Glossary Perfumery Terms

The definitions here are geared towards their general usage in the perfumery industry. Comments and discussions are invited from readers about words they would like to see included, clarified or alternative definitions given.

A. is for Aliphatic (see Aldehyde)

Aliphatic (indicating straight chain molecules found in fats and oils) notes are fatty, soap waxy odours e.g. Aliphatic Aldehydes and Alcohols (see below)


Absolute. Absolutes are regarded as the strongest aromatic product from the starting material. Not strictly essential oils as they are obtained through extraction with volatile solvents such as hexane which dissolves the volatile oil components plus colour and waxes. The resultant concrete is a solid. The volatile oil is then extracted from the concrete using alcohol. Absolutes are usually darker coloured than essential oils as non-volatile colour is also extracted.

Accord. An Accord is the perfumery equivalent of a Chord in music. A blend of 2 smells that produces a 3rd different and distinctive smell. An Accord may be a simple mixture as already suggested or may consist of many materials. It particularly applies to where each component material is in balance and harmony with each other material so that one no single component can be detected. An accord is usually a small part of a perfumes structure just as a Chord is music acts as a single note in a symphony.

Agrumen. = Citrus

Alcohol. The word used by itself usually refers to Ethyl Alcohol or Ethanol the main solvent used to carry perfume for extraits, colognes. When in a chemical name refers to the chemical group R-OH.

Aldehyde. The chemical group R-CHO. The word by itself usually refers to shorter (C6-C12) straight chain (aliphatic) aldehydes used in perfumery.

Aldehydic. A perfumery term that indicates a smell displays the character of the shorter (C6-C12) straight chained (aliphatic) aldehydes. The characteristic smell is revealed in the Greek origin of the word (anointing oil). Aldehydes display a fatty note. Aldehydic perfumes include Chanel No.5, Rive Gauche (YSL) and many versions of Lux soap.

Amber. A heavy, full bodied, powdery, warm fragrance note.

Animal Products. See Ambergris, Castoreum, Civet and Musk in The Perfumer's Workbook

Animalic. Animalic notes may be best described as Faecal and unpleasant. However, experienced perfumers recognise that in extreme dilution or clever combination they often display a very pleasant note. Civet Absolute is very faecal at 100% but at 0.1% gives a Lily Of The Valley note. Good use of animalic notes gives a perfume a natural character.

Anosmia. The inability to smell. Total anosmia can occur as the result of injury or illness but is relatively rare. Partial Anosmia is a common phenomenon where people have selective insensitivity or blindness to particular materials smells or groups of smells. e.g. Benzyl Salicylate and Macro cyclic Musks are common examples. Some people on first exposure to a new material may claim not to be able to smell it but after several exposures their ability to smell it improves. e.g. Lyral. see "Induced Temporary Selective Anosmia"

Apocrine Sweat Glands. Type of sweat gland which contributes to the sexual and body scent in humans and which the excretions from which can influence the odour characteristics of an applied perfume.

Aroma Chemicals. Chemicals that have a smell and/or taste and are used in perfumes or flavours. Should note be confused with the term Aromatic Chemicals that refers to the Benzene ring structure found in many organic compounds.

Aromachology. The science, coined by the Olfactory Research Fund, dedicated to the study of the interrelationship between psychology and aroma.

Aromatic. Strictly speaking refers to the Benzene ring structure found in many organic compounds. However the term in perfumery refers to the rich aroma displayed by Balsamic notes.

Aromatherapy. Therapy with aroma. The art and science of using essential oils (although in theory any aromatic substance could be used) to heal common ailments and complaints. Can particularly helpful with stress or emotionally trigger problems such as insomnia and headaches. There is little clinical data to back up its efficacy in serious medical problems. The term was actually coined by a French chemist, R.M. Gattefosse.

Attar (Otto). From the ancient Persian word "to smell sweet." Attar or otto refers to essential oil obtained by distillation and, in particular, that of the Bulgarian rose, an extremely precious perfumery material.

Axon. Part of a nerve cell that conducts impulses away from the cell.

Ayurvedic. The ancient Hindu art of medicine and of prolonging life.

