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    Perfume Glossary

    ABSOLUTES Absolutes are natural fragrance materials extracted from various plant parts. The concrete is extracted by means of a solvent and the undissolved waxes are then removed with alcohol.

    Absolutes are products of high quality, and very expensive because of their low yield.

    ACCORD Accords are combinations of various single odours blended together to produce new fragrance effects. The number of ingredients in an accord may run from two to several hundred.

    Both simple and complex accords may be used as components for perfume compositions.

    AEROSOL Aerosol is the spraying and/or foaming of liquid or solid materials by propellant agents from pressurized cans.

    ALCOHOL Alcohol is used in the perfumery industry as a solvent for the production of lotions. Ethyl alcohol is the most commonly used.

    ALDEHYDES Aldehydic is the term for the odour-effect produced by the use of short chain aliphatic aldehydes. This effect can be described as fatty, watery, tallow, or even "snuffed candle".

    When concentrated, aldehydes are extremely powerful and pungent.

    Aldehydes are used in all perfume types, especially those which feature elegant feminine notes.

    AMBER Amber is the term for perfumes containing ingredients reminiscent of fragrances from the east. Such ingredients can be exotic blossom notes, spices, balsams, resins, and animal components.

    Amber is mostly used as so called winter or evening perfumes.

    ANIMAL NOTES As the name implies, animal odorants originate in the animal kingdom. They are extracts from natural or synthetic animal secretions. They can also be extracts of plants with similar fragrance characteristics or even single chemicals.

    The best known products of the animal kingdom used in the perfume industry are civet, musk, castoreum and amber. In concentrated form, they often smell unpleasant and obtrusive but correctly diluted, they are an irreplaceable ingredient in many perfumes, giving them warmth and fullness.

    ANOSMIA Anosmia is the inability to smell.  Some people have a selective or partial anosmia, in others it is complete.

    APHRODISIAC Perfumes which, in addition to their general pleasing and harmonious qualities, are also accented with warm animal notes in combination with certain flower oils are said to have an aphrodisiac effect.  

    AROMATIC Aromatic has become an obsolete term in perfumery.  In former times, it was used to describe the fragrance impression of sweet balsam.

    ASSOCIATION Association is the connecting of sensory impressions, moods or incidents with odours. A scent has the ability to bring a situation you have experienced from the deepest recesses of your mind, into present time.

    AURA The trace of fragrance that lingers behind a person wearing perfume as they move around.

    BALSAMIC Balsamic is a fragrance impression that can be described as sweet, soft and warm. Basically, balsamic notes result from the use of balsams and resins in perfume compositions. Oriental type perfumes in particular are characterized by balsamic ingredients.

    BASE NOTES The base note is the third and last phase of a perfume's life on the skin, or evaporation. It contains the lasting ingredients, such as woods, resins, animal and crystalline substances. In heavy perfumes (chypre and oriental notes, for instance) the base note is so strongly accented that it is discernible in the top note, or first impression.

    BITTER Bitter is the fragrance impression produced by a combination of roots (such as vetyver), herbs (such as artemisia), animal notes (such as in leather) and others. Bitter accents are found mainly in masculine fragrances.

    BODY See "Heart"

    BOUQUET Bouquet is a mixture of various floral notes. Often, the bouquet is the most important ingredient of the middle-note in a perfume. The bouquet composition is the embellishment, harmonizing and rounding-off of a fragrance.

    CAMPHORIC Camphor notes have a fresh, clean, medicinal smell. In nature, they are present in lavendin, rosemary and conifer oils, among others. These notes are widely used in the perfume industry in the perfuming of bath products.

    CHYPRE Today chypre is the collective term for a group of perfumes which get their character from the combination of a fresh eau de cologne-like top note and a base note that has oak moss, labdanum and patchouli as its main elements.

    Many warm, sensual perfumes belong to the chypre family. One of the classics is "Chypre by Coty" a perfume that has been on the market since the beginning of the century.

    CITRUS NOTES Citrus notes have a fresh, light character. They come from the citrus oil family (bergamot, lemon, lime, mandarin, orange, bitter orange). 

    In addition to these, there are a number of synthetic substances that have the fresh character of citrus in different variations.

