Fragrance families cause a good deal of confusion, even among seasoned perfumistas. Two experiences, both involving the fruity floral category, illustrate the problem.
I once got a rather unpleasant email from a reader who was angry that I called a fragrance a "fruity floral" in a new fragrance announcement: she assumed that I was making an arbitrary assignment based on the notes listed in the press release, and that I was trying to make a critical statement about this particular fragrance.1 This nicely introduces the first point I'd like to make about fragrance families: you cannot determine the fragrance family by reading a list of notes. If you see a fragrance family listed in a new fragrance announcement, it came from the press materials or some other primary source.
Some time later I held a poll asking readers to name their favorite fruity floral perfumes. While most of the suggestions were, in fact, fruity, a rather large percentage of them were not, in fact, fruity florals. And that introduces the second point I'd like to make: you cannot determine the fragrance family just by the noticeable presence of certain notes, either.
What are fragrance families, anyway, and why should you care?
At the simplest level, fragrance families are classification systems that assign individual fragrances into olfactory groups based on their predominant characteristics. So, four different fragrances with identical notes used in different proportions could be classified into four different fragrance families. You've probably heard of some of the basic families: citrus, oriental, chypre, wood, etc. The way in which fragrances get assigned to their respective category is simple: someone who understands fragrance families smells the perfume, and makes a decision.
And why should you care? Well, the most common use of the classifications is to help people find fragrances they might like without wasting time smelling things that aren't to their taste, or, as Marie Claire puts it, "Each fragrance family has a unique personality and, instinctively, you will prefer fragrances from some and dislike ones from others". You know all those automated systems that ask what fragrance you like, then suggest some others you might like? Those are all based on fragrance family. It's also the reason that many sales associates ask what your favorite fragrance is, although in practice, what they suggest after you answer is not always from the same fragrance family.
Many people, of course, like fragrances from more than one family, and some perfumistas like fragrances from all of the fragrance families. Still, knowing the fragrance family can be very helpful simply in that it might give you some clues as to a fragrance's general character. Let's say that you know that Brand X is coming out with a new fragrance, and the notes are mandarin, cardamom, jasmine, amber and musk. As we already know, that's probably not a complete list of notes, but even if it was, it wouldn't tell you much about what the scent might smell like. If you knew that it was a citrus, say, or an oriental or a floral, that might help you decide whether or not it was something you wanted to try.
What are the families?
The next wrinkle is that there is more than one classification system in use. The best known is from Michael Edwards, who has been classifying fragrances since 1983. His yearly editions of Fragrances of the World (you can see the 2010 book announcement here) provide a reference guide for consumers and retailers, and variations of his system are in use at stores like Sephora. Edwards uses four general categories on a "fragrance wheel": fresh, floral, oriental and woody (see image above). Each of those categories has sub-categories; including the category aromatic fougere, which is in the center of the fragrance wheel, there are 14 basic categories, and then there are further sub-categories under each of those. Two popular categories, chypre and fruity floral, do not, strictly speaking, exist in this system. Chypres are usually classified under the "Mossy Woods" category, and fruity florals under the more general term "Fruity" or under the fruity subgroup of the "Floral" category.
You can read basic explanations of the Michael Edwards fragrance families at the Art et Parfum site.
Société Française des Parfumeurs uses 7 categories for their Classification des Parfums et Terminologie: citrus, floral, fougere, chypre, woody, amber and leather. Each of these has numerous sub-categories (floral, for instance, includes soliflore, floral musky, floral bouquet, floral aldehydic, floral green, floral fruity woody, floral woody, floral marine and floral fruity). Notably, oriental is neither a category nor a sub-category under this system.
You will see other systems in use as well, and many retailers use their own adaptations.
How can you learn the fragrance families?
Simply put, there isn't any really good way to learn the fragrance families other than to smell. If you're one of those perfumistas who keeps notes as you test new fragrances, you might try writing down the fragrance family at the same time, and that way, eventually you'll learn to recognize the general characteristics of each family. If you want to know which family a fragrance is in, there are a number of websites you can consult, including the fragrance directories at Basenotes, Osmoz or The Fragrance Foundation.
