In the world of Perfume, scents and words combine to write beautiful scented stories. Thanks to this glossary, we aim to clarify some technical terms and replace more common ones in an olfactory context. Become an educated nose by clicking on the following words to see their definitions, and on “here for more information” to learn more!
The glossary of perfume
The absolute is the result of a plant extract. This concentrate is obtained thanks to the technique of extraction with volatile solvents. This method involves macerating plants in a tank that undergo several successive washes to capture the odoriferous molecules. The solvent is then boiled to deliver a concrete (for flowers) or a resinoid (for other plants). After several washes and icings, the concrete gives birth to the absolute.
An accord comes from the association of several raw materials or simple notes that create a singular scent. Its harmony depends on the intensity of each of these notes and the balance of the dosages. Perfumers can therefore use woody, spicy, flowery or fruity accords in the base of their formulas for instance.
Alcoholate is the mixture obtained by maceration of vegetable raw materials in alcohol.
Aldehydes are synthetic components that exist naturally in citrus zest. They are used for their olfactory properties recognizable by their warm, oily, metallic smell but also because they bring power, stability and volume to a fragrance. The most famous aldehyde fragrance is probably Chanel No. 5.
Almond does not exist in its natural state in perfumery. These are synthetic materials that enable to reproduce its soft, powdery notes 👉 here for more information
Not to be confused with ambergris (a raw material of animal origin used in perfumery), the amber stone has a yellow-orange color. Its formation comes from the fossilization of coniferous resin. Amber is found on many jewels.
Different from the amber stone (fossil resin of conifers), ambergris is a raw material of animal origin from sperm whale concretion. After a certain period of flotation, the ambergris ends up on the shores of the beaches in the form of small fragment or big blocks here for more information
Anosmia is a sense of smell disorder that generates a loss or a significant decrease in odour sensitivity.
In perfumery, some people consider aromatics to be an olfactory family in their own right. They include aromatic plant extracts such as thyme, basil, chamomile and lavender, its emblem. These notes reveal lemony, aniseed, mentholated and camphorated scents. Aromatic fragrances are mainly intended for so-called men perfumes.
La Baigneuse is the emblem of Carrément Belle. She has been drawn by the artist Frédéric Jammes and proudly shows her feminine curves on our bottles since 1988.
Gum or resin of a fatty and solid consistency that comes from the extraction of certain plants such as incense.
When we talk about balsamic notes in a perfume, it’s not about the acrid smell of vinegar, on the contrary! These notes are generally found in oriental compositions where they bring a warm and sweet side. They are created in particular by addition of balms and resins. For example, vanilla or benzoin are considered as balsamic notes.
In perfumery, the base describes the elementary olfactory structure of a composition. It is a mixture of fragrant components often pre-established, which is the first step in the development of a perfume.
Benzoin comes from a bush of type sytrax found in Indonesia, Greece or Laos. Its resin is recovered and extracted with volatile solvents to obtain benzoin resinoid 👉 here for more information
Bergamot is a citrus fruit, the meeting between a lemon tree and a bitter orange tree, mainly located in Calabria, Italy 👉 here for more information
Blackcurrant is a black berry with smooth skin. It is one of the few fruits that can be used in perfumery in natural form 👉 here for more information
Blotters are strips of paper whose quality is special: without glue and very absorbent. They are intended to be soaked or sprayed with a raw material or a composition, allowing the perfumer to appreciate the quality and to follow the evolution of the fragrance. Discover here our tips to try a perfume in the best way.
Cedar is a conifer that grows on dry, poor soil and needs a lot of sun. The smell of cedar is green, dry and resinous 👉 here for more information
Chromatography is the technique used to analyse the composition of a perfume by separating the different olfactory components that make it up. It allows to identify the molecules in order to reproduce or rework them.
Chypre comes from the name of the perfume created by François Coty in 1917. The great success of Chypre was impressive so that is became the leader of the cyprus olfactory family, which gathers perfumes based mainly on oakmoss, labdanum, patchouli, bergamot…
Cinnamon is the bark of a tropical tree that, when dried in the sun, rolls up in the form of a stick. By distilling these barks, we obtain cinnamon essence 👉 here for more information
By Hesperide or « Citrus » we mean the essential oils obtained from the zest of citrus fruits such as lemon, bergamot, orange, grapefruit… The first Eaux de Cologne used by women and men belonged to this olfactory family.
