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Perfume Glossary - Part 1

Posted by: Michaela W, on: Friday, 08 July 2016

If you’re in the perfume and beauty industry, you want to be taken seriously as an expert in your field. We’ve chosen the top 22 perfume terms you’ll want to have in your repertoire to show the world you mean business.

1. Flankers

A flanker is a newly developed fragrance that tends to have a lot in common with an existing fragrance. The similarities could be anything to a similar scent, the same name or even copycat packaging.

2. Sillage

First of all, I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘How the heck do you pronounce that?’ It is pronounced see–yazh and gets its origins from the French term for “wake” which is the trail you’ll often see zigzagging across the sky behind an aeroplane or in the water after a boat. So naturally, in the perfume world, sillage refers to the scent trail that lingers in the air behind somebody wearing perfume.

3. Anosmic

Ever wondered why you can’t pick up on certain notes in a perfume? It turns out some of us have the inability to pick up on certain scents which means you may be missing the musk or pink pepper scent in your perfume. Sometimes, some folk may not be able to pick up on a scent at all – it’s basically as if they were spritzing tap water onto their skin.

4. Perfumista

A perfumista – much like a fashionista – is a serious perfume enthusiast. They are passionate about fragrances and curate quite an impressive collection of fragrances regardless of expense or exclusivity. They are defined by their various signature scents and it becomes an integral part of their identities.

5. Accord

As humans we all have traits that blend together to create our unique characters. Well perfume and humans have that in common. An accord is a perfumes personality. It is the individual notes that blend together and lose their identities to create an entirely new fragrance.

6. Notes

Every perfume is made up of a number of different scents that you will be able to smell when you wear the perfume. There are 3 categories of notes within every perfume. The top notes of the perfume are the lightest and should be immediately recognisable upon application. Popular top notes that are proven to lure the customer in are lemon, orange, grapefruit, berry, sage and lavender.

The heart notes of a perfume emerge once the top notes fade away. The heart lasts much longer and has a major influence on the base notes. Popular fragrances include rose, ylang ylang, jasmine and cinnamon.

The base notes of your perfume make their grand entrance once the top notes have completely evaporated. They intermingle with the heart notes to create a full bodied fragrance that lasts all day long. Popular base notes include vanilla, sandalwood, cedarwood, amber and musk.

Perfume Notes
perfume composition, image courtesy of http://perfumenotes.ie/

7. Civet

This one may make you cringe a little. Some musky perfumes are made using the oily secretions of the African civet cat. Once extracted from the animals on civet farms it is prepared for use in perfumeries to produce a sweet, aromatic scent. We’re not a big fan, however, of deriving any ingredients from wild animals – they belong in nature and not in cages.

African Civet Illustration

8. Oriental perfume

As far as fragrance groups go, the oriental variety are far more intense and last much longer than their fruity or floral counterparts. They are generally warm, spicy and exotic making them headier and denser than any of their peers. This makes them a great choice for busy men and women who want their fragrance to last all day. You’ll pick up notes of vanilla, oakmoss, tonka bean and musk in these sensual scents.

9. Oud

More commonly known as agarwood, oud grows on certain tree species in southeast Asia. When these trees become infected with mould they begin producing a very dark resin in response to the attack – this is oud. It produces a distinctive, strong scent which perfumers have utilised in their fragrances.

Oud Wood Chips
Oud Wood Chips

10. Cuir

This term is in fact pronounced as “queer” and is the French term for leather. Leather-based perfumes are constructed using notes such as birch tar, myrtle and cade. One of the most classic leather perfumes is Chanel Cuir de Russie. Editor note: Leather scent is not actually comes from animal skin, see our blog: Perfume from Leather Gloves

11. Neroli

Neroli is an essential oil derived from the flowers of the bitter orange tree. The fragrance this oil produces is very pleasant and sweet with notes of honey, metal and spices.

Flowers from bitter orange tree

12. Oakmoss

Oakmoss is a fungus that predominantly grows on oak trees. It ranges in colour from light green to a deep moss green that verges on black. It has a very earthy, mossy and bark-like aroma that is often used to anchor unstable scents, add rich base notes and create a smooth, full body perfume.

Fungus grows on oak tree

13. Niche Fragrance vs. Designer Fragrance

What sets a niche fragrance and a designer fragrance apart is basically the number of retail outlets that stock the perfume. Designer – or mainstream – perfumes are stocked in most major retail stores and pharmacies around the world. In other words, they are pretty easy to get hold of. Niche fragrances, however, are often only stocked by the perfumery itself and may only be available in certain parts of the world. A great example of this is the French perfumery, M. Micallef. Their perfumes are only available in a few of their own stores found in France and UAE only.

14. Classic

A classic perfume is a timeless scent that can be worn year after year without losing its charm or popularity. The best example of a classic fragrance is Chanel No5 – probably more popular now than when it was even launched.

15. Dry Down

The dry down period is the last phase in the development of a fragrance. When the top notes begin to fade away, from 30 minutes up to an hour after application, the heart and base notes start to mingle with one another to create to full body of the perfume.

16. Depth

The depth of a fragrance is the level of richness in the scent and how full-bodied the perfume is.

17. Gourmand

Ever smelt a perfume so delicious you could in fact eat it? This is referred to as a gourmand perfume – one made using synthetic food notes such as vanilla, chocolate, honey, caramel, cupcakes or candy. They’re often referred to as ‘foodie fragrances’ and ‘olfactory desserts’ in the perfume world. The most famous gourmand perfume is Angel by Thierry Mugler.

18. Powdery Scent

A powdery scent basically dries to leave behind a soft fragrance of talcum powder on the skin and can often create the feeling of dryness. It can sometimes even smell a little mildewy once it settles. Powdery notes include iris, rose, musk and amber.

19. Signature

Everybody who uses perfume has a signature scent that becomes associated with who they are. Take someone you know well – when you catch a whiff of their perfume in a shopping mall you’ll immediately think of them. Your own signature scent can be a part of your identity and what makes you unique so wear it with pride and don’t be afraid to experiment until you find the perfume that is you in a bottle.

20. Spicy

Spicy fragrances are warm and exotic, often closely linked to their oriental cousins. They include notes of coriander, pink pepper, cinnamon, star anise and cardamom to create sensual perfumes that will certainly get your love interests heart pounding.

21. Sweet

Sweet notes in perfumes are deliciously addictive and aren’t only restricted to sweet florals and fruits. Real sweet notes come from ingredients like candied orange, toffee, caramel, marshmallow, white chocolate, cotton candy and pastries. Feeling hungry? Us too.

22. Undertones

Every note in itself is made up of its own set of notes. So it’s no wonder you’ll often smell a pleasant nuance in your fragrance you didn’t expect was part of the bouquet. That little surprise is what we call the undertones of a fragrance.

Author: Michaela W

Michaela is a blogger from South Africa passionate about fashion, beauty and healthy living. She works part-time in the fashion industry and spends the rest of her time freelancing, allowing her to follow her two greatest passions simultaneously.

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