A side note on chypres
No other family causes more confusion, or perhaps more accurately consternation, among modern perfumistas than the chypre family. The classic chypre was descended from François Coty's Chypre, a 1917 fragrance named for Cyprus and featuring a mossy base and notes of citrus, patchouli and amber. Later chypres used a similar structure. Five years ago, you could tell someone what a chypre was by example: smell Guerlain Mitsouko and Christian Dior Diorella to understand a fruity chypre, Piguet Bandit and Christian Dior Diorling to understand a leather chypre, Jean Couturier Coriandre or Hermès Caleche for an aldehydic chypre, Christian Dior Miss Dior for a green chypre and Caron Yatagan for an aromatic chypre, and so on and so forth.
Many of those fragrances have now been reformulated, in some cases because of new restrictions on oakmoss, in others, for unrelated reasons. Recent fragrances advertised as chypres have little in common with their forebears — often nothing more than some patchouli or amber in the base — and most of them would have been classified under the woods category in olden times. Why the fragrance industry wants to keep using the term chypre is something of a mystery — it can't be much of a selling point with the general perfume consumer, who doesn't know what it is until they're told, or with sales staff, who often don't know what it is either, and who frequently can't pronounce it. But clearly they do want to go on using it, as it appears frequently in press releases. I can only say that any system that classifies Miss Dior and Miss Dior Chérie in the same fragrance family is arguably no longer primarily concerned with being helpful to consumers.
Note: top image is via Fragrances of the World.
1. Of course, you also can't tell if a fragrance is any good by knowing the fragrance family, and as long as we're on the subject, I'll go on record for the zillionth time as saying there is nothing inherently wrong with fruity florals. Some of my best friends are fruity florals, and there have been whole summers where I've worn virtually nothing else.
Thank you Robin, for trying to take some of the mystery out of a very confusing subject. This is hit or miss with me – I have a long way to go before I can definitively, correctly identify a perfume family in all the fragrances I sample. But it is of much interest to me and I appreciate learning more about it.
Oh gosh, neither can I — and I really don’t think it much matters. I mean, first of all, that’s why there are reference books on the subject, right? I think it just helps to have a general idea, so if someone says something is a citrus or a floral or an oriental, you have some idea of what you might reasonably expect.
And also, it’s limiting to rely on this system when shopping, unless you really do want to stick to a certain kind of fragrance — which is the opposite of what most perfumistas are doing.
Thank you for a great article!
Glad you liked it.
This was so interesting, thanks Robin! It’s so true that you really can’t tell a darn thing from the list of notes. And the chypre category has continued to mystify me, so thanks for the info on that.
It mystifies me too. I don’t understand why they keep using it, it’s essentially lost its original meaning, and doesn’t seem to have a coherent new meaning either.
Thanks, Robin, that was really informative and helpful! I wonder if there’s a link to that fragrance-wheel graphic in larger form? I’d love to study it more closely.
Oh yes, I should have included that:
And it’s clickable!
Oops…but not clickable, just gives more information if you “mouse over” the different categories.
Oh, good–I wanted a better look at the wheel. I love that Opium is the display for “soft oriental.” I always think of Opium as a big, brassy babe, and love her for it, but softness isn’t one of the first qualities that comes to mind.
Speaking of fragrance classification systems, I think the most mind boggling one I’ve come across was the Frederick Malle one. I’ll have to see if I can find a link for it.
I’d love to know exactly what is meant by “soft” in that context — I don’t think it’s the strength of the fragrance, insofar as that category also includes things like Ambre Sultan.
The SFdP system calls Opium a Floral Semi-Amber, under the Amber category.
If my scent memory can be relied upon (I go out of my way to *avoid* smelling this one), I seem to recall it having a very powdery sort of character. I always felt like I was being smothered or suffocated when subjected to it. So I could see calling it soft, as powder is soft… just with monster sillage.
Bless you, Robin! This article and the other one about ‘Fragrance Notes’ should be made into pamphlets and handed out in malls…and required reading for SA training. Seriously, both are so incredibly helpful.
I once tried to explain to an SA that the listed notes don’t really matter or necessarily say anything accurate about what is in the fragrance…and boy, did she get irritated with me.
I agree—these are both such tremendous articles.
