Perfume Types - Perfume Classification and Notes

Perfumes can be classified according to the “Fragrance wheel” which simplifies fragrance classification and naming scheme. This method was invented in 1983 by Michael Edward, British fragrance expert.

Fragrance notes are an elements of a method of describing a perfume. They describe scents that can be sensed when the perfume is applied to the skin. They are divided into three classes according to the scents that can be sensed in different periods of time after the application and can be top (or head) notes, middle (or heart) notes, and base notes.

Top notes are those smells that can be sensed immediately after perfume is applied. Ingredients that give off these notes consist of small molecules that evaporate quickly. These notes are very important for selling the perfume because they give is the first smell that costumer senses when buying the perfume. For top notes are used scents of basil, eucalyptus, bergamot, cajeput, cinnamon, clary sage, grapefruit, lemon, tangerine, coriander, spearmint, thyme and others.

Picture Of Fragrance Wheel Perfume Classification Chart

Middle notes appear when top notes start dissipating. They make the major smell of the perfume together with the base notes and can be chosen to cover the base smell that can sometimes be unpleasant at the beginning. These notes are usually more mellow and can appear in the smell somewhere between two minutes and one hour after the perfume is applied. Scents used to give middle tones to perfumes are scents of pine, cardamom, lavender, rosemary, juniper, chamomile, marjoram, nutmeg and even black pepper.

Base notes bring depth and solidity to a perfume and their odor lasts the longest. They appear when middle tones start disappearing and can last up to 24 hours. Molecules of ingredients that are used for base notes evaporate very slowly and their scent are usually rich and strong. To give these strong scents to perfumes, perfumers use myrrh, frankincense, rose, vanilla, ginger, clove, and cedarwood as well as other.

Perfumes themselves are generally classified into two groups: modern and traditional (although these are not the only types of classification of perfumes).

Traditional perfumes appeared at the beginning of the 20th century and it has following subcategories:

  • Single Floral (or soliflore): perfumes that have a dominant scent of just one flower.
  • Floral Bouquet : perfumes whose scent is a combination of several flowers.
  • Oriental or Amber : these have sweet and slightly animalic scents.
  • Woody : made of agarwood, sandalwood, cedarwood, and vetiver which give of woody scents.
  • Leather : scents that are reminiscent of leather but made of scents of honey, tobacco, wood and wood tars.
  • Chypre : called after the perfume of the same name that they resemble in scent and which was made in 1917 by François Coty, French perfumer and businessman (and fascist). They use scents of bergamot, oakmoss, and labdanum.
  • Fougère (French for “fern”): has sharp herbaceous and woody scent resembling of fern. Has base of lavender, coumarin and oakmoss and is predominantly men's perfume.

Modern perfumes started appearing after 1945 with inventions in synthesis and compound design:

  • Bright Floral : combination of the traditional Single Floral and Floral Bouquet groups.
  • Green : a subgroup of a Chypre group which has an emphasis on scents of cut grass, crushed green leaf and cucumber.
  • Aquatic, Oceanic, or Ozonic : appeared in 1980s. It uses calone for its base which is a synthetic scent which has marine and ozone nuances discovered in 1960s.
  • Citrus : large fragrance family with a citrus base. Consists mainly of “freshening” eau de colognes.
  • Fruity: perfumes that have scents of fruits that are not citruses for instance peach, cassis (black currant), mango, passion fruit, and others.
  • Gourmand : perfumes with scents resembling "edible" or "dessert" flavors - vanilla, tonka bean and coumarin for instance.
Picture Of Fragrance Wheel Perfume Classification Chart