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The perfume industry has a unique language, and when you’re buying fragrances, you want to be 100% sure what the different names mean.
What’s the difference between “eau de toilette” and “eau de parfum”?
What’s does “Cologne” actually mean?
Is “cologne” always for men and “perfume” always for women?
We’ve taken some of the more commonly-used words and put them into thisglossary of perfume terms and definitions, to help you make your choice.
Eau de Cologne (EDC)
Eau de Cologne is the term used today to refer to a perfume solution with around a 3% compound in an oil and water base. It’s the lightest of perfumes and, therefore the least expensive.
Eau de Toilette (EDT)
Eau de Toilette is a perfume solution with a 3-8% compound in an oil and water base. It has intermediate strength.
Eau de Parfum (EDP)
Eau de Parfum is a perfume solution with a 10-15% compound. It is stronger than the EDT.
Perfume, or “parfum”, has the highest concentration of oils, with a 25-50% compound, which makes it the most expensive of fragrance types. It also lasts much longer than others.
Interesting fact: Cologne is a city in Germany where the very first modern perfume, as we now know it, was produced. That was about 300 years ago, and it was called Eau de Cologne – a perfume made basically from citrus oils. If you want a classic brand of Eau de Cologne that’s about 200 years old, try Farina Gegenuber or 4711. Today, cologne is a word usually used
to describe men’s fragrances, although many women fragrances come in “eau de
cologne” versions, and they are not for men at all! They are just slightly
weaker in fragrance concentration.
When we say “Fragrance” we usually mean “perfume”, but they’re not quite the same thing-fragrance is the scent of the perfume, while perfume is the actual product.
This product’s strength would be less than “Eau de Cologne”. Aftershave is a men’s toiletry product that could be classified as a cosmetic or a fragrance. It comes in the form of a lotion, a gel, or a balm. After shaving, men apply it for a few reasons: It makes the skin look smoother, soothes sensitive skin, closes the pores after shaving, and it serves as a light cologne. The cologne
usually isn’t strong enough to interfere with the man’s primary cologne. In fact, there are some designer fragrances that have introduced aftershave that complements their fragrances.
For additional terms of the perfume industry, read our Full Perfume Glossary.
Full Perfume Glossary
An absolute is the most potent aromatic product made from a base product. It differs from an essential oil in that it’s produced through an extraction process that uses volatile solvents. The extracted solid material is then combined with alcohol to produce the absolute. Absolutes are also darker in color than essential oils.
An accord is a blend of two fragrances to produce a third unique fragrance, with neither of the original two fragrances being detectable. You can compare it to the combining of basic colors, like yellow and blue to make green. When you look at green, you don’t see the yellow or blue – just green. And when you smell an accord, you only smell one distinct fragrance, not either of the
original fragrances that were combined.
Alcohol is used in the process of making perfume. It’s job is to carry the perfume extracts, and release them when the perfume is dispensed.
Aldehydic comes from the Greek phrase “anointing oil”. In perfumery, it refers to a certain fatty fragrance, and can be found in perfumes such as Chanel No 5.
Amber is a term used to describe a heavy, full-bodied, warm fragrance.
Animalic is a term used to describe what would be a bad odor on its own, like a faecal smell. But perfumers have found that, in very small dilutions, and in clever combinations with other ingredients, animalic scents can be quite pleasant. A perfume that uses animalic notes is Civet Absolute.
Anosmia is the inability to smell. You can have either full or partial Anosmia. If you have full Anosmia, you can’t smell anything. If you have partial Anosmia, there are only certain things you can’t smell.
Apocrine sweat glands
Apocrine sweat glands are those that give you your unique sexual and body scent. It can interfere with or influence the fragrance in perfumes you wear.
Aromachology is a fairly new science – one of the new alternative therapies. It’s associated with fragrances and their psychological benefits and/or effects. It was developed by Annette Green, a member of the Fragrance Foundation, in the late 70s. An example of an aromachology-inspired perfume is Shiseido’s Relaxing, introduced in 1997.