That’s so sweet, thanks!
This was so great! Thank you so much, Robin! I’ve always felt like an idiot for being unable to discern one fragrance family from another. Maybe I’m not the problem. (Or maybe I am. But I still feel better about myself.)
“Some of my best friends are fruity florals”– LOL!
Well, again, it doesn’t much matter — it only saves you time if you know there are families that you NEVER like, and that’s rare. And many brands don’t bother to tell you the FF in advance anyway.
Another fine article Robin. I can’t imagine someone writing a vitriolic note to you about using the term fruity-floral….I can,however, imagine laughing in disbelief as I use the letter to soak up a coffee spill then tossing it in the trash—but then, I have a mean streak, and you are always nice. As I read, I realized how little attention I pay to fragrance families and lists of notes in general. My nose doesn’t read, it doesn’t consider notes, it operates on a simple principle of levels of yummy and levels of stinky. Lists of notes are only useful to me in terms of “hmm, patchouli is first on the list= squint one eye and sniff it anyhow”….or lately “mmm, almond maybe I should get a big snout-full of that one” Perhaps that’s a little oversimplified; but lists of notes can only help you (me) with the most basic of eliminations, and hopefully you won’t miss something great because a dreaded note never really showed up at all. And the idea of Fragrance Families really doesn’t do anything at all for me….just like in real people families : some you’re going to love and some you’re going to lead into the woods and lose em.
I have my own fragrance families, anyway, that don’t relate to anything official. The California Perfume Oils, for instance, and the Wood Puddings, and the Comfort Scents. So yeah, we can all classify however we want.
Thank goodness, because I’m hopelessly lost. I cheerfully remain in the “I like what I like, whatever you call it” camp. All the same, this was a very interesting read, R. Thanks!
Oh Robin – you just titled a great post (or a series of)!
Your column should be required reading for every budding perfumista (and for every SA, too), Robin. Good info, easy to understand, helpful references.
I wonder if anyone’s familiar with the really excellent Choose Your Own Perfume Chart found on the Frederic Malle website at
I’ve found it enlightening and a nice adjunct to the perfume classifications above. More than anything, I find I can really see where my tastes are, because like most fragrance nuts I’m all over the map (or should I say wheel?) and this one logically makes sense of why I love those particular scents from each family (not that I’m not all over the map on this graph, either ).
It’s much like a wine chart, actually. It’s got four points on its “compass:” Fresh/Transparent at the north end, Warm/Rich at the south end, Sweet/Soft to the west and Dry/Streamlined to the east.
Somewhere between those four points within any of the quadrants they form you can plot any fragrance and M. Malle has thoughtfully plotted all the FMs for us to give us a head start. If you’re familiar with the line, you can understand the whole concept in about five seconds flat. Lipstick Rose (Sweet/Soft) is way out on the western frontier while Une Rose (Dry/Streamlined) is at the other end at the tip of the eastern edge, and they’re both about the same place towards the Warm/Rich southern half. Yet they’re both solidly in the Floral camp!!!!!
Cool, huh? I think it’s a brilliant aid to understanding more about fragrances, but I think I’ve done a lousy job explaining it. Seeing is believing, so I hope that link to the Frederic Malle website works.
That Malle chart is really good — thanks, I hadn’t seen it before! Interesting to see where my favorite FMs fall on it too.
Yes, I’ve always liked that chart! I will say though that it doesn’t at all relate to what I like and don’t like from the FM line, but then, I’m not sure you could really chart a system that would fully explain my tastes — and that’s the thing, any such system is going to have its limits, and perhaps be limiting for the consumer as well, in terms of keeping them within certain boundaries instead of encouraging them to explore.
Defining things doesn’t necessarily discourage exploration, does it, Robin? Could be it’s kind of like having a map of the terrain, so you know where you’ve been and where you might like to go next and how smooth or bumpy the journey might be.
No, it needn’t, but in practice I do feel like that’s how many stores use the system — to try to put you in a box.
That is absolutely true, unfortunately, R. I think some of the SAs I’ve met are even worse: they just try to foist on me the Foist of the Month (invariably a fruity floral, likely unbeknownst to them). They’ve got commissions on their minds, not fragrance families. Fie!