B. is for iceBERG


Balsam. Viscous excretions from trees or shrubs plants that seep when the plants outer layers are cut or injured. Sticky materials which give a resinous sweet-woody odour.

Balsamic. Rich, sweet, resinous and warm notes associated with Benzoin, Tolu and Peru balsams. Balsamic notes predominate in the Oriental group of perfumes such as Shalimar, Obsession, Opium, Youth Dew etc.

Base or Bottom Notes. "see also Fixatives". The least volatile notes of a fragrance that dominate the perfume after the Top and Middle notes have evaporated. Historically defined as the "dry-down" on a smelling strip after 24 hours. In the Jean Carles method regarded as the materials for building the perfumes foundation upon which the more volatile middle and top notes are added. Examples - Tars(T), Animal notes(U), Vanilla(V), Woods(W), Musks(X) Moss & Marine notes(Y) but can also be any other groups long odour life materials.

Basic Notes. The materials forming the core or body of the perfume, the heart, "le cœur". Example: "The basics of a Rose perfume are PEA, Geraniol, Citronellol and Nerol". Not to be confused with Base or Bottom notes.

Bases. Mixtures of naturals, isolates and/or synthetics, which are used as building blocks by perfumers in creating other perfumes. They are less complex than a finished fragrance compound and often are or contain unique or patented raw materials. They may also be called "Key Bases" (Used to lock an open formulation where 80-99% of the formula is disclosed), "Specialties", "Captive Bases" (Proprietary to a company) or "Accords" (Bases where no one material dominates the smell)

Body. The main fragrance theme -- the middle or "heart" of a perfume. Also used to describe a fragrance that is well-rounded or full.

Botanical Name. Refers to the Latin name of the plant in the biological classification system. A botanical name is composed of the genus followed by the species.

Bouquet. A mixture of flower notes.

Bouquetting. The rounding off and harmonising of a perfume or flavour.

C. is for Citrus


Camphoraceous. Camphor-like. The fresh clean cooling character displayed by Eucalyptus but also present in the descriptions of the smells of Rosemary, Lavandin and many Herbal notes.

Carrier Oil. A vegetable oil base in which essential oils are diluted to create massage oils and body care products. Examples include sweet almond, apricot kernel, jojoba and grape seed.

Chypre. Chypre represents a perfume structure where Fresh notes, (principally Citrus) are combined with Oakmoss and usually the rich woody-animalic characters of Labdanum and Patchouli. In Modern Chypres the fresh notes may be modified or even replaced with fruity or green combinations. Frequently Chypres display a Leather character and many men's fragrances are based on the basic Chypre structure. The archetype of this comes from Chypre by Coty (almost 100 years ago) and modern examples are Miss Dior and Aramis.

Cilia. Short, hairlike cytoplasmic projections from the free surface of certain cells. Found on the olfactory bulb and thought to be where the odour receptors are held. They are constantly in a state of motion.

Citrus Notes. The fresh, slightly sour notes displayed by Lemon, Orange, Grapefruit, Bergamot, Pomello.

Classic. A classic fragrance can be considered in the same vein as classic painting or music. A style of fragrance structure that has depth and usually a higher percentage of floral absolutes (3-10%) than are found in modern style fragrances.

Cloying. An odour that is excessively sickly sweet and clinging. Can be an effect where a perfumes note does not change, as in a linear perfume that seems to last too long and becomes unpleasantly clinging.

Cologne. A city in Germany where the precursor of modern perfumes was first produced - Eau De Cologne (Kolnisch Wasser) almost 300 years ago. A blend of primarily Citrus Oils. Popular makes are Farina Gegenuber and 4711 which are both brands over 200 years old !

Cologne (Womens). A light form of a specific fragrance with about 3% concentration of perfume compound in an alcohol water base.

Cologne (Mens). More concentrated than womens colognes (5-8%), similar to the strength of toilet water (Eau de Toilette). An After Shave for men by comparison will usually only have 3 - 5%.

Compound. The name used in the industry for the concentrated perfume or flavour mixture before it is diluted or used in products.

Concrete. The mixture of volatile oil, waxes and colour that is obtained after an aromatic raw material such as flower petals are extracted with a highly volatile solvent e.g. Hexane. The term refers to the fact that after the solvent is removed the mass is solid and waxy.

