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Speaking the Fragrance Language
By: Katie Schaefer, Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine
Posted: June 1, 2011, from the June 2011 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
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Also used more often as a component than as the main note is the green olfactory fragrance family. This family refers to the scent of nature and can include notes of grass, tea leaves, herbs, mate and galbanum essential oils, violet leaves and foliage. On the other hand, fougère is a popular top note for men’s fragrances. This family was introduced with Houbigant’s Fougère Royale in 1882, which featured top notes of lavender and bergamot and base notes of oakmoss and coumarin. Today’s fougère now incorporates rustic notes of herbs, spices, woods and conifer trees.
Floral/Fruity vs. Floral/Floral
Many perfumers agree that floral is perhaps the most important fragrance family. Jill Costa, PhD, chief perfumer at Bell, is among them, and finds that there can be significant “movement” in floral fragrances. The floral fragrance family is further divided into the fragrance “parents” of floral/fruity and floral/floral. Floral fragrances have floral dominant notes with animalic or musky base notes. The floral family is large, with subcategories differentiated by the top notes. Descriptors include jasmine, rose, hyacinth, ylang-ylang, orchid, gardenia, etc.
Classic floral/floral fragrances developed between 1900 and 1950 often used expensive naturals such as rose, tuberose, jasmine, vanilla, neroli and musk, whereas contemporary floral/floral fragrances use more synthetic floral scents. Costa explained, “Because [contemporary floral/floral] fragrances branch outside of naturals, the perfumer gets a bigger bouquet of flowers.” Contemporary floral family fragrances also use more white flowers such as tuberose, orange flower and gardenia.
However, Costa described floral/floral fragrances as “shocking” and finds that therefore, more floral/fruity fragrances are used in contemporary floral fragrances. Floral/fruity olfactory fragrance parents combine synthetic floral notes with complementary fruit notes such as apple, melon and berries. This combination, according to Costa, provides more “movement” than the linear floral/floral fragrances, meaning it changes throughout the day. “People do not want a fragrance to smell the same 12 hours later,” she said. More fragrance launches currently are floral/fruity, suggesting this category should be classified by its top notes.
The exotic fragrance family, termed oriental or amber, was described by Michel Jarosz, a senior perfumer at Bell, as including soft, powdery and vanilla notes that combine well with floral and woody accords. He added that the animal warmth and Cistus labdanum, an absolute derived from rock rose, are the forgotten underlying appeal of oriental fragrances. Classic oriental fragrances include citrus, lavender, rose, patchouli, sandalwood, vanilla, tonka, resins (myrrh, opoponax, tolu and labdanum) and animal notes (amber, musk, civet and castoreum). Further, this family includes four olfactory fragrance “parents”: classic oriental, soft oriental, floral/oriental and woody/oriental.