Robin R., I like the blobby graphic! Thanks for sharing this. I enjoy having an additional way of looking at things.
I’m glad, SQ. I hope other readers will check it out. I find I can quickly plot any fragrance in my mind’s eye when I imagine that FM chart. It’s become a useful tool in my understanding of composition, as it goes beyond the notes — bergamot, jasmine, amber — the fragrance family systems of Michael Edwards and SFdP are based on and gets into important concepts such as weight, intensity, sweetness/dryness and texture. As a wine critic I can say that the wine world would be lost if we went by flavours alone. (There’s a huge difference between a rich, oily, almost sweet barrel-fermented, oak-aged Australian Chardonnay and a crisp, flinty, bone-dry stainless-steel-fermented French Chablis, even thought they’re made from the same grape.)
Can I have that bottle of Chablis, please?
(You have no idea how hard it was not to write “chablis, plis”.)
The link works,and I got (an) answer(s) back from the FM people in less than 24 hrs! (Yay!)
I was reccommended Angeliques Sous la Pluie, which is way up there on the fresh-transparent axis; l’Eau d’Hiver which is still about halfway up on the fresh-transparent axis but is also very far over on the sweet-soft axis; and Geranium Pour Monsieur, which dosen’t seem to be on the chart, but from the description at the site I’m guessing is a fougere. (I love the smell of geraniums. Not those overblown scented things, who really needs or wants a geranium that smells like an Andes mint?, but the real garden kind that everyone’s grandmother used to have growing in pots around the patio. You know, green and fresh and damp and a bit of dirt.)
I so badly need to get paid now. *sigh*
Those all sound gorgeous, AmeliaB. Glad it worked for you.
These families are dysfunctional!
All the best families are dysfunctional.
LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL, you are so funny
just like my own family
thank you so much Robin. I’m going to be a bit more confused for a little while, but I’m discovering more and more. I have the Edwards book, as well as others Luca Turin, etc, but it is so much fun to read, discover, learn, smell and go back and smell some more. Thanks for a great read today!
Glad if it helped!
Once you’ve reached “perfumista” status (or even if you haven’t!), it hardly matters at all into what family some marketing person has placed the fragrance. What’s sad is that customers are being steered away from perfumes they might like simply because of this (almost) arbitrary classification system.
I think that’s true, but you have to have something…if you walk into Macy’s and all you know is that you like Britney Spears Curious, what are they to do with you? Not everybody wants to try everything
No really, you are, R.
No, really, I’m not. I’m too cranky to be a goddess. (among other disqualifications)
Not cranky – imperious, as befitting a goddess.
Yeah, that’s it.
Robin, thanks for the informative and fascinating article! Greatly enjoyed reading it.
Good, I’m glad!
Hi Robin – this is a wonderfully written and informative article! I’ve printed it out so that I can keep it tucked into my copy of The Guide. Thank you!
Really glad it helped.
Excellent article, Robin! I love classification systems. I don’t find them limiting at all; they give me more information and lead to better decisions. Thanks for the great resources for further study. I’m still baffled about fougeres, for example. Something about ferns, right???
Yes. Fougeres, like chypres, take their name from a particular perfume, in this case, Houbigant Fougere Royale. Fougere does mean fern, but Fougere Royale wasn’t (obviously) based on any material derived from ferns, just from an idea. Most fougeres are herbal/aromatic, and many of them have lavender.
As I understand it, the reason fougeres are in the middle of the circle is that they have elements of all the other families.
And they’re usually, but not always, masculine. Here are some of the scents from the Classification des Parfums et Terminologie:
Versace The Dreamer
Oh, wow. Your explanation makes a lot of sense (thanks!), but I’m trying to figure out what Jicky and Old Spice have in common. Aaaack!
Great information. Thank you as always! I find that with the use of more and more aroma chemicals, and maybe with more experimentation on the part of perfumers, the classifications seem to be breaking down more now than in the past.
Really? I’ve never thought about that, can you give me an example or two?
Etat Libre d’Orange Secretions Magnifique, perhaps?
Very empowering article Robin!
I feel like I have another tool in my belt that, once I learn how to use it, will be very helpful to me as I continue to explore the vast world of fragrance.