    CITRUS OILS Citrus oils are the collective term for the essential oils of bergamot, lemon, grapefruit, lime, mandarin, orange and bitter orange.

    CONIFEROUS is the odour impression reminiscent of pine, spruce, juniper and others of this family. Conifer oils are mainly used in bath products and in masculine fragrances.

    COMPOSITION (OR COMPOUND) Every perfume is a composition of harmoniously adjusted individual components. The characteristics of the individual ingredients are used to create a new and unique overall picture, a combination in which the individual characteristics of the ingredients recede in favour of the combination, without being obliterated.

    CONCRETE Essence concrete is extracted from different plant parts through the use of solvents.  In addition to the essential oil, concrete contains a number of waxes insoluble in alcohol.

    Essence concrete is mostly used in soap perfume because of its long lasting properties and insoluble substance.

    Absolutes are used in alcoholic perfumery, prepared by eliminating the waxes from "concretes" and thereby improving their solubility and strength of odour.

    CREATION Creation is the making up of a new perfume oil composition. Creative work is an art which is nevertheless influenced by economic considerations, so perhaps "skilled craft" would be a more appropriate description.

    DISTILLATION Distillation by steam is the most commonly used process for the production of essential oils.  In this procedure, steam flows through the distillation material and sweeps the essential oils along with it.  After cooling, the distillation matter is separated from the essential oil into Florentine flasks.

    DRY Dry is the term for the odour effect, the reverse of "sweet" or "warm", achieved through the use of ingredients such as mosses, herbs, and so on.

    Dry notes are used mainly in masculine perfumes and are particularly useful as fresh, daytime fragrances.

    EAU DE COLOGNE Eau de cologne is a solution of approximately 3% to 5% perfume oil in an alcohol/water mixture.

    The classical "eau de cologne" is a composition of fresh, light, volatile essential oils (predominantly citrus oils) which contains few, if any, fixatives.  Eau de cologne is intended to be refreshing and has a limited perfuming effect.

    EAU DE PARFUM Eau de parfum is a solution of perfume oil (15%-18%) in alcohol (85%-82%).

    EAU DE TOILETTE Eau de toilette is a solution of 4%-8% perfume oil in alcohol.

    EARTHY Earthy is the adjective used to describe the fragrance impression of earth, forest soil, mould, dust, etc.

    Vetiver and patchouli are well known essential oils with earthy characteristics. Earthy accents in perfumes are not pronounced and are always very subtle.

    ENCAPSULATION To encapsulate, in the perfume industry sense of the word, means to enclose perfume oils in tiny gelatine capsules. These capsules can be applied to the skin together with an alcoholic perfume. When the skin is rubbed, the capsules are broken and the scent of the oil is released "renewing" the perfume. Tests involving this method of perfuming have been carried out with textiles.

    ENFLEURAGE Enfleurage is a process for the extraction of valuable plant extracts. Plates of glass, covered on both sides with animal fat into which blossoms have been pressed, are placed on wooden frames. Spent blossoms are constantly replaced until the fat is saturated with fragrance substance. Then the blossom oil is separated from the fat through extraction. This procedure is rarely used today, because it is very expensive.

    ESSENCES Essences are alcoholic or aqueous plant extracts. They are hardly ever used in the perfume industry today, but they are widely employed in the cosmetic and flavour industries.

    ESSENTIAL OILS Essential (or ethereal) oils are extracted from various plant parts through pressing or steam distillation. They are natural mixtures of various chemical substances. Unlike fatty oils, they evaporate without leaving any residue.

    EVALUATION Evaluation means the selection of fragrances for a specific purpose from a number of available alternatives. Evaluation is work which requires not only talent, knowledge and training, but also a feeling for what the market wants at any particular time.  Evaluators are an important link between the creator and the perfume user.

    EXPRESSION Expression is an especially mild process for the extraction of essential oils, used in cases where steam distillation would modify or damage the end product. Expression is used mainly for the extraction of citrus oils.

    EXTRACTION Extraction is the process of removing raw materials from plant and animal substances through the use of various solvents.   Most of the valuable natural fragrance materials are produced in this way.