Civet is an animal raw material from the small mammal that would be the meeting of a fox and a cat in Ethiopia here for more information
Cloves are cultivated in Madagascar, Indonesia or Zanzibar, where the flowers are picked by hand when the buds are ready to open 👉 here for more information
In perfumery, we obtain the absolute of coffee thanks to the extraction by volatile solvents of roasted coffee seeds 👉 here for more information
Concrete is a waxy substance (solid or semi-solid) obtained after extraction with volatile solvents of certain plants such as jasmine, rose or oakmoss for instance.
Coumarin is an organic natural substance. It is the main component of the tonka bean and its smell is soft and powdery. Used in particular to reproduce the smell of almond, it was one of the first natural components to be synthesized. The coumarin evokes a smell of dried straw, tobacco or hay. It is widely used in oriental or woody fragrances.
Distillation is based on the ability of water vapor to capture essential oils. The raw material to distillate (petals, seed, roots…) is placed on perforated strays in a still filled of boiling water. When raising, the steam is impregnated with the odorous principles of the raw material. The essence extracted is recovered in a condenser and then in a separator. The water separates from the odorous elements by decantation and the essential oils can then be collected and used.
In a perfume, the dominant note is the one that is most perceptible from an olfactory point of view.
Dyeing is an obsolete term today related to infusions: the solutions obtained by macerating raw materials in alcohol (example: tincture of vanilla, benzoin).
Eau de Cologne is a famous alcoholic solution created in the 17th century by Jean-Marie Farina. It owes its name to the city of Cologne in Germany where it was born. Eau de Cologne is essentially made of alcohol, but its heart comes from essential oils from hesperides. We add to this alcohol base, bergamot, lemon, orange, neroli, petit grain, sometimes some aromatics and orange blossom. Today, the name Eau de Cologne is used to define a category of perfumes. They contain mainly citrus, neroli, lavender and rosemary essences, dosed at about 5%. We explain you here the difference between Eau de Cologne, eau de toilette, eau de parfum, and perfume.
More concentrated in raw materials and therefore more precious than the eau de toilette (EDT), Eau de Parfum (EDP) is perfect to accompany you every day thanks to its finesse and its better persistence. We explain you here the difference between Eau de Cologne, eau de toilette, eau de parfum and perfume.
The eau de toilette is more concentrated in raw materials than the Eau de Cologne but less than the eau de parfum. Its wakes is light and it is usually the format you will mainly find in perfumeries. We explain you here the difference between Eau de Cologne, eau de toilette, eau de parfum and perfume.
The enfleurage is a perfume manufacturing technique. It is based on the ability of fat to naturally absorb odors. This method is practiced hot or cold, depending on the resistance of the plants. For hot enfleurage, plants are soaked in fats or oils previously heated until the flower releases its essence. The fat called pommade is then scraped and washed with alcohol, which keeps its smell. After several filtering to remove all traces of fat, we obtain the absolute: the highest concentration of perfume. Cold enfleurage allows to treat most delicate flowers whose petals are placed on thin of cold fat.
Eugenol is a viscous yellow liquid, which is the main constituent of clove and whose smell is very similar: spicy, woody, smoky. It is also naturally present in the essential oil of cinnamon. In perfumery it is often used in the synthetic state to recreate the particular floral accord of the carnation. Eugenol is found in many oriental and woody compositions.
The essential oil is a natural raw material obtained either by distillation or by expression. Also known as essence, it refers to aromatic and volatile products extracted from plants.
The expression is a perfume manufacturing method only used with citrus fruits. The cold expression makes it possible to recover the essential oils which are in their zest. Peel is separated from the fruit, pierced with many small holes and mechanically pressed. This process delivers a mixture of fragrant oil and water. Filtration of this extract finally allows to separate the aqueous parts from the essential oils.
The method of extraction in perfumery consists of dissolving the raw material of the plant in a solvent which we let then evaporate. The plants are immersed in a steel tank called “extractor”. They are then subjected to successive washes with organic solvents (ethanol or hexane) which fill with their smell. The perfumed solvent is boiled. When it evaporates, as solvent is more volatile than the material extracted from the vegetal, it produces a fat: a highly fragrant waxy substance called “concrete” for flowers and “resinoid” for dry materials. After several washing with alcohol and several icings, the purified concrete becomes the absolute.
