Perfume Families

The following are a combination of definitions I found mainly on Basenotes, Mamma Bear’s Soaps and Belle Aire Creations along with my own thoughts and observations:

If a fragrance has mainly a scent of fresh notes, plus weaker scents of woody and citrus notes, we could say that this fragrance is Fresh, but with citrus and woody undertones. The dominant part is normally the heart of the fragrance.

One approach could be to categorise them by predominant heart or base notes….like woody-floral for a patchouli/jasmine combo.

Male fragrances can be divided into several different families. The amount of different families there are, depends on what you read. Commonly there are Four main groups (Citrus, Fougere, Oriental and Chypre), which are then divided into sub groups.

Feminine fragrances have extra floral categories, and do not feature so many of the Fougere style fragrances, so popular in men’s perfumery.

When a new fragrance is launched, the marketing department will often claim that the new fragrance is so unique that is doesn’t fit into the normal family grouping and will state that the fragrance has formed a new family subdivision, such as Sunny-woody-futuristic-water or something. Although most of the time it will just be a plain old fougere.

Currently, the list of possible materials for each group only includes naturals but I plan to add synthetics to the list as soon as I have the chance.

The following are the 7 Fragrance Families that I use in my process or categorisation:


Fougère (pronounced ‘foo-jer’)
Fougère fragrances are one of the most popular men’s families. These will often contain Lavender and Oakmoss.The term ‘Fougère’ is French for ‘fern’ but fern’s don’t actually smell like this. The name derives from a now discontinued fragrance by Houbigant called Fougere Royale (Royal Fern) which was the first fougere fragrance.

Examples include: Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren, Platinum Egoiste by Chanel, Cool Water by Davidoff, Jazz by YSL, Paco Rabanne pour homme.

Oriental/Amber
Heavy, sweet, animal blend with woody undertones. Typically quite diffusive and tenacious. A very important accord in perfumery, used historically in Shalimar and today’s Obsession.

Oriental fragrances are common in both male and female fragrances. They are often warm, spicy and sweet and contain ingredients such as Vanilla and Tonka bean. Sandalwood is also very common in these fragrances

The Amber (or oriental) family is warm and powdery and often has vanilla accents. Floral woody amber, floral spicy amber, soft amber, citrus amber, floral semi-amber.

Examples include: Obsession for Men by Calvin Klein, Joop! Homme by Joop!, Le Male by Jean Paul Gaultier, Equipage by Hermes, Egoiste by Chanel Feminine: Jean Paul Gaultier “Classique”, Angel, Opium by Yves Saint Laurent

Chypre (pronounced ‘sheep-r’)
Named after the island of Cyprus. The originator of this fragrance was the famed Francois Coty who introduced the public to it in 1919. This fragrance was a departure from the sweet ones that were the norm, at the time, and the incense smelling Orientals. Heavy, dry in character, with occasional leather notes, the Chypres used an innovative base composed of Oakmoss, Patchouli, Bergamot, Labdanum, and Sandalwood. The women’s versions sometimes used Rose and Cassie to achieve floral notes. Tobacco Absolute may be added for a smokier note, as in Cigar Aficionado Cologne. The heaviness can be lifted by the addition of citrus notes like Lemon, Lime, or Verbena.

A Chypre fragrance contains woody, mossy and floral notes. Often will contain Oakmoss, Sandalwood, Patchouli Bergamot and Vetiver. This was named after a feminine fragrance by Coty called ‘Chypre’ in 1917. The name ‘Chypre’ is French for Cyprus, which is where many of the notes that make up this fragrance could be found.

Examples include: Givenchy Gentleman, Fendi Uomo, Vetiver by Guerlain, Aramis, Van Cleef and Arpels, Quorum by Puig, Antaeus by Chanel, 212 Men by Carolina Herrera. Cuir de Russe by Chanel, Mitsouko by Guerlain, Chypre de Coty.

Citrus
The function of the Citrus group is mainly as a refresher, perfect for the summer, where heavy fragrances would be overpowering.  Crisp, sharp, at times, and able to lend a feeling of coolness, the Citrus blend is often composed of Lemon, Lime, Tangerine, Bitter Orange, Mandarin, Yuzu and Bergamot among others of the naturals. 4711, the oldest eau de Cologne, still in production, is a prime example of this group. Penhaligon’s Blenheim Blend and CK One are two more examples of this vast grouping.

But the character can be changed in wonderful ways, making it more exciting, and in some cases surprising. They can segue into the evening with aplomb with the addition of some floral notes like Rose Geranium, Carnation, Ylang Ylang , Iris, and Jasmine. Add spices like Cassia, Nutmeg, Clove Bud, and pepper, both Pink and Black, and you have a Citrus that is warm and exciting. Woody notes like Vetiver, Sandalwood, the Cedars, and Patchouli will take it to a now sensual level. And finally, the addition of aromatics, such as Thyme, Rosemary, Spikenard, and Lavender changes our lowly Citrus into the star of the tennis court and golf course.

The citrus family of fragrances is one of the oldest classifications of aromas. Infused with the tangy essence of citrus fruits, these perfumes are a lively and energetic bunch and well-suited to daytime wear. Fresh, tangy, crisp, and uplifting, it includes such notes as Bitter Orange, Grapefruit, Lime, Bergamot, Mandarin Orange, Yuzu and Lemon. Other parts of the orange tree are often added to enhance these citrus notes.

Floral
Floral notes are dominated by the scent of flowers. Single floral notes are capturing the fragrant spirit of a particular flower (soliflore), while floral bouquet combines fragrances of several flowers in a single and harmonious note. The most popular fragrance family: Arabian jasmine, White jasmine, Damask rose, Neroli, Ylang, Mimosa, Palmarosa. There are many variations on the floral fragrance. It can be be pure and flowery or subtly warmed with a touch of spice or fruit or it can have a soft, powdery finish.

Leather/Tobacco
The Leather family is the most masculine and evokes the smells of tobacco, smoke and leather. Leather, floral leather, tobacco leather.

Woody
Opulent compositions of woody notes in a heart of perfume are accentuated with woody notes of a base. Warm, mysterious sandalwood, patchouli, cedarwood, rosewood (bois de rose), spikenard, drier and sharper labdanum/cistus, cedar and vetiver, resin-like and balmy exotic sorts are usually accompanied with aromatic and citrusy notes.

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