    EXTRACT Extract generally means the most concentrated form of perfume sold over the counter. It is a solution of 15%-30% perfume oil in high grade alcohol.

    FATTY Fatty is the name for the odour that suggests oil, lard, wax and so on.  In small doses, these notes are reminiscent of the smell of human skin. They can therefore contribute to the sensual effect of perfume.

    FEMININE In the context of perfumery, femininity is a quality that is judged subjectively. Any perfume that underlines the womanly attributes of its wearer can be called feminine, though much depends on the relationship between fragrance and user.

    Perfumes with floral accents are generally considered to be especially feminine. Of course, this does not prevent women from using scents that are considered to have a masculine character, but the majority uses those with feminine characteristics.

    FIXING OR FIXATIVE Fixing is a process that promotes the holding of the fragrance on the skin as long as possible. To achieve this, heavy non-volatile substances are used which develop their full fragrance intensities only very slowly, and maintain them for longer periods.

    Substances are also used for this purpose which have no strong odours of their own, but have the ability to make other fragrances last longer. Holding power is a characteristic of every well constructed fragrance composition.

    It should be noted that an excessive amount of fixative in a perfume is no guarantee that it will last longer, because substances can hinder one another in their fragrance diffusion.

    FLORAL Today, over half the branded perfumes are characterized by the adjective "floral". They contain well-defined flower notes (lily of the valley, for example, as in Diorissimo by Dior) or a whole bouquet of floral effects, as in Quelques Fleurs by Houbigant. As a matter of fact, all perfumes contain floral notes in some quantity.

    FLORAL-FRUITY Floral fruity perfumes are those that have a noticeably fruity element, especially in the top note, as an accessory to the main theme, which is always floral. Excesses of fruitiness are to be avoided as they may suggest food flavour rather than perfume.

    FORMULA The formula of a perfume compound gives full details of its components - quality and quantity wise - and is used like a recipe for preparing the mixture.  To formulate a perfume can take months, years even, and many experiments. Formulas which constitute a company's know-how and ipso facto capital are jealously guarded trade secrets, sometimes handed down from generation to generation.

    FOUGèRE Fougère is a fantasy term in perfumery.  It is the name of a combination of fresh herbaceous lavender notes on a mossy base.

    Fougère notes occur in many fantasy fragrances - especially masculine ones.

    FRAGRANCE BLOTTERS OR SMELLING STRIPS Fragrance blotters or smelling strips are narrow strips of absorbent paper about 15 centimetres long used to test various fragrances. On smelling strips, the evaporation of fragrance materials and perfume oils can be observed in the different phases they go through. Any final judgment of a perfume, however, must always be made on the skin.

    FRAGRANCE COMPONENTS (OR INGREDIENTS) All the materials perfumers put together to form a perfume composition are known as fragrance components. These are uniform chemical substances, natural products and simple or complex mixtures - the so called bases and specialties.

    FRAGRANCE DIFFUSION Fragrance development is the general behaviour pattern of a perfume in the hands of its user. A good perfume should perform three functions:

    • immediate impact on opening the bottle
    • noticeable emanation from the skin in all phases of fragrance evaporation
    • noticeable scent in the area that surrounds the user

    FRAGRANCE MATERIAL INDUSTRY The fragrance material industry is a branch of the chemical industry. This industry includes the producers of natural and synthetic fragrance materials and perfume oils.

    The fragrance material industry is a supplier to the manufacturers of perfumes, cosmetics and other products of this nature.

    FRAGRANCE MATERIALS, NATURAL Natural fragrance materials are products of plant and animal origin, extracted by different processes. Some examples are essential oils, absolutes, concretes, resins, balsams and tinctures.

    FRAGRANCE MATERIALS, SYNTHETIC Synthetic fragrance materials are produced from chemical raw materials. Half-synthetic fragrance materials are chemically processed isolates from natural products.

    FRAGRANCE ORGAN OR PERFUMER'S ORGAN The fragrance organ is the term for the working area of the perfumer, in which the fragrance materials he uses in his work are arranged around him in tiers, like the pipes of an organ around an organist.

