Many of us love perfume but we can’t find our way around different scents. To most of us, many flowers smell the same, and it doesn’t seem true to say freshly cut grass has a scent. There are so many singular and combined scents in the perfume world and confusion is inevitable. The fragrance wheel is specially designed to help amateur perfume lovers find their way around scents. It is a round diagram, much like a wheel of fortune, which groups fragrance families together and helps one see which fragrances go together and which families are related.
The first example of a perfume wheel was by Paul Jellinek in 1949. Later in 1979, U. Harder developed a different version known as the Fragrance Circle, and after that came the Wine Aroma Wheel by Ann C. Noble in 1984. Michael Edwards, perfumery taxonomist, developed the model we now know as the Fragrance Wheel in 1992.
There are four different fragrance notes, each with a number of fragrances that fall under that family. Knowing which scents belong to a particular fragrance family is important because once you know which fragrance family you like, you are rarely going to be confused when picking a perfume. What’s more, when making a perfume, you’ll know which scents go best together.
The first family is the Oriental family and under that are various other sub-families – cousins, acquaintances and all the rest. The floral oriental scents are smooth, sweet and subtly spicy which makes them perfect for flower lovers who like strong floral scents. The soft oriental is gentle on the nose and quite sensual, often picked up by a trained nose. The regular oriental scents are sweet and warm like vanilla but not too soft to not be picked up. The last is the woody oriental scent which seems preferable to the mature nose, a bit strong, spicy and sweet all at once.
Quite close to the woody oriental scents come the woody notes. That is where the raw and simple scent of the woods family dominates, reminding one of nature and the outdoors. Mossy wood scents are sweet and earthy, giving off that prairie cottage scent which nature enthusiasts know and love. For a smokier leathery scent, one would try the dry woods family which is normally appreciated more, the older one gets.
If you like feeling fresh like you’ve just taken a shower and those scents are heaven to you, this is the perfect fragrance family. With aromatic fougère scents that are infused with herbal blends and lavender, you feel clean and fresh always. The citrus scents, besides reminding you of your childhood or making you crave nectarines, give off a fresh lemony scent that’s sure to keep you smiling. Water family scents are also quite refreshing and rejuvenating with scents like fresh sea spray or wet air after rainfall. The green family reminds one of freshly mowed lawn, a great one for the outdoorsy kind. Finally, the fruity scents in the fresh family reminds one of berries and summer, delectable and divine.
The floral notes on the wheel are for those who just can’t do without flowers. With the original flowery scents of roses or lilies, flower lovers will douse themselves completely in these. The soft floral family has scents for those who love flowers but perhaps don’t like them to overpower their noses. The scents are sweet and musky and definitely not too strong. Orange blossom from the floral oriental family rounds off the wheel and brings us right back to the oriental scents.
There is a lot more to learn about fragrance families but the fragrance wheel is a great start. Why not visit our workshop page and choose from the various workshops about perfume making and fragrance families to find out which fragrance family suits you.