Beginners Guide to Fragrances

Shopping for a fragrance for the first time can be a tricky affair. After all, there are so many types and scents to choose from that making a quick decision can be nearly impossible. Our beginner’s guide to fragrance types and categories is a great place to start from. It will guide you on how to choose the right fragrance.

A great way to understand and appreciate fragrances is to learn a little bit about their history and get to know some of the best perfume designers of all time.

A Little History About Fragrances

Fragrances have a long and interesting history that spans thousands of years. The use of scents dates back to ancient civilizations. Egyptians, who used scented oils and balms for personal grooming, ritualistic purposes, and as offerings to the gods, are believed to be the first makers and users of scents. 

The ancient Greeks, Hindus, Arabs, Chinese and Romans also had strong traditions of using perfumes, fragrant plants, and flowers. Scents were a common element in their cultural and religious ceremonies.

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Fragrance as we know it today, however, began to take shape during the Middle Ages in Europe. At this time, scents were primarily used by the wealthy as a means of masking body odor and enhancing personal hygiene. The art of perfumery was highly prized and was often practiced by monks and alchemists, who experimented with various ingredients and techniques to create new scents.

During the Renaissance, fragrances became more widely available and were used by both men and women. The popularity continued to grow throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The industrial revolution brought new methods of production and a wider range of ingredients, allowing perfumers to create more complex and diverse scents.

Today, fragrances are used by people worldwide and are an integral part of many cultures. They are created using a wide variety of natural and synthetic ingredients and are used for a variety of purposes, including personal grooming, as a form of self-expression, and as a way to enhance the ambiance of a space.

Classic Perfume Designers of All Time

There are many classic perfume designers who have had a significant impact on the world of perfumery. Some of the most well-known include:

1. Coco Chanel 

Coco Chanel is perhaps the most famous perfume designer of all time. She is credited with revolutionizing the perfume industry by creating some of the most iconic fragrances to this day. 

One of her best creations is the Chanel No. 5, perhaps the most famous perfume of all time. It was created by Coco Chanel in 1921 and remains a bestseller to this day. The scent is a classic floral blend that features notes of jasmine, rose, and ylang-ylang.

Some of her other most iconic fragrances are Chanel No. 22, which was created in 1922, Chanel Allure which Jacques Polge created in 1996, and Chanel Chance, a floral, fruity fragrance created by Jacques Polge in 2002. The latter features notes of white musk, pink pepper, and jasmine.

2. Christian Dior

Christian Dior was a French fashion designer who founded the eponymous luxury fashion house. He was also a pioneer in the world of perfume, creating a number of classic fragrances, including Miss Dior and Diorissimo.

3. Guerlain

Guerlain is a French perfume house that was founded in 1828. It is known for its classic, sophisticated fragrances, many of which have become bestsellers. Some of the most famous Guerlain perfumes include Shalimar, Mitsouko, and Jicky.

4. Yves Saint Laurent

 Yves Saint Laurent was also a French fashion designer who founded the Yves Saint Laurent fashion house. He is also known for his iconic perfumes, including Opium and Paris.

5. Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein is an American fashion designer who founded the Calvin Klein fashion house. He is known for his minimalist aesthetic and has created a number of classic perfumes, including Obsession and Eternity.

Types of Fragrances

The world of fragrances may be a little complicated for beginners, and it’s understandable. Even though there aren’t as many types as you’d imagine, the few can be a little hard to distinguish if you are a complete beginner.

We will look at the five different types of fragrancess. Each type comes with its own unique characteristics and ingredients, which we also delve deep into.

 

Eau De Parfum (EDP)

 Eau de parfum (EDP) is a type of perfume that contains a higher concentration of fragrance oils (typically around 15-20%) compared to other types of perfumes. As a result, EDPs tend to have a more intense and long-lasting scent. EDPs are a popular choice for those who want a strong, noticeable fragrance that will last throughout the day.

The term “eau de parfum” is French and translates to “perfume water.” EDPs are typically made with a blend of essential oils, alcohol, and water and are applied to the skin by spraying onto pulse points such as the wrists, neck, and inner elbows.

EDPs often highly priced due to the higher concentration of fragrance oils. They are also often more complex and sophisticated in their scent profiles, as the higher concentration of oils allows for more nuanced and layered fragrances.

Eau De Toilette (EDT)

Eau de toilette (EDT) is a type of perfume with a lower concentration of fragrance oils (usually around 5-15%) than Eau de parfum (EDP). As a result, EDTs tend to have a lighter, more subtle scent that is less long-lasting.