    FRESH Fresh, in relation to the effect of a perfume, is a subjective feeling that can be caused by different fragrance impressions. In European regions, freshness is generally associated with lemon, lavender and green notes, light floral components, light and clear elements mostly. In other regions, North America, for example, sweet and powdery perfumes are also considered as fresh.

    FRUITY Fruity is the fragrance impression of natural fruit odours, such as raspberry, apple, plum, etc. Their role in perfumery is usually just to produce nuances. However, single fruit odours do become fashionable from time to time, in such products as shampoos. Exaggerated doses of fruit notes give perfumes the effect of being "edible" i.e. the opposite of sensual.

    GAS CHROMATOGRAPH The gas chromatograph is an instrument for the analysis of organic chemical mixtures. In a spiral glass or metal column, packed with porous material, the various components are separated according to physical properties such as polarity and vapour pressure. The signals received are amplified and, with the help of a printer, printed onto a chromatogram.

    GRASSE Grasse is a town in southern France, in the vicinity of Cannes, behind the Riviera. The town has a Mediterranean climate, which is well-suited for the cultivation of plants that produce perfume raw materials. For many years, Grasse has been one of the principal centres in the world for the production of natural fragrance components.

    GREEN Green is the general term for the odours of grass, leaves, stems and so on. Green fragrances exist in many different nuances. They are widely used in perfumery for the purpose of giving special accents to top notes.

    HARMONY Harmony is the tuning of all the components of a perfume so that no single element in any phase of the fragrance evaporation becomes so prominent that it could be considered unpleasant.

    It is easy to achieve harmony between similar smelling substances but quite difficult between contrasting elements which are often introduced into a perfume to give originality and character. Bringing these opposing elements into harmony is a challenging task for the perfumer.

    HAY Hay notes are used mainly in "nature" fragrances, in different ranges of application - for instance, in medicinal bath products.

    Masculine perfumes also can contain hay like components (fougère). The synthetic substance with a hay like odour that is most important in the industry is coumarin.

    HEADY Heady perfumes often contain high percentages of heavy blossom fragrances (jasmine or tuberose, for example), and animal components. The heady effect of natural flower scents is at its peak when they fade.

    Careful dosing of heady components is necessary if a perfume is not to become obtrusive or tiring.

    HERBACEAOUS Many fragrance substances have herbaceous components, and are reminiscent of herbs and medication. Well known and often used examples are mugwort, sage, rosemary and lavender.

    Herbaceous accents are widely used in masculine perfumes.

    HEART OR MIDDLE NOTE The heart is the second, middle phase of a perfume's fragrance evaporation, occurring after the top note fades away.  It is mainly produced by floral, spicy or woody components and represents, as its name indicates, the heart of the perfume.

    HEAVY Fragrances, in which the least volatile ingredients such as mosses and animal notes dominate, are called heavy perfumes. Since these ingredients are part of the top note, a heavy perfume can be identified as such at first impact. Heavy substances are used predominantly in chypre and oriental notes.

    HOLDING POWER The lasting properties of a fragrance are dependent on its degree of volatility. Heavy non-volatile substances are used for the fixing of perfume compositions.

    INFUSION Infusion is the production of flower oils by extraction at 65 degrees centigrade using alcohol.

    INGREDIENT An ingredient is one of the parts that go to make up a mixture.

    INTENSITY The intensity, or fragrance strength, of a perfume compound is dependent on the strength of the individual ingredients and the skill exerted in the blending of the components.

    JASMINE Perfumes that contain the scent of the jasmine blossom as a principal component are termed as jasmine fragrances. There are many interpretations of the jasmine note, which range from natural blossom odours to stylized, fantasy bases.

    LEATHER NOTES Leather notes and tobacco notes, play a significant part in masculine perfumes. Both natural expressions and fantasy interpretations of this theme exist and are used in the perfume industry. Leather notes also play a part in feminine perfumes, for instance, in the chypre family.

    LIGHT Light perfume notes owe their character mainly to fresh citrus, floral, fruity and green components. They contain practically no sweet, balsamic or sultry elements. It used to be difficult, but today, the perfumer also has the means to fix perfumes of light character.