This fancy denomination does not claim to be close to the smell of ferns. It includes an accord usually made with woody notes, lavender, thyme, rosemary, oakmoss, coumarin, bergamot, etc. The scents from this olfactory family are often made up of masculine notes.
Some natural or synthetic odoriferous products may be considered fixatives. These are non-volatile substances used to increase the lasting of a composition by slowing the rate of evaporation of more volatile components. This is one of the great challenges of perfume since it is one of the most important factors that makes a perfume success.
The floral olfactory family is one of the most popular. It includes perfumes whose main theme is a flower: rose, jasmine, violet, lilac, lily of the valley, narcissus, tuberose, etc. They form a real floral bouquet loved by women especially in the West, but also by men more generally in the Middle East.
A fragrance, in opposition to the generic term of smell, is generally used to refer to a pleasant scented product. Today, fragrance is used as a synonym for perfume.
Geranium rosat is a plant native to Africa. In perfumery, we use the essential oil of geranium obtained by the distillation of its leaves and stems here for more information
The Head Space is a technique used in organic chemistry to isolate odorous molecules from a raw material 👉 here for more information
A perfume is said heady when it over-stimulates the sense of smell, or even saturates it. Unless it is a committed stance, heady perfumes often refer to compositions that do not seem harmonious and whose smell is overpowering.
Hedione, or methyl dihydrojasmonate, is one of the most used synthetic materials in perfumery. Discovered in the early 60s, this molecule is present in the absolute of jasmine and also in tea. Hedione is used in many compositions to enhance the freshness and the diffusion of a fragrance. It has a light and subtle scent of jasmine, green or slightly lemony.
Heliotropin is a synthetic molecule that exists naturally and is found sparingly in the violet leaf. It comes in the form of a crystalline powder and its smell is quite close to coumarin, soft and powdery, somewhere between vanilla and almond. It remains more floral and delicate.
Honey is a sweet substance made by bees from the nectar of flowers. In perfumery, there is no essential oil of honey. Perfumers can use the absolute of beeswax 👉 here for more information
Hydrolate, or distilled water, is a plant extract obtained by steam distillation. It is the aqueous substance that persists after decanting and separating the essential oil. Floral waters, obtained from flowers, are part of hydrolats.
Hyperosmia is a disorder of sense of smell that exacerbates the ability to smell. It sometimes affects pregnant women.
Icing is an operation that allows to cool an alcoholic solution to facilitate the precipitation of the less soluble substances, vegetable waxes, in order to obtain a clear product after filtration. This operation is used in the technique of extraction with volatile solvents to purify the concrete.
The International Fragrance Association was founded in 1973 by the perfume industry. It is a self-regulatory institute that publishes recommendations on the use of fragrant molecules in particular.
Incense comes from the bush resin that grows on arid and hot soils such as Ethiopia, Sudan, India or Somalia here for more information
Ionones and methylionones gather synthetic components that reproduce a violet note. These synthetic materials have a very sweet smell, powdery, floral, warm reminiscent of candy violet. They are particularly used in floral accords and especially in label rose, our precious and wild fragrance.
Iris is a rhizome plant with more than 200 species. It is a raw material much appreciated by perfumers, but also one of the most expensive ingredient in perfumery as it is necessary to wait for 3 years for the rhizomes here for more information
Isobutyl quinoline is a synthetic material that recreates the smell of leather, with warm, earthy, green, tobacco and licorice notes. Also called IBQ, this molecule has a very powerful smell and must be handled carefully! This is why it is used in very few compositions.
There are two varieties of jasmine used in perfumery: sambac and grandiflorum. The absolute of jasmine grandiflorum has a warm, sweet, fruity and opulent smell, while jasmine sambac is greener and more fruity, evoking banana and orange blossom 👉 here for more information
Juice is a term used in perfumery to designate the concentrated alcoholic solution of perfume.
Kôdo is the art of appreciating perfumes. This ancestral and unique practice in the world comes from Japan and is one of the three traditional arts with ikebana and the tea ceremony. Kôdô consists of creating aromatic compositions mainly based on scented woods. They are given to smell to an audience of experts during ceremony called Kôkai. Kôdô is based on the abily to recognize and memorize odors, and to discern the different notes. This art of smelling and appreciating fragrances involves a strong nose education.