Aromatic, in perfumery, refers to the rich scents of Balsamic notes.
Aromatherapy is a term created by R.M. Gattefosse, a French chemist. It’s the art and science, although not a medically-approved one, of using aromatic substances, usually essential oils, to cure common ailments. It’s also popular as a stress reliever.
Attar, or Otto, as it is sometimes referred, comes from an old Persian word meaning “to smell sweet”. It’s an extremely expensive essential oil made from the Bulgarian rose.
Balsam is a sticky resin that leaks out of trees when they’re cut. It’s used in perfume to create a woody scent.
Balsamic notes are found in some perfumes. They have a warm scent, and are popular in the Oriental group of fragrances, like Shalimar, Opium and Obsession.
Body is a term used to refer to the main theme or heart of a perfume. It can also be used to refer to a perfume that’s well-rounded or full.
Not surprisingly, bouquet is a term used to describe a mixture of floral notes.
Camphoraceous refers to a Eucalyptus-like fragrance that’s found in the scent of certain herbs, like rosemary and lavandin.
Carrier oil is just what it sounds like – an oil base that carries essential oils. Basically, they’re mixed together to make massage oils and skin care products. Some examples are apricot kernel, grape seed, jojoba and sweet almond.
Chypre is an ancient perfume, originally combining fresh citrus notes with Oakmoss and some animalic notes. About 100 years ago, Coty made a Chypre perfume, which has been currently followed up with similar fragrances, like Miss Dior and Aramis. Today, the most common use of Chypres, because of their leather character, is in men’s fragrances.
Citrus notes are fresh scents, similar to the smell of fresh oranges, lemons, grapefruit, bergamot and pomello.
Classic fragrances are – well, they’re classic. They survive the years, remaining popular. They have depth, with a 3-10% floral absolute, much stronger than most modern fragrances.
Cloying is a term used to describe a fragrance that’s sickly sweet and unpleasantly clinging.
Cologne is a city in Germany where the very first modern perfume, as we now know it, was produced. That was about 300 years ago, and it was called Eau de Cologne – a perfume made
basically from citrus oils. If you want a classic brand of Eau de Cologne that’s about 200 years old, try Farina Gegenuber or 4711. Today, cologne is a word usually used to describe men’s fragrances.
Compound is the term used in perfumery to describe the concentrated fragrance mixture before it’s diluted to make the finished perfume.
Concrete is the term used in perfumery to refer to the hard, waxy substance that’s left after the solvent has been applied to the raw material, and has evaporated.
Depth refers to whether a scent is complex, sophisticated, rich or full-bodied.
A diffuser is an aromatherapy device that gently dispenses essential oils into the air.
Dry down is what perfumers refer to as the final phase of a fragrance. It’s sometimes referred to as the bottom line or bottom note – the character of the fragrance that remains a few hours after applying the perfume.
Earthy is a term used by perfumers to describe notes that resemble earth, dirt,moss, and other such scents.
Essential oils are the concentrated essences that are the product of the distillation or expression of plants, including flowers, leaves, wood and grass.
Evanescent is a word used to describe a fragrance that disappears quickly.
Expression, or cold press extraction, is the process of removing essential oils from plant material, like citrus peel, consisting of forcing the oil from the plant material.
Extraction is the process of removing essential oils from plant material using solvents, which are then evaporated, leaving just the oil.
An extract is a perfume that has 15-45% compound in an alcohol base.
A fixative is an ingredient added to perfume to make it last longer, similar to a preservative.
A flat fragrance is like a flat beer – no body, no lift, uninteresting.
Floral is a fragrance scent that resembles flowers, and is usually described as smooth or natural.
Flowery is a fragrance with flower or flower petal notes.
Forest blend perfumes have earthy, woodsy, natural notes.
Fresh is a term often used to describe citrus or green notes, found in light perfumes.