    MACERATION Maceration is a procedure by which blossom oils are extracted with the aid of warm fats.   It is very similar to enfleurage.

    MASCULINE Masculine, as well as feminine, in the perfume sense, are subjective fragrance impressions. Normally, the term "masculine" is applied to fragrance favoured by men. These contain dry notes of leather, tobacco, herbs, spice, moss and wood. They are generally less floral than feminine perfumes, and often contain a high percentage of fresh ingredients. 

    In the past few years, masculine and feminine notes have come closer and closer together.

    MATURITY A perfume must mature for four to eight weeks before it can go on sale. This time is necessary to allow the individual ingredients to blend, bringing the fragrance to its full development.

    METALLIC Metallic notes are used in perfumes to produce cool, clean effects. They are used in nuances, and very seldom occur dominantly.

    MENTHOL Fragrance notes which are reminiscent of peppermint and spearmint are used in perfumery to produce special fresh effects in the top note.

    MIXING PLANT The stage in the production of perfume in which the concentrated perfume oils are mixed on a large scale, according to the perfumer's recipe. It is known as the mixing or compounding plant.

    MODIFYING Modifying means varying an existing basic fragrance theme by changing some ingredients or introducing new, additional nuances. The result may impress a lay person as a new perfume, but the expert will recognize a mere variation on an old theme.

    MOSSY Mossy odours of different kinds of tree mosses, especially oak moss, play an important part in nearly all perfume types. They are of special significance in the chypre notes. Mossy nuances are very complex and can have, besides the basic moss element, algae like, leathery, woody and other characteristics.

    Their especially good fixing qualities, as well as their ability to give fragrances substance and depth, make them indispensable.

    MUSK Musk is a secretion of the musk deer. The material extracted from musk sacs has a strong animal smell. The natural product, as well as chemicals with musk-like odours, are of great significance in the perfume industry.

    They give perfume a warm, sensual note and have outstanding fixative characteristics. 

    Perfumes that are based on musk notes are especially subject to fashionable trends.

    NUANCES Nuances are fragrance materials that are not the main fragrance carriers in a composition, but are used to support and round these carriers off, or produce special effects which contribute to the all round picture of a fragrance.

    PERFUME Perfume "per fumum" - comes from Latin, meaning "through smoke". In ancient times, fragrant resins were burned as incense offerings - that was the origin. Today, we understand perfume to be a solution containing 15%-30% perfume oils and 85%-70% alcohol, respectively.

    PERFUME OIL OR PERFUME COMPOUND A perfume oil is a concentrated mixture of fragrance substances which is used for the perfuming of various products.

    PERFUMER Perfumer is the term for the creator of fragrance compositions. His qualifications are: an odour memory which is the result of long training, the ability to differentiate between hundreds of odours, knowledge of the reciprocal action of individual fragrance substances in a composition and creative talent. The perfumer's education generally lasts five years.

    PERFUME TRIANGLE This is the basic pyramidal shape that illustrates the composition of even the most complex perfume. A perfume triangle is composed of three levels, the base notes, heart notes and top notes.

    PHEROMONES Pheromones are chemical substances which make communication possible between living beings. They are mainly significant as a medium which insects use for sexual attraction. Most pheromones are odourless to human beings.

    POMADE Pomade is a substance that is produced through the enfleurage process.  In this procedure, animal fat is saturated with blossom fragrance. The mixture of fat and blossom oil is the pomade.  It is either used straight or processed into absolute from pomade.  Parts of the fatty odour attach to the fragrance of the blossom oils, giving the products made by this process a unique character.

    POWDERY Powdery is the fragrance effect produced by the interaction of long-lasting, mossy, woody, sweet and crystalline elements. Many perfumes leave a powdery overall impression after evaporation of the fresh and floral ingredients.

    RECTIFY See distillation

    RESINOIDS Resinoids are extracts from resins or plant parts (except for the blossom). In addition to essential oils, they contain ingredients such as waxes and resins which are soluble in whatever solvent is being used in the particular process.

    In order to facilitate the use of resinoids, high boiling, odourless solvents are often added to them.  Resinoids often have a dark colour and especially good fixing properties.