Conifer. Refers to cone bearing trees and shrubs such as pine. In the ABC's classification this note is represented by K for Konifer.

Creative Perfumery. The process of discovering or making new combinations and perfumes as opposed to copying perfumes or reconstructing naturally occurring fragrance materials.

D. is for Dairy


Depth. Refers to the quality of an odour profile that is complex, sophisticated, rich and full bodied.

Destructive Distillation. A form of distillation where the material, usually wood, is heated in the absence of air to volatilise the essential oil. Usually the resulting oil is very dark with a smoky odour. e.g.. Birch Tar Oil, Styrax Pyrogenated Oil.

Diffuser. An aromatherapy accessory used to gently disperse essential oils into the air for olfactory benefit.

Diffusion. The volatilisation, evaporation and dispersal of a material throughout the surrounding atmosphere. In chemistry and physics this is normally related to the high Vapour Pressure and low molecular weight of a chemical. However, in perfumery it equally refers to a material or compounds ability to permeate the atmosphere with it's characteristic smell around it's source. Strangely, a materials ability to do this is not always related to it's Vapour Pressure. Some larger molecule materials (e.g.. Hedione, Iso E Super) not only demonstrate this ability but also 'hang' in the air. The molecules evaporate but instead of moving quickly from the vicinity of the source seem to move slowly away.

Distillate. A product of distillation. For example, lavender oil is the distillate of the fresh, blooming lavender plant.

Distillation. Plant material such as leaves, flowers, wood etc. are arranged in a receptacle ('Still') Steam is passed through the plant material. Volatile chemicals that make up the "essential oil" held in the cells of the plant material are vaporized and thus released into the path of the steam. The Steam carries the oil out of the still to a condenser which cools the Steam & Oil mixture. The mixture drips into a separating container (Florentine flask) The old adage "oil and water do not mix" is ever true in this case and the oil (usually) floats to the top. This oil known as an 'Essential Oil' is usually of a light colour as the colour molecules in the plant material, such as chlorophyll are large and non-volatile. The techniques used for each specific plant material are slightly different. See Steam Distillation, Water Distillation and Destructive Distillation.

Dry. A sensation produced by certain perfume ingredients which give a drying effect. Often associated with wood, iris notes and aroma chemicals with the active group 'formate'.

Dry Down. The final phase of a fragrance -- the Bottom Note, the character which appears several hours after application. Perfumers evaluate the base notes and the tenacity of the fragrance during this stage.

E. is for Edible


Eau De Cologne. Originally the name applied to light refreshing Citrus scented fragrance. See Cologne. Now more widely used to relate to a solution of about 3% Perfume Compound in an alcohol/water base. Much lighter than a concentrated perfume.

Eau de Parfum. An alcoholic perfume solution containing 10 to 15% perfume compound.

Eau de Toilette. An alcohol/water based perfume solution containing 3 to 8 % perfume compound.

Earthy. Notes that give the impression of earth, soil, the forest floor, mould and moss. Earthy notes are clearly discernible in Oakmoss Absolute, Vetivert and Patchouli Oils.

Enfleurage. Age-old method of extracting fragrant absolutes. Fresh flowers are pushed on to plates of glass, covered with deodorised tallow and fats that are placed into wooden frames. New blossoms are continually replace spent flowers until the fat is saturated with the fragrant molecules. The fragrant oil is then extracted from this 'Pomade' using volatile solvents and then alcohol to produce an Absolute de Chassis. This process is labour intensive and expensive but is useful for those flowers which continue to produce fragrance long after they are picked e.g.. Tuberose. The technique is not in general use today as the products produced are very expensive.

Essential Oil. The highly concentrated, volatile, aromatic essences of plants obtained by distillation or expression. Information on specific essential oils can be found in the "The Perfumer's Workbook". Frequently used loosely (incorrectly) to apply to concretes and absolutes.

Evanescent. Fleeting or quickly vanishing note or fragrance.

Expression. Method of obtaining essential oil from plant material, such as citrus fruit peel. The complete oil is physically forced from the plant material. Also known as cold press extraction.