Fruity is a term used to describe a fragrance that has fruit scents, but not citrus fruits. It’s usually a kind of sweet-sour scent, like apples, strawberries, pineapples or bananas.
Full-bodied refers to a fragrance that’s rich and has depth.
Fungal is used to describe a fragrance that has notes of mushrooms, fungus, or mould, like oakmoss.
Green is a fragrance note that resembles freshly cut grass, or leaves, and it gives the perfume a vibrant scent.
Gums are the resins that are extracted from the bark, branches and leaves of trees.
Harmonious is a word used by perfumers to describe a fragrance that’s well mixed and well balanced.
Heady fragrances make you feel light-headed, exhilarated or stimulated.
Heart refers to the main theme, or the middle of the perfume.
Heavy refers to a fragrance that’s potent and not vibrant, and is often described as sweet or balsamic.
Herbaceous refers to a fragrance that’s natural and hay-like, maybe even a little therapeutic. Some examples are chamomile, lavender, rosemary and sage.
Honey is a term used to describe a fragrance that has a very sweet, almost medicinal scent – very heavy and syrupy.
Jasmine is an absolute used in perfume. There are two kinds – European, and South Asian.
Lift is a term used to describe a fragrance that has life and brilliance.
Light refers to a fragrance that’s not heavy – go figure!
The middle notes are the fragrances that make up the main theme or the heart of a perfume. They usually appear about 10-20 minutes after the perfume is applied.
A modern perfume would be the opposite of a classic perfume – usually using new aroma chemicals, rather than natural materials. It usually has a light fragrance.
Mossy refers to fragrances that have earthy notes, like the forest floor.
Muguet is the French word for Lily of the Valley, one of the most popular florals used in perfumery.
Narcotic is the term used to describe the fragrance of some floral notes, said to be intoxicating.
Note can refer to a single scent in a perfume, or it may be used to refer to one of the three stages of evaporation of a perfume, which are the top note, the middle note and the bottom note, the top being the first to evaporate.
Oriental is a term that, in the past, was used to describe fragrances with balsamic, vanilla, oakmoss and animalic notes, but more recently has been used to describe fragrances that are heavy and full-bodied. Some examples of oriental perfumes are Opium, Obsession, Shalimar, and Samsara.
Perfumer is a multi-use word, used to describe a person who either creates, mixes, or sells perfume.
Powdery is a word used to describe a fragrance produced by a combination of a heavy, sweet or woody note with a citrus, fruit or light green note.
Resinoids are extracts from gums or resins that are used as fixatives in perfumes.
Rose is used to describe one of the most common notes in perfumery which, of course, comes from rose petals.
Spicy describes fragrance notes that have a warm or hot character, as opposed to the neutral or cool Herbal notes. Their scent is pungent, similar to thoseof cinnamon, or clove and thyme oil.
Stability refers to how long a fragrance lasts, either in the bottle with the other ingredients, or exposed to heat, light or air.
The strength of a fragrance refers to how intense its scent is.
Substantivity refers to how long a fragrance lasts on a particular surface, and how it’s affected by temperature, humidity, and other such conditions.
The sweetness of a fragrance can be described in several ways – it can be used to refer to a vanilla sweetness, a floral sweetness, or a fruity sweetness. Whichever one is used, it refers to a rich, sweet taste.
Synthetic is a term that’s used to refer to a substance that’s man-made, with the specific purpose of duplicating a particular scent. Synthetics are sometimes better than natural materials because their properties can be controlled.
A tenacious fragrance will last a long time, keeping it’s main theme or scent.
A thin fragrance lacks body or depth.
The top note of a perfume is the fragrance that you initially smell. Top notes are usually light, citrus notes.
A velvety fragrance is smooth and mellow, without any harsh notes.
Woody fragrances are those that have forest notes, like freshly cut dry wood such as cedarwood and sandalwood.
Did you get all that? It’s a lot to ingest at one sitting, but it may take you
more than one sitting to decide which perfume suits you best, anyway. So be
patient, and you’ll eventually find the fragrance that’s just right for you.