    RESINS OR GUMS Resins are mainly solid or semi-solid organic plant secretions. They must go through a cleansing procedure before they are used in perfumery.

    ROUND OFF Rounding off means harmonizing and binding together the principal ingredients of a perfume, either with odorants that are closely related odour-wise, or with other adjuncts that also fit into the picture and can therefore help to produce a balanced, harmonious whole. 

    SENSORY ADAPTATION Sensory adaptation is the tendency of the human sense of smell to become less and less able to perceive a particular fragrance the longer it is exposed to it. When the sense of smell is "adapted" to a fragrance, it is no longer able to recognize it. But it recovers quickly from this fatigue.

    SENSUAL Sensual is the term for a perfume which is sexually stimulating. An accentuated portion of animal components and exotic blossom notes is usually to be found in such perfumes. Properly used, many perfumes can produce pleasant emotions and moods, since the sense of smell is directly connected with the part of the brain in which feelings and sexual behaviour are controlled.

    SMELL Smell is the sensory perception of odorous organic compounds. It occurs in the act of inhaling, and so air is the carrier.

    SMOKY Smoky notes are used mainly in masculine perfumes to create natural leather effects. In modern leather notes the smoky notes are thrust into the background by animal notes but the old, classical leather perfumes contain noticeable smoky notes which originate from birch tar oil.

    SOLVENTS Solvents are virtually odourless and colourless liquids, used in perfumery for the dilution of perfume oils. The most commonly used solvent is ethyl alcohol. Some solvents also have fixative properties.

    SOUR A perfume is said to smell sour when it has aged prematurely owing to inappropriate storage.  When this happens, irreversible chemical alterations occur and the perfume no longer useable.

    SPICY Spicy fragrance notes are used in the perfume industry in the form of essential oils from almost all the well known spices. For example, cinnamon and clove are used widely in oriental perfumes. Many masculine perfumes contain portions of spice oils - for example: marjoram, coriander and pepper.

    SPLASH COLOGNE Splash colognes are light, watery alcohol/perfume oil solutions of 1%-3% perfume oil in 99%-97% alcohol respectively. They are used generously, to refresh the whole body after the shower or bath for example.

    They have a subtle perfuming effect and the notes are fresh and clean.

    STABILITY Stability is a perfume's resistance to the harmful effects of light and oxygen. In proper storage (protected from light at room temperature in a closed bottle) perfumes lasts an average of six months without deteriorating. Many keep for a much longer period.

    SWEET Sweet elements exist in many perfumes in differing amounts, especially in amber and heavy chypre perfumes. The best known example of a sweet-smelling natural product is the extract of the vanilla bean.

    TINCTURE Tinctures are cold-processed alcoholic extracts which come from natural products. They were much favoured in former times, but their use today is on the decline for economic reasons.

    TOBACCO NOTES Tobacco notes, natural and synthetic, are predominantly used in masculine perfumes. In addition to the pure tobacco notes, scents such as honey and plum, used to flavour tobacco, also play a part.

    TOP NOTE The top note is the first phase of a perfume's evaporation "life". It is a decisive part of the first impression, on opening the bottle and application of the perfume to the skin. The function of the top note is to awaken interest in the perfume in general, and to provide impact.

    Therefore, for a top note, a striking character is often more important than complete harmony.
    The top note is ruled by high, volatile fragrance materials, but often heart and base notes also play a part in the first fragrance phase. 

    VOLATILITY The volatility of fragrance substances used in perfumery depends, in the case of single chemical entities, on the size of the molecules. In natural substances which are mixtures, it is dependent on the diverse volatilities of the components. Highly volatile substances determine the first olfactory impression of a perfume, less volatile substances, the after-effect.

    Since perfume is a complex mixture of substances of different volatiles, changes in character during the fragrance evaporation are normal.

    It is an important part of the perfumer's art to give the perfume a uniform, basic character during every phase of evaporation.

    WOODY Woody notes exist in varying degrees in practically every perfume. The most popular natural woody oils used in perfumery are cedarwood, patchouli, vetiver and sandalwood. They all have very good fixative qualities and only develop towards the last stages of a perfume’s development.

    These are the notes that linger on the skin, leaving that lasting trace of a fragrance.