Extraction. The method by which essential oils are separated from the plant using solvents which can then be removed by evaporation. Strictly speaking distillation and expression are methods of 'extraction' but the term is generally reserved for the use of solvents.

Extrait. Is the an alternative name for alcoholic perfumes. Extraits contain 15 to 45% Perfume compound in alcohol.

F. is for Fruity


Factice. Regular or oversize perfume or toiletry bottles filled with a tinted liquid for display purposes.

Fatigue. Odour fatigue results from overlong exposure to an odour. The nose becomes tired to a particular note but can usually still detect very different smells.

FEMA. Flavour And Extract Manufacturers Association.

Flacon. Beautifully designed perfume bottles designed for portability.

Fleuressence™ A trademark of PerfumersWorld. A series of speciality bases made from complex mixtures of essential oils, isolates, extracts and aroma chemicals to represent 26 prime odours grouped A-Aldehyde to Z-Zolvent, and a range of secondary odours that form the sub-classifications of The ABCs of Perfumery© system. The Fleuressence bases are available in The Perfumery Training Kit™ with the 26 Primary bases and The Custom Creation Kit™ with 164 bases forming powerful and super-fast building block systems of perfume creation. The Fleuressence bases can also be purchased separately in any quantity.

F-TEC™ (Fleuressence-Technology™) A trademark of PerfumersWorld. The Fleuressence system (see above) was introduced in 1998 and the F-TEC system introduced in 2022 which modernized and exponentially expanded the system with the power of The Perfumer's Wizard IA (Intellgent Algorithms) able to go from Concept to formula and physical sample in just 5 minutes! The bases are very similar to the Fleuressences but the F-TECs are updated to reflect 25 years Real World experience and newer IFRA & EU regulations. The F-TECs also have better compatibility in oil or wax based products like Massage Oils, Candles, Melts etc. while still working just as well in alcoholic perfumes, toiletries and cosmetics.

Food Grade. Considered safe for use in food.

Fixatives. Materials used in a perfume to 'fix' the perfume or make it last longer. Fixatives may be simply materials that are relatively longer lasting than the other components in the perfume or they may have some physical or chemical effect of forming bonds with the other materials.

Flat. Uninteresting, lacking in lift, diffusion or distinction. Implies a negative quality if compared to smooth which refers to a harmonious character.

Floral. Having flower based notes. Indicates a note that is associated with smoothness and naturalness

Flowery. Resembling flowers or petals.

Forest Blends. Aromatic, woodsy - mossy notes.

Fougere. From the French for "Fern." Fougere fragrances use the fern/forest-like notes of oakmoss combined with herbal notes such as lavender and coumarin. Coined after Houbigant's "Fougere Royale" a century ago. Very popular structure for men's fragrances. e.g. Paco Rabbane pour Homme

Fresh. A lightness often associated with green and citrus notes. Fresh floral usually applies to a green floral such as found Lily of the Valley and the top note of Rose.

Fruity. In perfumery refers to the sweet-sour edible fruit odours (excluding citrus). E.g.. apple, strawberry, pineapple, banana.

Full-Bodied. Well-rounded fragrance possessing depth and richness.

Fungal. Odours suggestive of moulds, mushrooms and fungi. Represented by oakmoss and the letter "Y" (for Yeast) in the ABC's of Perfumery.

Fractional Distillation. Is a method for refining essential oils or separating individual constituents (isolates) according to their evaporation characteristics. It is used for refining Alcohol (the terms "double or triple distilled" refer to this process). Citral is separated from Lemongrass Oil and Eugenol from Clove Oil by this method.

Fragrance. Synonymous with Perfume and Extrait. Better used to describe the smell part of the perfume rather than the product perfume.