Great article Robin!
I don’t know if you kiss and tell (or rather, I don’t know if you feel like rehashing the past), but can you reveal a few of the fruity florals you have known and loved? I’m very curious which scents you have chosen to spend extended time with.
Prescriptives Calyx and Parfums de Nicolai Eau Exotique (discontinued now, sadly) are 2 I love. Noticed today that Osmoz classifies 2 of my favorites from Hermes — Osmanthe Yunnan and Jardin Sur Le Nil — as fruity florals. Not sure I agree with that designation (and Michael Edwards classifies both under Woods) but if we’re going to be loose, I’ll include them. Then there’s Annick Goutal Folavril, and probably others — too late at night to think of more!
Thanks Robin! I love the Hermes scents, but haven’t tried any of the others except for Calyx, and that was ages ago. I’m excited to have scents to nose around for, especially Folavril which is probably at Bloomies.
Thank you so much for putting this together, Robin. Pretty early on, I discovered that unless the price was really reasonable, buying unsniffed based on notes (back before I discovered MUA and NST) rather than results of sampling didn’t always mean I’d get what I thought I would. Your article not only reafirned that, but shed more light on classifications and how ahem…flexible marketing can be when classifying perfumes into particular categories. This is really good info to know.
Just to clarify, Michael Edwards & the Société Française des Parfumeurs both classify by smell — so that’s separate from the marketing.
I’ve written a few irate letters in my time — about the incompetence of Sprint’s customer service, or the video store clerk who refused to waive a late fee despite a raging blizzard — but I have yet to get all steamed up about fruity florals!
This is a great article, however, and, like other commenters, I don’t feel like QUITE such an ignoramus now. I can get the easy ones — citrus, floral, even fougere — but oriental vs. chypre vs. wood is beyond me. Nice to know that even the experts don’t agree, and that it doesn’t really matter anyway!
If you go to the Fragrance.org site and then click on the fragrance directory, you can access lists of scents in those categories — that really does clarify better than a written explanation. Another helpful thing is to buy an old copy of Fragrances of the World (older ones are cheaper on eBay, I assume) or a copy of Classification des Parfums et Terminologie (I bought that a few years ago, and don’t know if they’ve updated it).
Wow, Robin, thanks for this informative article. I’m one of those people who enjoys classification systems and structures and attempts at categorization. I like your idea of writing down the fragrance family, etc. when recording notes about a fragrance. The Edwards system was the only one I knew about before I read this.
I tend to rely more on the French system from Société Française des Parfumeurs — only because I could afford to buy that book and could not afford Fragrances of the World.
I found the most recent edition of Fragrances of the World book at the central branch of the public library, Robin, and made good use of the photocopy machine. For a couple of bucks, I’ve got the basics, anyway. (Just in case other readers might be spending their paychecks on fragrances and don’t have the bucks for a big, pricey hardcover . . .)
Btw, I don’t mean at ALL to turn the chypre thing into a knockdown, drag-out debate, R, so if I’ve come across as at all argumentative on the subject, mea culpa. I think I just get all excited about learning stuff and then in my self-centered way take it to the logical limi in the interests of my own understanding, so hope no one will hold my clumsy enthusiasm against me.
Oh, no worries on that score — it’s an interesting topic, but in the end it’s all conjecture — we none of us have any way of knowing why things are the way they are. And perhaps it’s best that way, LOL…
I am amazed at how much I learn on this site. Bravo.
It is true that the term chypre causes much confusion – and I certainly place myself among the most confused. In its original connotation everything is clear however; it’s the modern-chypre thing that leaves me bewildered. The nouveau-chypres I love, like 31 RC, AT’s URC, L’Amoureuse and many others, are fragrances I would firmly place in the floral oriental cathegory.
If chypre is also a “mood” the fragrances above do not end into angular, intellectual muddy bases – but into warm and exotic embraces. (I decided that warm +exotic = oriental, go figure…)
They all have bright tops, of course, lying on a darker base, but I defy anyone to name on top of their head, more than ten fragrances WITHOUT a bright opening resting into something featuring labdanum or patchouli… so…(ok, no fougère colognes or citrus colognes allowed in the game!)
