We have already introduced in a previous article the 7 olfactory families, whom classify all your perfumes. Among them is a category with warm, resinous, damp or even smoky notes: the woody family which concerns a large majority of fragrances. Its notes bring elegance, sophistication and a lot of character to their compositions. Like a walk in the forest, let us take you to discover the secrets of the woody notes.
Woody notes, cornerstone of perfumery?
Since Antiquity, wood has been a popular scented material. Peoples used to burn wood shavings and resin during religious rituals. Some believe that sandalwood brings well-being and calming. In the Middle East, cedar is a venerated tree, whose sacred wood would have been used to build the hanging gardens of Babylon.
Woody notes are still very popular and even considered as the “backbone” of perfumes. Before becoming an olfactory family in their own right, they served as fixer. They thus constituted the olfactory frame on which the other notes of the composition were based. For many years now, it has become rare to find fragrances without woody shade. These notes can be found in several olfactory subfamilies such as aquatic woody, aromatic woody, or floral, spicy or chypre woody.
The first woody fragrance using these bold notes was Vétiver by Carven in 1957. A masculine perfume created by Ms. Carven to offer to her husband a both fresh and delicate scent. Here, vetiver is blended with lavender and absinthe extracts to give it a “man-skin” effect. The famous Gabrielle Chanel and her perfumer Ernest Beaux will then pave the way to the first feminine woody perfume. Lauched in 1962, Bois des Îles is far from the standards of the time. Like Coco, this fragrance blends feminine and masculine notes. Myosore’s sandalwood matches with opulent flowers and fruity notes of peach.
What are woody notes?
Woody notes come from the essential oils of the moss and the wood of the trees. These vegetable oils can also be extracted from plants such as patchouli and vetiver. This large olfactory family is divided into several sub-categories:
- amber woods: they combine synthetic molecules of woody scents with ambergris notes such as palissandrol, cashmeran or boisambrene. These are complex but multiple odours, very powerful. They are characterized by vetiver, cedar or patchouli shades whose perfume evokes the one of tobacco. Perfumers generally use amber woods as fixative.
- foamed woods: lichen, or moss, is an ingredient between the seaweed and the mushroom found on tree trunks. It is an emblematic raw material in perfumery. The absolute of oak moss, which can come from several types of trees, evokes to our noses memories of walks in the forest. Highly used today, tree moss is also the mainstay of another olfactory family, the chypre‘s.
- humid ones: the humid woods remind the scents of the undergrowth, still waterlogged of moisture at dawn. It is the root of vetiver that produces an earthy shade, wet, even smoked. This is also a great classic of woody notes that gives a soothing and fresh side to a formula.
- smoked woods: perfumers use guaiac wood in a lot of woody fragrances. It is a tree found in Paraguay. Its essence is warm, smoky and looks like leathery notes.
- resins ones: trees naturally produce resin by exudation or trunk incision. Appreciated by perfumers, the resin is used as a link in compositions. Among the most popular we can found ciste-labdanum or benzoin. Their woody, spicy and balsamic facets add fullness and intensity to woody fragrances.
- dry woods: cedar and vetiver can have dry, earthy, sometimes dusty sides.
Raw materials of woody notes
When talking about wood in perfumery, the most representative notes are cedar, sandalwood, patchouli or vetiver.
- Sandalwood has been used since Antiquity with its mystical fragrance. It brings to a composition a creamy, velvety appearance for a sensual and warm juice. You can find it in our marine fragrance ïōdé, at the heart of a base note made of amber and woody notes.
- Cedar is drier, bursting. Its smell evokes the one of a pencil just sharpened and it brings to any composition tenacity and character.
- The essence of vetiver comes from the roots of the plant and is used as fixer first. The world of perfumery will then recognize its many olfactory qualities to make it one of the basic ingredients of woody perfumes for its earthy, vegetal and vibrant notes. The essence of Haiti vetiver gives to our fragrance alõ green, soothing and invigorating shades.
- Patchouli is a cult ingredient in perfumery. It gives to any composition warm and voluptuous notes. Carrément Belle wanted to honor this raw material from the beginning with the creation of the eternal ippi patchouli, where it reveals its earthy and resinous facets in a fragrance that pays tribute to the flower power generation. It also illuminates the composition of kilim, where the patchouli essence of Indonesia blends with flowers, spices and fruity notes in a resolutely oriental scent.
But there are many other raw materials with woody notes such as oak moss, birch, pine, oud, wood of Guaiac…
However, natural woods are not the only ones to have a place of choice in your perfumes. Synthetic woods, or modern woods, are also acclaimed to bring a greater olfactory richness to these notes nowadays. We think about evernyl, a synthetic molecule that reproduces the smell of moss, or ambremax: an amber wood with a leathery facet for instance.
Identified as a masculine olfactory family for a long time, woods now bloom in feminine scents to bring them a touch of audacity. Thanks to the creativity and research of perfume creators, new woods enter in the world of perfumery such as teak wood, ebony, hazel or rosewood. Woody notes still have a bright and scented future, for our greatest pleasure! And if you are superstitious, remember that there is a good chance you will knock on wood every morning by perfuming yourself…
Are woody notes part of your perfumed ritual?