When choosing a new perfume or aftershave, the amount of choice can feel overwhelming. The first step towards making a decision is to make sure you understand the different fragrance scent profiles out there.

Woman smelling flowersPh. Ruslan Zh (Unsplash)

This guide will talk you through all the basics you need to know about different fragrances, from the different scent families to the scent wheel.


Scent Families

There are four main scent families - Oriental, Woody, Fresh, and Floral.

Oriental Scents

LiliesPh. Earl Wilcox (Unsplash)

Oriental scents are decidedly unisex, as they are equally as sweet as they are rich and powerful. Inspired by eastern aromas, Oriental scents are frequently used when the sun has set, giving off sensual vibes, and long lasting enough to keep up with your dancing.

Oriental scents span from sensual cinnamon, to warm chocolates and vanillas, to rich sandalwood.

Woody Scents

Woody scentsPh. Ph. Ju Desi (Unsplash)

Woody scents are typically associated as being more masculine, thanks to their earthy base, and thus play a huge part in most aftershaves. However, some of the more aromatic scents are unisex, boasting a mature calmness to them.

Woody scents consist of the aromatic warmth of cedar wood, earthy oakmoss, smokey notes and leather, to aromatic herbs like lavender.

Fresh Scents

Lavender flowersPh. Debby Hudson (Unsplash)

Fresh scents are lively, refreshing and vibrant. Think about the smells of summer - sun, sea, zesty notes and fresh herbs. They are one of the most popular scent profiles in perfumery due to their versatility, crispness, and infinite combination opportunities.

Common fresh scents span from zesty citrus fruits, to aquatic notes, light and bright herbs, to juicy berries and fruits.

Floral Scents

Fresh white floral flowersPh. Anthony Delanoix (Unsplash)

Floral scents are most popular for women's perfume, boasting a wide variety of soft feminine aromas. They can either have a singular floral fragrance or combine several flowers as an aromatic bouquet. Due to their floral base, they are often associated with the smells of spring.
Popular floral notes range from freshly cut flowers like rose, powdery florals like jasmine, to oriental florals like orange blossom.

What is the scent wheel?

Starting at the top, and working clockwise, the scent wheel consists of the following scent families and subfamilies touched on above:
● Oriental →
○ Soft Oriental → Oriental → Woody Oriental →
● Woody →
○ Woody → Mossy Wood → Dry Wood → Aromatic →
● Fresh →
○ Citrus → Water → Green → Fruity →
● Floral ↻
○ Floral → Soft Floral → Floral Oriental ↻

The bordering families blend into one another since they share similar scent profiles. For example, ‘Woody Oriental’ is the natural middle ground between ‘Oriental’ and ‘Woody’.

However, opposite families on the scent wheel have opposing properties. For example, Oriental scents are often dense and powerful, whereas Fresh scents are light and airy.

For this reason, the subfamily that falls exactly opposite another often blends with it particularly well. Just look at orange from ‘Fresh Citrus,’ and clove from ‘Soft Oriental’ - a classic Christmassy combination!

Another option is to find three subfamilies that create a triangle with one another. For example, lavender from ‘Woody Aromatic’, rose from ‘Floral’ and honey from ‘Oriental’ are a fantastic combination both for perfume and dessert flavourings!

With these things in mind, you will be one step closer to understanding which fragrances suit your tastes. Don’t be afraid to try out a few blends before settling on your favourite.

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