And don’t forget that, once you know what you like, you can get it on the
Internet. There are discount perfumes and cheap perfumes available, as well as
a wonderful selection of French perfume, men’s fragrances and colognes, Angel
perfume, Chanel, Givenchy, Hugo Boss, Christian Dior – anything you could
possibly need for yourself, or for gifts.
So try a few perfumes. Wear the one that combines with your natural scent and
before you know it, you’ll be turning heads.
Fragrance Scents Explained
To help you understand the different scents each perfume we sell includes, we have put together a small description for each scent type.
Jasmine - An essential oil that is extracted from jasmine shrubbery. Characterized by a sweet scent that’s known as a romantic fragrance.
Neroli - Oil of neroli is distilled from the flowers of the bitter orange tree. It has a very strong and refreshing, bittersweet aroma and is one of the most widely used floral oils in perfumes.
Tuberose - Mexican herb having grasslike leaves and grown for its spikes of waxy white flowers with a highly fragrant lily-like scent.
Yiang yiang - The flower of the cananga tree. It yields a fragrant oil, which is characterized by its sweet floral scent.
Osmanthus - A flower native to China that is valued for its delicate fruity-floral apricot aroma.
Bergamot - An extract from the rind of the bergamot orange. Characterized by its light citrus fragrance.
Mandarin - A small orange tree of southeastern Asia with yellow to reddish-orange, loose-rinded fruits.
Patchouli - A fragrant oil that comes from mint. It’s one of the earthiest of all essential oils. Known for its distinctive woody fragrance and rich notes of musk.
Sandalwood - It is used for incense, aromatherapy and perfume. It has a soft, sweet, woody scent.
Amber - Used to describe a full-bodied, warm fragrance. Its scent is subtle, yet woody.
Cardamom - An aromatic spice native to India. It has a sweet, yet spicy fragrance similar to ginger.
Oakmoss - Is grown on oak trees. With a sharp piney scent.
Labdanum - A soft piney fragrance derived from various rockroses, which are woody herbs.
Styrax - A shrub or small tree having fragrant bell-shaped flowers that hang below the dark green foliage. Best known for its woodsy fragrance.
Vetiver - An essential oil derived from an African grass root and traditionally used to make mats and rugs. Vetiver has an earthy, smoky scent.
Safety of Perfumery Materials
The vast majority of fragrance materials in use now are either synthetics or isolates. Isolates are obtained from materials with primarily a single chemical being extracted. Synthetics are made in the lab. Often materials are neither fully synthetic nor fully natural, but rather a combination of the two.
Synthetics are usually derived from chemical reactions using crude oil or turpentine oil as the starting material. Synthetics are usually single molecules that are very different than the complex mixtures found in nature. Many synthetics are not found in nature at all. There are trace impurities left over from the reaction process, and these impurities affect odor quality and safety of the synthetic material.
Natural materials typically come from plants, though in the past animal sources were also in common use. Some materials are complex mixtures that contain much the same components as found in nature, only in a very concentrated form. Essential oils, absolutes, concretes, and resinoids are examples of this. Some "natural" materials are isolates where individual compounds are
extracted. Still other "natural" materials are made using fermentation processes. The odor quality of naturals, even when the same chemical, is usually different than synthetics. There are usually trace compounds that give it a different odor quality than the synthetic version.
Natural materials are not necessarily safer than synthetics. However, they have a much longer history of use so the adverse effects are better known. Natural materials are mixtures of sometimes hundreds of compounds. There are both synergistic and modifying effects of combinations of chemicals. The actions of these combinations are often very different than isolates or synthetics.
Most fragrance materials are on the Generally Recognized as Safe List (GRAS). This designation is for these materials when they are used as food additives. Adequate testing has not been done to determine safety via other routes of exposure and in many cases safety testing was not done on safety of ingestion. Materials that were in use before 1958 as food additives were
certified as GRAS based on their history of use. Very little actual safety testing was done.