrated, composed mainly of citrus fruits, qualified as fresh, sparkling, toning, zesty.

Concrete : Waxy substance obtained by extraction with volatile solvent. After being cleaned with alcohol, we get the absolute.

Copy : Reproduction of an already existent on the market perfume; plagiarism.

Enfleurage : Oldest technic of extraction in perfumery. It consists in extracting the essence of the flowers by impregnating them in grease. Flowers must be turned over manually regularly. After washing the grease, we get an absolute.

Essential oil : Concentrated liquid extracted from a vegetable material (flower, root, leaf, zest …) by hydrodistillation.

Evaluator : Person that accompanies the perfumer in the creation, project manager and usually connection between the customer and the perfumer. Has a very advanced knowledge of the market sometimes by geographical area and / or by product category (perfumes, candles, cosmetics, detergents …).

Extract : The most concentrated in fragrant material perfume’s type.

Extraction(s) : Laboratory technique that allows to take off a product’s fragrance.

Fern : Olfactive family. Accord of lavender and woody notes, associated with geranium, bergamot or oak moss, its name come from Houbigan perfume “Fougère Royale” launched in 1882.

Floral bouquet : Description used for perfumes whose smell represents the odour of a flower mix. Unlike soliflore, which interprets only one flower. A characteristic perfume of this description is “Anaïs Anaïs” by Cacharel ; a mix of rose, lily, jasmine, ylang-ylang, honeysuckle, lily of the valley and hyacinth.

Floral : Olfactive family. The most important to date and mostly feminine.

Flowers : Vegetal raw material, “Florale” olfactive family. Principal and the most use raw material in perfumery.

Formula : Perfume recipe. List of the ingredients and their quantity that compose a perfume.

Formulation : Action of creating and weighing a perfume, laboratory work realised by the perfumer-creator or his assistant.

Fragrance : Other term used to describe a perfume but this one is pleasant. Comes from the Latin “fragrantia” which means smell or smooth odor.

Fragrance strip : Strip of blotting paper that is soaked in perfume or a raw material to smell or follow their evolution.

Fresh: Adjective used to describe a light perfume, as opposed to heady perfume. Notes are usually Hesperides, tonic and refreshing. Summer fragrances are a good example.

Gourmand : Facet of a perfume or an ingredient. Adjective used to describe sweet, tasteful and sticky notes.

Grey amber: Raw material from natural concretion of sperm whale and discharged into the ocean. These residues float more or less long on the surface of the water, exposed to the sun and bad weather. It’s a precious and rare product whose odour is never quite the same. A marine, animal, sweet, tobacco and incense fragrance after drying. Today, several raw materials are used to replace this ingredient.

Heady : Adjective used to describe a perfume with a strong, intoxicating, that can “go to your head” fragrance.

Heart note : Fragrant facet of a perfume developing after a few minutes to a few hours. Example: floral notes.

Hesperide : Olfactory family. Involves citrus fruits (lemon, orange, lime, mandarin) thus corresponding to colognes.

Hydrodistillation : look at water distillation.

Hyperosmia : Sense of smell huge sensibility.

Hyposmia : Diminution of the capacity to smell; sense of smell dysfunction.

Ingredient : Material or substance used by the perfumer during a perfume formulation. Consider solvents, alcohols, raw materials and preservatives.

Leather : Olfactive family. Powerful, smoky perfumes with animal facets. This family was very trendy during the XXe century, but not that much today.

Molecule : “Particle formed of atoms and which represents, for a pure body which is constituted by them, the smallest amount of matter that can exist in the free state.” – Dictionaries’ Larousse. In perfumery, we use odorous molecules also called synthetic ingredients (see synthetic).

Musk : Animal raw material initially from the buckshot forbidden today. Replaced by synthetic molecules. Thus, the term musk embodies today a family of molecules so the smell is transparent, cottony, sometimes slightly fruity – red fruit – sometimes more animal or earthy.

Mute flowers / Silent flowers : Flowers from which the fragrance cannot be extracted. Their fragrance is then recreated synthetically thanks to chemistry.
Example: Lily of the Valley, Tulip, Poppy

Niche : Exclusive perfumery, the perfumes are sold in the brand’s own shops and communication is limited to the brand’s social networks and its windows. The perfumes are initially unisex and not sold in conventional perfumery.

Nose : Other name given to the perfumer, brings back to his principal work tool.

Note : Perfume’s olfactive characteristics. They are classified into 3 groups according to their volatility. Top, heart and base notes.

Odour : Fragrant molecules association. We will judge it good or bad according to our memories, our life story and our tastes.

Ointment : Cream based on resin and fatty substances. Formerly used as a base for perfume.

Olfaction : Action of smelling a fragrant material.

Olfactory pyramid : Olfactory structure of a perfume, divided in 3 parts: top note, heart note, base note according to the ingredients volatility.

Olfactiry family : Classification of perfumes or raw materials.

Perfume :

  1. Finished product corresponding to the mixture of perfume concentrate with alcohol.
  2. Finished product whose concentration is greater than 20% perfume concentrate.

Perfume organ : Shelves on which the perfumer has the majority of its ingredients in front of it so that they are visible and accessible when creating and weighing a formula.

Perfumer : Perfume designer-composer also called a nose.

Range : Products derived from the same perfumed base in a brand.

Raw material : Ingredients used in a perfume composition, they can be natural or synthetic.

Resinoid : Product obtained by extraction with volatile solvent of the dry part of vegetable raw materials or certain balms, resins and gums.

Round : Adjective used to describe a harmonious, soft and balanced perfume.

Soften : Rework a perfume composition to make it more harmonious and balanced.

Still : Distillation machine allowing to separate a product by heating and then cooling.

Top note : Fragrant facet of a fragrance that develops from the beginning up to a few minutes. This is the first impression we have of a perfume. Example: hesperide notes.

Volatile solvent extraction : Extraction technic. Consists in dissolving the fragrant components of the plant in a solvent, these will then be evaporated. Made in large tanks called extractors.

Water distillation or Hydrodistillation : Extraction technic, allows to obtain an essential oil from a vegetable raw material thanks to a process of boiling and then condensing the steam.

Wood : Raw material from the olfactory family “Woody” mainly extract from tree trunks. Depending on the nature of the wood, the notes will be dry, enveloping, smoky, spicy or earthy.
Example: Santal, Gaïac wood, Atlas or Viriginia Cedar