Grain de musc was so nice as to give me an example, to straighten things up for me… le PDT is a chypre… at this point I declare myself totally unable to assess chypres and don’t want to hear about them anymore. PDT is for me THE fruity floral of them all: death by melon on green jasmine! I know it is loved here, but I would place it on the mall shelves in the FF family, with Britney Spears &Co… (hey! don’t hit me!!!!).
At the end, it is true that the only way to really get an idea of a fragrance is to wear it…
But think of PdT”s base…and then think of your average celebrity FF base. The celebrity scents usually have a base that you’d barely notice: pale woods, some clean musk — it’s as though it’s there to help the top & heart notes hang on, but without asserting itself. That, in a way, is the very definition of a fruity floral. Now think of PdT. *That* base has a lot going on, that’s what makes PdT sexy (or disgusting, depending on your outlook). It’s animalic, leathery, and far more assertive than the base of Britney Spears Curious. A fragrance like that cannot be a fruity floral (and if it was, then nearly everything ever made would be a fruity floral).
And yes, most modern chypres are either oriental (to use one system) or woods/amber (to use another). I really do think “modern chypre” is nearly useless as an explanatory device.
Thank you so much Robin for your explaination. I didn’t get such an interesting and deep base in Le PDT, maybe becauseI apply very (too?) lightly, and to my nose everything began and ended with melony-green-jasmine. The next time I’ll try it, I will be more generous in the application and seek the animalic and dark facets you mention… !!!!
Ah, would that every FF smelled like PdT.
that is so true, sometimes the sum of the components leads you to a different perfume family than what the individual components would let you think! AND never blindly believe that the family stated in ads/articles in fashion mags/ by SAs is correct
For newbies: I find the “accords mythiques” test-box from osmoz interesting (expensive however)
I did not test that particular box…does it illustrate the families?
yes, the following: (copy paste from their website)Essences of the Mythic accords kit, Volume I :
Citrus family, aromatic family, white floral family, Floral bouquet family, woody family, oriental family, chypre family, musky note, aquatic note, spicy note, fruity note, gourmand note.
These are specifically smell-only prototypes (and I obeyed, maybe somebody else has been braver?), and I think the examples are well formulated, especially for newbies – with lots of additional information. I think this box is now longer available alone, the whole kit is a staggering 295 euros worth..
Thanks for the details! Sounds like it could be very helpful.
Thanks so much for the article Robin. Serves to provide a whole new prospective between the fragrance families with their particular and individual notes, and how to decipher between them.
Good, I’m glad.
‘I can only say that any system that classifies Miss Dior and Miss Dior Chérie in the same fragrance family is arguably no longer primarily concerned with being helpful to consumers.’
Love this article.
J, I really would love to know why they want to keep using the term. Are there consumers, unbeknownst to me, clamoring for more chypres? Do they just not want to call things orientals for some reason? I honestly don’t understand it.
I dunno, but if the brains behind Estee Lauder know anything, there was a method to their madness with the newest addition to the Private Collection line. I wouldn’t call Jasmine White Moss an oriental myself, and I do like the idea that perfumers are wanting to continue to make chypres even if they’re not exactly built along the lines of the original Coty. Miss Dior Cherie wasn’t a chypre by anyone’s measure but Dior’s, but I’d go out on a limb here and suggest that the oakmoss-free Chanel Les Exclusifs 31 Rue Cambon is worthy of an admission ticket to the chypre family. Could be wrong, but . . .
No, even if the category chypre had never existed, JWM would not be an oriental…surely it would be a floral woody or a woody floral or some such.
Agree that 31RC comes close. Just don’t get the point: why not call it a dry woods? I really, really don’t think customers are clamoring for chypres.
R, I wonder if perhaps it’s got more to do with the perfumers than the customers.
Using 31 RC as an example: because it’s French, the classification model Chanel subscribes to is the one from Société Française des Parfumeurs; I doubt that they recognize Michael Edwards’ chypre-less system. Within that SFdP model, 31 RC fits squarely in the chypre category; it would be out of place in the woods, I think. And hey, who am I to argue with Chanel?
Could it be that chypres being considered ‘difficult’ and an acquired taste and appreciated by ‘true’ perfumistas, companies are labeling orientals chypres to ‘flatter’ their customers?