G. is for Green


GC. - Gas Chromatography. Is a method of seperating a a compound usually for the purpose of identifying the component chemicals .The separation occurs according to each component chemicals affinity for a moving gas phase or for a stationary phase (e.g.. wax or silicon packing material) A very small amount of the compound (e.g. 1 micro litre 0.0001 cc) is injected into the flow of a hot gas at the beginning of long (e.g. 30 metre) very narrow (capillary) tube. According to the affinity of each chemical ingredient for the gas or for the stationary phase each chemical moves at a different rate along the tube. This effectively means that each chemical comes out (elutes) at a different time. As the chemical emerges from the tube it is detected. In very accurately controlled conditions every chemical has a specific 'relative retention time' (RRT) which helps to identify it. The most popular detectors now for perfumery analysis are 1) The FID (flame ionisation detector). Crudely as the eluted chemical comes out of column end it goes into a flame. As the material is burnt, ions (particles with an electrical charge), are produced and these cause changes in the conductivity of the flame. This change is amplified to give a signal. The FID shows us there is a material eluting but tells us nothing about its chemistry. 2) the Mass Spectrometer. The eluted chemical enters the Spectrometer and is bombarded by a stream of electrons which break the molecule up into pieces. These are then detected as fragments sorted into their molecular weights. Each chemical has a specific way it breaks up so it can be identified from the spectra produced.

Green. The odour of fresh cut grass, leaves. Green notes add lift and vibrancy to a fragrance composition and appear in most combinations to add naturalness.

Gums. Resins, Balsams The resinous exudates of the bark, twigs or leaves of trees or shrubs.

H. is for Herb


Herbal, Herbalism. Pertaining to natural botanicals and living plants.

Harmonious. A unified fragrance. The quality of appearing that every note is in its right place. Without discord.

Harsh. A crude, unbalanced, rough pungent odour. Often "chemical" in character.

Hay. A sweet clover odour. Represented in perfumery by Coumarin.

Heady. Exhilarating, sparkling, stimulating. Making one feel light headed.

Heart. The core of a perfume composition which gives it its main character. In French "Couer".

Heavy. An odour which is intense, often sweet and balsamic but lacks lift and vibrancy.

Herbaceous/Herbal A note that is natural cool, leafy, hay-like, perhaps a little therapeutic, e.g. lavender, chamomile, clary sage, rosemary. Herb oils tend to be based on terpene alcohols and esters (e.g. Linalyl acetate). Herbal notes should not be confused with SPICY notes which are hot. A dipped blotter held against the lips of a herbal note produces no or slight cooling. A spicy note makes the lips hot (e.g.. Clove, Thyme, Cinnamon). Spicy oils tend to be based on aromatic* components in the oils. (*having benzene rings in the main components chemical structures)

Honey. An intense sweet medicinal note, heavy, syrupy, tenacious. Associated with the chemical group "R'-phenyl acetate".

Hyposmia. or microsmia, is a reduced ability to smell and to detect odors. A related condition is anosmia, in which no odors can be detected. Some of the causes of olfaction problems are allergies, nasal polyps, viral infections and head trauma.

I. is for Iris


Incense. The burning of fragrant gums or resins in a solid or powder form. Giving off a lingering, scented smoke and is the original form in which fragrance was used. Incense Sticks are more commonly referred to as Joss Sticks

Induced Temporary Selective Anosmia. This is a method used by perfumers to deaden their sense of smell to one set of materials by repeatedly smelling them (for example the bottom note of a perfume) and then quickly smelling another set of materials (e.g. the top note of the same perfume). The effect is that the first set of materials is effectively cut out from the second set and specific materials are easier to identify. This method should only be used sparingly as it is very tiring and long term sensory and health effects are un-researched.

Infusion. A solution obtained by steeping the material in a hot solvent. Making tea is an infusion.

Ionones. Violets and Iris depend on this group of highly valued synthetic chemicals. Used in small amounts in many floral, green, woody perfumes. Although this group of chemicals is dominated by just two chemicals "Ionone" and "Methyl Ionone" there are many, many isomers and qualities available that give different odour profiles from fruity - violet - green to iris. An important function is they act as blenders in a perfume helping the perfume to smell harmonious. It is also interesting to note that the nose quickly fatigues when smelling Ionones and the smell appears to fade. This same effect is found when smelling natural Violet flowers.

Insoluble. Unable to be dissolved in a solvent (liquid) such as water, alcohol, oil etc.

J. is for Jasmine


Jasmine. Two main types are used in perfumery. The European type : Jasminium Officianale(var. Grandiflorum) and the South Asian type : Jasminium Sambac. From which Absolutes are extracted. Represented in perfumery by the aroma chemicals. Benzyl Acetate, a series of cyclic ketones "Jasmones", Amyl & Hexyl Cinnamic Aldehyde.