The cistus is a small bush that grows in a garrigue environment. It is covered with a resin that protects it and prevents it from dehydrating, called labdanum 👉 here for more information
Lavender is a raw material frequently used in perfumery. It is mainly cultivated in the south of France and in Bulgaria 👉 here for more information
Lily of the valley is a mute flower that cannot be extracted naturally. It is therefore reconstituted using synthesis and in particular hydroxycitronnellal here for more information
This family gathers scents with dry notes, trying to reproduce the characteristic smell of leather here for more information
Maceration is the technique of creating prolonged contact, from a few days to several months, between the concentrate and the alcohol in order to cold extract the soluble constituents of a solution. During the maceration, the vegetable substances form a precipitate removed after icing and filtering which make it possible to obtain a limpid liquid.
Mod is an abbreviation for modification. Used by perfumers, this word designates the successive formulas worked on during the creation of a fragrance.
Originally musk is an animal raw material from the odoriferous secretion of an abdominal gland of the musk deer here fore more information
Neroli oil is an essential oil produced from the distillation of the orange blossom (unlike the orange blossom absolute, obtained by solvent extraction) 👉 here for more information
The nose is the organ of olfaction. This term is also used to describe a perfumer-creator. And without him, we wonder what we would do!
A perfume is made of several dozen or even hundreds of ingredients. These are revealed in 3 very distinct acts, 3 notes which reveal its character and form its olfactory pyramid.
The first, the top note, is composed of the lightest olfactory elements (citrus and aromatic notes). It lasts from a few minutes to 2 hours maximum.
The top note gradually shades off and then comes the middle note. Less explosive, it embodies however the main theme of perfume. It is made of floral notes, green, fruity or spicy, and will remain on your skin for about 3 hours.
Finally, an ultimate smell will bind intimately to your skin, not to leave it for hours, even days on your clothes. This is the base note, composed of tenacious, generous and captivating ingredients (woody, balsamic notes), which enables to prolong your fragrance over time and fix the top and the middle notes to give depth to the perfume.
Oakmoss is a lichen. It is found on various trees such as fir, pines, willows, cedars and also some fruit trees here for more information
The olfactory bulb is a region of our brain dedicated to sensory perception and especially to the treatment of odors transmitted by olfactory neurons, the sensors present in our nose. It is a real olfactory library.
Olfactory families allow to classify perfumes. This classification is a traditional tool for perfumers to assemble perfumes according to their characteristics and their olfactory constructions. There are 7 main olfactory families introduced here.
The olfactory memory is the ability of our brain to record previously smelled scents associated with memories. Even more intense than hearing or sight, the sense of smell is a sensory perception directly related to the amygdala and the olfactory bulb, the areas of our brain that create and fix memories, and store emotions. Olfactory memory is the oldest of our memories since it appears at a very young age.
The olfactory pyramid is the structure and construction of a perfume. It is made of top, middle and base notes. Learn everything about it here.
The essence of sweet orange is obtained by cold expression of the zest of orange. It is mainly made of limonene here for more information
Orange blossom is a white flower from the bitter orange tree. Today cultivated in Morocco and Tunisia, the orange blossom is too fragile to be distilled 👉 here for more information
Under the name of “oriental perfumes”, also called “amber perfumes”, have been gathered compositions with sweet, powdery, vanilla, ciste-labdanum, or animal notes very marked.
Sometimes the juice of your perfume changes. This phenomenon is explained by its oxydation: a chemical reaction that occurs when the perfume is in prolonged contact with the oxygen of the air, or strongly subjected to light or heat.
The perfumer has an olfactory palette made of all the natural or synthetic raw materials he uses to create his fragrances.
Parosmia is a sense of smell disorder that distorts the perception of odors. A person with parosmia confuses odors with each other.
Patchouli is honored in 1921 by Coty and the new Chypre olfactory family. But it is at the beginning of the 70s, with the appearance of the hippie generation, that patchouli will become the symbol of the flower power here for more information
Pepper is a spice that comes from pepper berries and is part of the oriental olfactory family. Produced in India, Brazil, Malaysia or Madagascar, berries are first harvested before they come of maturity 👉 here for more information
The etymology of the word perfume comes from the latin per fume, which means by the smoke. Indeed, since Antiquity, people use odorous substances such as wood or plants which they assemble and burn to produce smokes with different odors. Today a perfume means a fragrant composition whose smell is pleasant. Thus, we distinguish a smell from a perfume, the second being particularly pleasant. We explain here the difference between Eau de Cologne, eau de toilette, eau de parfum and perfume.