J, that would make sense if they weren’t such mainstream things. I find it really hard to believe that the target audience for Miss Dior Cherie, by and large, knows or cares what a chypre is.
Bela, I suspect that at least part of the answer to the whole modern-chypre question has to do with the perfumers themselves. Market or no market, they know the aesthetic and historical importance of the chypre category, they recognize there is a valid compositional distinction between a chypre and an oriental, and they want to continue chypre’s long and illustrious history and add their own contribution to it.
I think this is true mostly of the perfumers working in the smaller, non-mainstream houses who have more creative license and a following that appreciates the genre.
If I were a perfumer, I’d see creating a chypre as an important challenge. Just thinking of Sublime Balkiss from TDC. That’s an oakmoss-free release they’re calling a chypre, and it really smells like a featherweight, typically Ellena (J-C and Celine) chypre. It’s got the bergamot and patchouli of the old school, lightened up significantly, and some modern green-mossy notes most likely straight from the test tube. I’d call it a chypre, even though it smells nothing like Chypre de Coty.
This is just me, but I really like the idea of the natural evolution of the chypre. I do love the old classics, but I don’t see any reason why the category can’t be modernized. Surely we have florals now with barely a natural ingredient in ’em.
Interesting point of view.
Problem is: the more categories become diluted or blurred, the more customers become confused. Classifications are meant to help, not hinder.
Hi Robin, this was an excellent post! Thanks a lot!
But I have a question, where are the gourmands?
You can think that they are in the fruity category, but there are notes as mocha cream, maple, milk (my favorite perfume is Ralph Lauren´s Hot) that are not fruits… Hot has flowers too… so is it floral?
In the Michael Edwards system, gourmand is a subcategory, and Ralph Hot is a Woody Oriental, Fresh, Gourmand.
In the CdPeT system, there’s no such thing as gourmand, and Ralph Hot is too new to be included in my copy. Osmoz calls Hot an Oriental – Vanilla.
Thanks for your answer Robin!
Smashing article, Robin, and I mean that in the iconoclastic way Good to challenge and shake up things occasionally, and pointing out the discrepancies in naming FF’s is good.
Ironically, I had just sent off to my editor the chapter that included my take on FF’s a few hours before this appeared. I have the Société Française des Parfumeurs classification system (kindly shared with me by a POLer a few years ago, and one of my own, and I write that the aspiring perfumer can even create their own – based on the smell and the ingredients – so there! LOL Perfumers may define the route the perfume will take at inception, conceptualizing well, maybe a fruity floral and following through
But the best discovery for me was the reference to the Classification des Parfums et Terminologie and I followed your link back to Marcello’s article from 2005.
So, being the Type A I am, I called the Musées des Grasse to inquire about buying a copy, and was informed that they ran out of stock about two years ago. She told me they’re trying to convince the Societe to republish it, in an updated form, and that I should send her an email stating my interest, so I did. I asked her to confirm she got the email, but she hasn’t (yet). There was a lot of spelling and respelling her email addy, and maybe I got it wrong.
I will, if there is interest, follow up on Monday and ask her if I can publish her email address here – the correct one. I’m sure there will be a lot of requests for the republication.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know that it’s worth it. My edition is from 2001, and includes printouts to cover 2002, 2003 & 2004. Each of those is 1 page long — it’s clear even then that they simply can’t do this comprehensively given how many new releases there are. I can’t imagine how they could cover even a fraction of the number we have now.
The Michael Edwards books are expensive, but if you really need to know FFs, it makes more sense to buy one since it will cover very nearly everything on the market.
Thanks for the heads up, Robin. Actually, the nerd in me was interested a lot in this bit from Marcello’s review: Most interesting, in my opinion, is the excellent overview of discoveries in organic chemistry since 1833: I’ve never seen it presented in such clear and concise manner as in this little handbook.
I didn’t reply sooner here because I never got an email with your response. I can’t see how to enable emails of comments, so I remembered today, and searched to find this thread. I’m not so concerned with everything on the market, but I do intend to get an Edwards book one of these days. Thanks for the link to the fun interactive wheel.
That section, unfortunately, is very short, and now probably out of date.
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