K. is for Konifer


K for Konifer. Used to denote Conifer (Pine, Pineneedle) smells as part of the mnemonic, system to help us remember the ABC's of Perfumery

L. is for Linalool (Light Floral Chemical)


Leather. Pungent animal smokiness characteristic of the ingredients used in the tanning process of leathers. Achieved in perfumery with castoreum, Labdanum, phenols and quinolenes.

Lift. To have the quality of life, brilliancy or diffusiveness.

Light. The quality of not being heavy or dominating. Often a synonym of Fresh.

Linalool. (Linalol) A natural occurring aroma chemical found in many essential oils as a major component. Its chemical name is 3,7-Dimethyl-1,6-Octadien-3-ol. But it is named after its discovery in the volatile components (essential oil) of Linaloe Berries and the suffix 'ol' refers to its chemical grouping alcohol (R'-OH) = "Linaloe Alcohol". Other oils with a large proportion of Linalol in their constituents are Ho, Bergamot, Lavender. It is used in the ABC's of Perfumery as a reference material for the relative impact of smells - because 1) The synthetic forms available from different sources are very close to each other (natural sources vary too much though) 2) The impact is about midway in the range of materials available to the perfumer hence it is given the arbitrary value of 100 3) It is quite stable and does not change its smell over time. 4) It is one of the most widely used materials in perfumery and is a constituent of most perfumes, often up to 30% of a formula. 5) Because of it's wide use in perfumery it is one of the first smells learned by a trainee. The smell of Linalol is a light neutral floral note with chemical and woody accents.

M. is for Muguet (Lily of the valley)


Materials of Perfumery. see Raw Materials Overview

Micro-Encapsulation. A method of incorporating tiny droplets of perfume oils into thin walled microscopic capsules. Like microscopic balloons filled with perfume. The outer wall is formed from using surface active agents and waxes, gelatine etc. Encapsulated fragrances can be mixed with ink and printed onto advertising inserts, capsules, blotters, paper, etc. so that when the surface is scratched the perfume is released. Some flavours are encapsulated to lengthen shelf-life or to give 'time-release' properties to the application e.g.. for chewing gum flavours.

Middle Note. The middle or "heart" notes make up a main blend of a fragrance that classifies the fragrance family or accord. It usually takes from ten to twenty minutes for the middle notes to fully develop on the skin.

Modern. A modern perfume as differentiated from Classic is a perfume based on new notes or harmonies often from newly available aroma chemicals. Modern perfumes are frequently identifiable from their lack of heavy, narcotic notes and their predominance of lighter florals.

Mossy. The odour suggestive of the aromatic lichens, and mosses, primarily oak moss and tree moss, reminiscent of the forest floor.

Muguet. French for Lily of the Valley. One of the three most used florals in perfumery. Unlike Jasmine and Rose however a natural absolute or essential oil has never really been commercially available. The smell in perfumery is approximated by Hydroxycitronellal and more recent additions to the perfumers palette Lyral, Lilial.

N. is for Narcotic


Narcotic. (N in the ABC's of Perfumery) The term used to indicate the intoxicating effect of some floral notes. Notably Narcissus, Tuberose, Ylang Ylang. Anybody that doubts this only has to travel in a truck bound for market filled with the blossoms. Jasmine is a narcotic floral but because of its importance and common occurrence has its own group in the ABC's.

Note. Borrowed from the language of music to indicate an olfactory impression of a single smell, or to indicate three distinct periods in the evaporation of a perfume - top note, middle note, bottom note.

O. is for Orchid


Olfactory. Of, relating to or connected with the sense of smell.

Olfactory bulb. The organ situated deep within the nasal cavity that holds the cilia (hair like structures) that come in contact with odourous molecules entering the nose or from the throat. The olfactory bulb passes the impulse to the limbic region of the brain.

Organic Compounds. Chemicals whose molecules are structured with carbon. The term should not be confused with naturally occurring.

Organic Farming. Cultivation without the use of artificial herbicides, fertilizers or pesticides.