First imagined by the French writer Joris-Karl Huysmans in his book À rebours, the perfumer’s organ has become a true professional piece of furniture in which perfumers arrange the bottles of all their raw materials in a circular arc. Today, perfumer’s organs are gradually being replaced by computer systems.
We talk about persistence for a perfume by qualifying its behavior on the skin: its olfactory intensity over time. The longer a fragrance lasts, the better its persistence is.
The essential oil of petitgrain is obtained by the hydro-distillation of bitter orange tree’s branches and leaves 👉 here for more information
A perfume is called powdery when it reminds us the smell of compacts of former times, talc, rice powder. Difficult to describe, powdery notes evoke an olfactory and tactile memory at the same time. We are talking about soft, cottony and enveloping or even cosmetic notes. To create a composition with powdery notes, the perfumer can use different natural or synthetic materials as coumarin, heliotrope or ionones. Some flowers also create this powdery fragrance such as iris, violet or mimosa.
The raw material is the elementary constituent of a formula in perfumery.
Sandalwood comes from the trees of the santalaceae family. It is an evergreen wood found in Asia. Known and used for millennia, sandalwood is part of many funeral rites here for more information
Sense of smell is one of the five senses that allows us to perceive, analyze and memorize odors.
A solinote perfume is a creation built around a central ingredient, which however integrates other raw materials to enhance the composition. This is the case of our eau de parfum vanille, whose major ingredient is Madagascar vanilla absolute, made even more gourmand thanks to caramel and almond.
Latin phrase meaning to be specific to a species or a thing. In perfumery it is said that a smell is sui generis when it is animal, musky or even human.
The principle is based on the use of CO2 gas placed in a supercritical state: neither liquid nor gaseous, but at a high pressure level called fluid. In this state, the gas acts like a solvent, which once dipped into the rose rose petals, extracts all the active elements without heating or adding chemical. At the end of the process, the CO2 is recovered by depressurization, which makes it a very ecological method because it is completely recyclable.
Chemical synthesis is a series of chemical reactions that allow to obtain one or more products. In perfumery synthetic materials can recreate smells that cannot be extracted naturally, whose profitability is too low or whose exploitation in the natural state is dangerous for the environment or some species (see musk). Thanks to the synthesis, perfumers have an olfactory range infinitely more diversified. Synthetic molecules are highly controlled by European regulations.
Terpenes are hydrocarbons plant, produced by many plants, especially conifers. Most of them constitute the odoriferous principle of plants: the smell they give off is due to the release of highly volatile molecules containing carbon atoms. They are major components of resin and turpentine.
Tobacco is a product coming from dried leaves of tobacco plants found in Central America. In perfume industry, tobacco absolute is obtained by extraction here for more information
The tonka bean is a small black seed from Brazilian teak. It is a tree that grows to about thirty meters in height. In its raw state, the bean has a grilled, almond-like flavor reminiscent of caramel or dried hay 👉 here for more information
It is the first olfactory impression felt and perceived when spraying a fragrant alcoholic product.
Vanilla planifolia is the only orchid to deliver a fruit: the vanilla pod. Originally from Amazonia, it is now grown in Indonesia, Madagascar, China and Reunion Island (bourbon vanilla) 👉 here for more information
Vetiver is a tropical plant with rhizome that has become the emblem of woody fragrances. In perfumery we distil the dried roots of vetiver to deliver the essence 👉 here for more information
The violet is a small flower with five petals. In perfumery, only the leaves of the violet can be used in their natural state to obtain absolute 👉 here for more information
A solvent is a liquid that has the ability to dissolve other substances without modifying them and without modifying itself. Used during the extraction, volatile solvents make it possible to separate the raw material from its odorous components. In the past, ether was used but this product was too expensive and above all very flammable. The solvents used today are ethanol or hexane. The choice of the solvent depends on the desired boiling point and the solubility of it.
The wake is the olfactory impression in the atmosphere left by a person wearing a scented product.
Woody fragrances represent an olfactory family with warm notes, such as sandalwood and patchouli, and sometimes dry, like cedar and vetiver. The base of these compositions generally perceived masculine, is most often composed of lavender or citrus notes.