The term “eau de toilette” is French and translates to “toilet water.” Just like Eau de parfum, EDTs are also made with a blend of essential oils, alcohol, and water.

EDTs are a popular choice for those who want a light, refreshing fragrance that is not too overpowering. They are often less expensive than EDPs due to the lower concentration of fragrance oils and are suitable for everyday wear. Some people also prefer EDTs because they do not have as strong a scent as EDPs and may be more suitable for work or other formal settings where a strong fragrance may be inappropriate.

Eau De Cologne (EDC)

Eau de cologne (EDC) has a very low concentration of fragrance oils (usually around 2-5%) and is, therefore, lighter and more subtle than other types of perfumes. EDCs are often used as a refreshing, invigorating scent and are particularly popular for men’s fragrances.

The term “eau de cologne” is French and translates to “cologne water.” They are a good choice for those who want a light, fresh fragrance that is not too overpowering.

EDCs are least expensive than because they have lower concentration of fragrance oils and are suitable for everyday wear. EDCs are also a good choice for those who prefer a more subtle scent and do not want a fragrance that is too long-lasting.

Parfum

Parfum (also known as “perfume” or “extrait de parfum”) has the highest concentration of fragrance oils (typically around 20-30%) of all the different types of perfumes. As a result, parfums tend to have a very intense, long-lasting scent and are typically more expensive than the other types fragrances.

Parfums are ideal for those who want a strong, long-lasting fragrance that will last throughout the day. They are often the most expensive than other types due to the high concentration of fragrance oils and are often more complex and sophisticated in their scent profiles. Parfums are also a good choice for special occasions where a strong, lasting fragrance is desired.

Solid Perfumes

Solid perfumes are perfumes that are solid rather than liquid. They are typically made with a combination of wax, oil, and fragrance and are applied to the skin by rubbing the solid perfume onto the skin. Solid perfumes are convenient to carry and apply and tend to have a longer shelf life than liquid perfumes.

Solid perfumes are a good choice for those who want a portable, easy-to-apply fragrance that does not require spraying or dabbing. They are also ideal for those who prefer a more subtle scent, as solid perfumes tend to have a lower concentration of fragrance oils compared to other types of perfumes. 

Solid perfumes are often made with natural ingredients and may be a good choice for those with sensitive skin or allergies.

To apply a solid perfume, simply rub the solid perfume onto your pulse points, such as the wrists, neck, and inner elbows. The warmth of your skin will help to release the fragrance. You can also apply solid perfume to other areas of your body, such as your temples or behind your ears, to create a more subtle, all-over scent.

5 Best Designer Perfumes for Beginners to Try Out

Don’t know where to start? Here are the best perfumes for beginners.

Perfume Description
Dior Fahrenheit by Jean-Louis Sieuzac and Michel AlmairacScent Type: Floral Leather
Most dominant notes: Leather, Violet and Musk
Designed for: Men over 30
Suitable for: work and leisure
Tom Ford Ombre Leather by Sonia ConstantScent Type: Leather Spicy
Most dominant notes: Leather, Amber and Cardamom
Designed for : Unisex over 20
Suitable for : Work and night outs
Chanel N°5 Eau de Parfum by Coco ChanelScent Type: Floral citrusy
Most dominant notes: May rose, Jasmine and Aldehydes
Designed for : Women over 20
Suitable for : Work and leisure
Dior Sauvage Eau de Parfum by François DemachyScent Type: Fresh Spicy
Most dominant notes: Bergamot, Ambroxan, and Sichuan Pepper
Designed for: Men over 20
Suitable for: all occasions
Byredo La Tulipe by ByredoScent Type: Floral fresh
Most dominant notes: Cyclamen, Freesia, and Tulips
Designed for: Women over 20
Suitable for: all occasions

Categories of Scents

In addition to types of fragrances, there are also different categories of scents. These categories are the results of the different combinations of ingredients. 

According to fragrance expert Michael Edwards, there are 4 main types of scent categories: Floral, woody, fresh and oriental. Michael created the scent wheel to make it easy for perfume designers and fragrance experts to recommend scents to beginners like you. This wheel also helps consumers know how to choose and layer scents. 

Floral Scents

In the world of perfumery, floral scents are one of the most popular categories. Many scents feature a dominant floral note, which is often complemented by other notes to create a more complex scent. 