Organ (Perfumers). Refers to a unit of stepped shelving containing hundreds of bottles of raw materials. Arrangement is in a way to assist the perfumer in the creation and compounding of perfume compositions.

Oriental. Fragrance family or style based on balsamic notes with vanilla, oakmoss and animal notes. Examples are Shalimar, Obsession, Opium, Samsara. Now frequently also applied more generally to perfumes that are heavy, full bodied and tenacious.

P. is for Phenol


Palette. The range of aromatic materials from which a perfumer selects to use in the formulation of a perfume.

Perfume. (Extrait) Most highly concentrated form of fragrance, containing between 20 - 50% perfume compound. The strongest and the longest lasting.

Perfumer. 1) one who mixes perfume 2) perfumer seller 3) perfumer creator.

Pheromone. Chemical substance secreted by an animals to produce a response by other members of the same species. Sexual attractants are the most widely studied and described. There is some discussion as to whether the term should be used for humans. In recent years research has indicated that we may have a sixth sense (a chemical sense) from the Human Vero Nomasal Organs (VNO), located in the nasal cavity that produce a signal to very specific steroid type chemicals. The response is gender specific meaning that males and females respond to different chemicals. Claims of using pheromones in perfumes up till now have no basis in fact and most are based on the pig attractant (Boarmate) which produces no signal from the VNO.

Pomades. Fats and flower oils saturated with flower oils such as produced during the enfleurage process.

Potpourri. A fragrant mixture of dried herbs and flowers. Usually scented with synthetic fragrance oils.

Powdery. Is an effect produced when a heavier sweet or woody note is blended with a lighter note such as citrus, fruity or light green note. Such as is obtained when mixing vanilla with lemon in a sorbet (sherbet). The powdery notes associated with Baby products are produced by mixing vanilla and balsamic notes with geranium and ylang ylang.

Prices. Prices of perfumery materials vary greatly - often by a factor of 10 times according to source, quality, quantity purchased. For example you may be able to purchase Terpineol for $1.50 / Kg but a highly purified grade of alpha-Terpineol may be easily $20 / Kg. Odour wise they may be regarded as completely different materials. Flavour/Food grade materials are usually more expensive. Flavour compounds are usually cheaper per Kg simply because they usually have only a few percent of active aroma chemicals. This is not for cheapness but necessary for dosing requirements when adding to finished applications.

Price Extension (Price/Ext). Price/Kg times % in formula. A term used to show the cost factor of a material in a compounded perfume or flavour. The price/kg does not matter what is important is the combination of price and percentage used. Frequently cheap materials have a bigger cost effect on a compound raw material cost than very expensive materials used at fractions of 1 percent.

Q. is for Queen of the Orient - Balsam

Queen of the Orient

Q. Queen of the Orient - Balsamic, resinous notes. Used to refer to the heavy sweet fragrance family or style based on balsamic notes. see Oriental

R. is for Rose


Receptor Cell. Located in the olfactory epithelium, each cell has microscopic hairs (cilia) extending into the mucus. Odoriferous substances are thought to fit into specific sites on these cilia and vibrations in the molecule activate a signal. This signal is is transmitted along the olfactory nerves to the olfactory bulb and then to the brain.

Resinoids. Are extracts of gums, balsams, resins or roots (orris) which consist in whole or in part of resinous materials. They are generally used as fixatives in perfume compositions.

Rhizomes. Root-like stems with nodes which grow under or along the ground. Certain perfume raw materials come from rhizome, e.g., Orris absolute and ginger oil.

Rose. One of the main flower notes used in perfumery.

Rose Alcohols. The term used by perfumers for the trio of terpene alcohols found as major constituents in Rose Otto. Geraniol, Citronellol and Nerol, and Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol (PEA) found in the absolute.

Rose de Mai. The traditional name given to Rose Absolute produced by solvent then alcohol extraction. Rosa Centifolia.

Rose Otto. Water distilled essential oil from rose petals. Rosa Damascena.

S. is for Spice


Soluble. Able to be dissolved in a solvent (liquid) such as water, oil, alcohol.

