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As most formulators—who are also consumers—know, fragrance is a major deciding factor when it comes to choosing a personal care product. For example, many women will not buy a product they think smells masculine, just as most men will not choose a product they think smells feminine. But because fragrance is a subjective experience, how can a formulator translate a marketing concept into objective terms to incorporate it in a finished product?
To investigate, Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine attended a recent fragrance workshop, hosted by Bell Fragrances & Flavors, and learned about the Seven Olfactive Fragrance Families. These classifications provide some basic fragrance terminology to assist formulators in choosing a fragrance that fulfills not only their needs but also the needs of their marketing departments.
Adding to the translation challenge is the fact that the terminology can also differ between fragrance houses and perfumers. However, Mike Natale, director of marketing for Bell, believes that these differences can be rectified by focusing on the common fragrance families. “Fragrance houses and perfumers often have their own language, but with this classification, we can all speak the same language,” he said.
Fragrance genealogy is the company’s way of describing the primary notes of a fragrance. Natale explained, “Fragrance genealogy is similar to the family tree in that it helps characterize fragrance notes, descriptors and chemicals.” This metaphor can be extended by describing the olfactive fragrance family as the “grandparents;” the olfactory fragrance as the “parents, uncles and aunts;” and the olfactory fragrance descriptors as the “children, cousins and grandchildren.” The seven olfactory fragrance families, including citrus, fougère, green, fruity, floral, oriental and chypre, classify nearly 90% of all fragrances.
One of the oldest and most popular olfactory fragrance families is citrus, according to Robert Siegel, a perfumer at Bell. This family incorporates citrus fruits such as bergamot, lemon, mandarin, orange, grapefruit, petitgrain, tangerine and aldehydes as the primary note. Conversely, the fruity family utilizes brightly colored and tropical fruits such as berry, peach, plum, cassis, apricot, prune, mango, cherry, apple, melon, pineapple, pear, banana and kiwi as their top notes—what Siegel refers to as “non-citrus notes.” Although this category is frequently used, it often is not the top note.