Floral scents are derived from fresh flowers and sweet fruits ( think peach, apples, pears, and other tropical fruits) and tend to be sweet and fragrant. They can also have a sweet, powdery scent or subtle spicy scent. Although they can be worn at any time of the year, floral scents are perfect for spring and summer.

Some common floral notes used in perfumes include:

  • Rose,
  • Jasmine
  • Lavender
  • Ylang-ylang
  • Gardenia
  • Tuberose

In addition to these individual floral notes, many fragrances also contain a blend of multiple floral scents, creating a more complex and layered aroma.

fruity and floral bottle of perfume

Woody Scents

These scents are derived from woody plants and tend to be warm and earthy. Examples include cedar, sandalwood, and patchouli.

Woody scents are derived from woody plants and tend to be warm and earthy and are often used as base notes. This is because they have a longer-lasting aroma and can provide depth and complexity to a perfume. 

Wood scents are often used in conjunction with other notes, such as floral or citrus scents, to create a more balanced and harmonious scent. However, multiple woody scents can also be blended to create a more complex and layered aroma.

Some common examples of woody scents include:

  • Cedar
  • Sandalwood
  • Patchouli
  • Amber
  • Vetiver

Oriental Scents

Oriental scents are often rich and exotic, with a warm, spicy, or sweet base note. Some common examples of oriental scents include:

  • Amber
  • Vanilla
  • Anise
  • Myrrh
  • Musk

Just like woody scents, oriental scents are also often used as base notes, as they tend to have a longer-lasting aroma. They also provide depth and complexity to a perfume. They are often used in conjunction with other notes, such as floral or citrus scents.

Fresh Scents

Fresh scents are often described as clean, crisp, and invigorating. They are often used as top notes, as they tend to have a light and fleeting aroma and can provide a burst of freshness to a perfume. They are often used in conjunction with notes, such as floral or woody scents, to create a more balanced scent.

Some common fresh notes used in perfumes include:

Citrus scents: These scents are derived from citrus fruits and tend to be fresh and invigorating. Examples include lemon, orange, and grapefruit.

Aquatic scents: These scents are designed to mimic the smell of the ocean or fresh water and tend to be clean and refreshing. Examples include ocean, rain, and water.

Green scents: These scents are derived from plants and tend to be fresh and clean. Examples include grass, leaves, and herbs.

Mint: A refreshing, cool, and slightly sweet scent, mint is often used as a top note in perfumes.

small designer perfume

Designer vs Niche Fragrances

Designer fragrances are are produced by well-known fashion or beauty brands. These brands may be owned by large multinational corporations and are often associated with luxury and exclusivity. Designer fragrances are usually sold in department stores, speciality boutiques, and online, and they often come with a higher price tag than other types of perfumes.

Niche fragrances, on the other hand, are produced by smaller, independent companies or brands. These fragrances are often made with high-quality, rare, or unusual ingredients and are often associated with artisanal or craftsmanship. Niche scents are usually sold in speciality stores or online, and they may be more expensive than designer scents due to the use of rare or exotic ingredients.

Watch The Perfume Guy talk in detail about niche and designer fragrances and how to tell them apart. 

Both designer and niche fragrances can be high-quality and pleasant to wear, and the choice between the two often comes down to personal preference and budget. Some people prefer designer scents for their iconic branding and wide availability, while others prefer niche fragrances for their unique scents and exclusivity.

Clear Vs. Colored Fragrances

Clear fragnaces are transparent or colorless in appearance. They are made with clear or colorless ingredients, such as alcohol and water, and do not contain any pigments or dyes that would give them color. Clear fragrances are popular because they are often associated with a fresh, clean scent and are less likely to stain clothing or leave behind residue.

Colored fragrances, on the other hand, are formulated with pigments or dyes to give them color. These fragrances may be any color, depending on the ingredients used to create them. They are not as common as clear ones and are often used for special occasions or to create a specific mood or ambiance.

What determines the color of a fragrances is the essential oil (s) used. Some oils are clear, while others have a darker pigment. The essential oils take after the color of the plant, flower or herb used. 

It’s worth noting that the color of a fragrance does not necessarily have any impact on its scent or quality. The color is primarily used for aesthetic purposes and does not affect the way the scent smells or performs.

We hope you have learned quite a bit about the basics of fragrances. Ready to choose a fragrances? Here’s a great read on how to choose the right fragrance for you.

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