Solvents. 1) Volatile Solvents - fluids used to extract essential oils from flowers and other natural perfume materials. Their volatility means that they can be removed by evaporation after the extraction is complete. 2) Low Odour Solvents - For dissolving solid or viscous materials, to enable them to mix with the other components of the formulation. Solvents used in perfume and flavours for regulating strength, viscosity or stability of materials or finished compounds.

Specialities. Usually supplied by a single company under a trade name. Natural oils, isolates or synthetics, either alone or in combination, which are used as building blocks by perfumers in creating other perfumes. They are less complex than a finished fragrance compound. They often are or contain unique or patented raw materials.

Species. Major subdivision of a genus of plants. A biological classification composed of related plant individuals.

Spicy. Piquant or pungent notes such as clove oil, cinnamon, thyme oil. They are warming or hot in character and usually come from aromatic (benzene ring) based chemicals in their structures - e.g.. Eugenol in Clove Oil, Cinnamic Aldehyde in Cinnamon Oil, Thymol in Thyme Oil. Do not confuse with Herbal notes that are neutral or cool odours.

Stability. The degree to which a material or perfume is effected over time by heat, light and air. Or if the perfume is in a product(application) how it is effected over time by interaction with the base of that product. Instability may show itself by change in colour, odour, separation of the product or viscosity.

Strength. The relative intensity of an odour. The term may also refer to the total volume of odour over the evaporation of material/perfume. see Impact as a preferred term.

Substantivity. The abilty of a perfume or note to last on a specific surface e.g.. on cloth. Used frequently when discussing perfumes for washing powders or fabric conditioners. Substantivity is effected by many factors such as vapour pressure, water solubility, temperature, humidity, airflow, substrate (surface used on) etc.

Sweet. Can be used to describe a fragrance that has richness and ambrosial characteristics associated with sweet taste. When smelling the evaluator (person smelling) should learn differentiate between a vanilla type sweetness, a floral sweetness or a fruity sweetness.

Synergistic. To combine in such a way that the total effect is more than the individual parts. The objective perhaps or every perfumer because to get less than the sum of the parts is surely a failure!

Synthetic. An artificially produced substance designed to imitate that which occurs naturally. May be derived or isolated from natural products or manufactured in the laboratory. Some synthetics are superior to the natural in uniformity, stability and availability. Synthetics may be as costly as naturals.

T. is for Tar & Smoke

Tar & Smoke

Tenacity. The ability of a note or perfume to last or retain its characteristic odour. See Substantivity.

Thin. When a perfume lacks complexity or depth. Lacking in body.

Top Note. "First Note" The impression of a fragrance when first smelled or applied to the skin usually the most volatile ingredients in a perfume. Top Notes - Citrus notes, light fruity notes but also very high impact materials in the formulation that show themselves in the first stages of evaporation - e.g. aldehydes, cool, dairy, edible(sulphur), fruit and green notes etc.

U. is for Urine - Animal


U. Urine used to denote Animalic smells as part of the mnemonic system to help us remember the ABC's of Perfumery

V. is for Vanilla


Viscosity. Pertaining to the thickness or thinness of a liquid.

Velvety. A soft, smooth, mellow fragrance without harsh chemical notes.

Volatile. Easily vaporized at a low temperature. Changing easily from the state of a liquid to a gas or vapour.

W. is for Wood


Wild. Growing spontaneously, not cultivated.

Woody. An odour which is linked to the aroma of freshly cut, dry wood such as Cedarwood Oil Virginian, Sandalwood or displaying these notes such as or vetiver or patchouli.

X. is for Sexy - Musk


X - Sexy. for the soft warm, sensual notes of synthetic musk notes (musk ketone, galaxolide etc.) - real musk from the Tibetan Deer is actually very animalic. Used as part of the mnemonic system to help us remember the ABC's of Perfumery.

Y. is for Earthy - Yeast - Mossy

Yeast Mossy

Y - Yeast. Fungal, mushroom, oakmoss, treemoss notes as part of the mnemonic system to help us remember the ABC's of Perfumery.

Z. is for Zolvents - Solvents


Z - Solvents. Refers to materials that have a low odour (odourless?) in a perfume, or materials that are added not for their smell but for other purposes. Anti-oxidants, colours, solubilisers.