Fragrance Glossary A-Z | Experimental Perfume Club
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Scent Jargon

From accords to resin, we break it down for you.

If you’ve read our blog post ‘The Language of Scent‘ you’ll already be a bit familiar with how we use our words in perfumery, it can be a complex one. Without a distinct language of its own to describe it with, we often end up borrowing words from different descriptive vocabularies. Hence why some scents are described with words you might not normally associate with smell, such as soft, or sweet, spiky or strong. But how about the specific smell words? At Experimental Perfume Club we’re always trying to make fragrance easier to understand, so we’ve deciphered some of the most common scent jargon for you to familiarise yourself with.

A – C

Accords

Accords are simply a blend of three or four ingredients that create a new odour impression. You can have more general accords, say a Floral accord or Woody accord, or you can have accords created to mimic specific smells without containing that particular ingredient, like a rose accord that contains no rose, only molecules that make up the smell of rose.

Absolute

Absolute is a type of natural extract. While everybody is familiar with essential oil, absolute is a word that almost no one would have heard of. Essential Oil refers to the natural extract of an ingredient by distillation (see Distillation). However, some ingredients do not yield well via distillation and some need to be processed via solvent extraction. This is the case of many flowers and solid resins (jasmine absolute, iris absolute, labdanum absolute).

Base Notes

The base notes in a fragrance are responsible for a scents longevity, or its lasting qualities. They are better smelt when a fragrance has dried down a little, an hour or so after application and can stay on the skin or fabric for hours and up to days!

Chypre

The most commonly misunderstood of the fragrance families, chypre (pronounced ‘sheep-ra’) comes from the French word for Cyprus. They are characterised by the use of oakmoss, bergamot, patchouli and labdanum, and have a stronger and more leathery signature than the woody family. The first Chypre perfume was released in 1917 by François Coty, and, today, it remains a popular family of scent although the first Chypre fragrances were quite different to more modern Chypre.

labdanum absolute

D – F

Distillation

The key technique used to acquire aroma compounds from plants and flowers. Once botanical materials are heated, their essential oils evaporate with the steam. The compounds are then collected through the condensation of the distilled vapour. It is commonly used for extracting from roses, orange blossom, geranium and many other ingredients.

Enfleurage

Enfleurage is a traditional method of extracting oils from flowers with the use of fat. Today no longer used and long replaced by other extraction processes. Tiny jasmine or tuberose blooms would be pressed into glass sheets coated with fat, for days, to capture their scent. The oils are then captured by dissolving the fat in alcoholic solvent. Enfleurage used to be the main extraction method when distillation wasn’t possible.

Formula

Essentially the recipe for a perfume, formulas must be incredibly precise as a mere drop too much of one ingredient can change the whole composition of a fragrance. Anyone who has attended one of our workshops will know how important it is to write everything down.

Fougère

Meaning ‘fern’ in French, Fougère fragrances are most commonly male scents. Contrary to what one may think, it is not inspired by the smell of fern but got its name from the first fragrance who opened the Fougere family, “Fougere Royale by Houbigant”. They usually smell aromatic and fresh – fern-like – and traditionally use a combination of lavender, geranium, citruses, vetiver, oakmoss and coumarin within the blend

H – M

Headspace

A remarkably cool way of capturing scent that uses a domed container to form an airtight seal around an object, before analysing its odour compounds to be sent to a lab. Once analysed the scent can be recreated using synthetic molecules. It’s commonly used on flowers that are hard to extract using traditional methods, but it could be used on just about anything.

Juice

A word that can sometimes causes confusion in readers: the ‘juice’ is simply the liquid inside the bottle, the perfume.

Layering

The Middle-East have a long tradition of it, and the West is catching up, layering is simply the act of applying perfumes one after the other on the skin to create a new scent. Our entire perfume collection, Layers, was designed for just that, each was formulated with the idea of layering in mind: the first fragrance collection to do so.

Musk

Once obtained from a sex gland secretion from the Tibetan musk deer, we now no longer extract from the animal itself. The natural ingredient has been replaced by a range of synthetic musks which all have different qualities, but mostly they smell like soft, sexy skin. Although if you can’t smell it, don’t fret as you’re not alone, it is incredibly common to have ‘anosmia’ to synthetic musk ingredients.

N – S

Note

Used to describe a single smell or ingredient, the term is borrowed from the language of music. It can also be used to describe the ingredients within a top, heart or base of a fragrance.

Pulse Points

Heat is what brings a fragrance to life, so it makes sense that we would spray our perfume on the parts of our bodies that create the most. Think as you body as the diffusing tool for your fragrance, just like a flame for a candle. Pulse points are located at the bottom of the throat, behind the ear, on the wrists, inside elbows and behind knees. Using perfume in the places where the skin is thinner, and so the fragrance can be activated by your body heat quicker, will make the most out of your scent.

Resin

Secreted by trees and bushes, resins are often sticky and brown. Used for aeons, either burned as incense or offered up to the gods, resins are still used commonly in modern perfumery. Often smelling smoky, warm and ambery, they add depth to a scent – frankincense, myrrh and fir are all types of resins.

Synthetic

Molecules perfume ingredients that are produced through synthetic organic chemistry. Used in combination with naturals, they are essential to perfumers and make the lion’s share of the perfumer’s organ. More often than not they are nature identical – the same as the molecule found in a natural ingredients. Some molecules are directly extracted from the natural ingredients it origins from, making them sometimes organically certified.

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