The 8 Perfume Families ...


For most of us choosing a new scent usually involves sniffing a squirt of it wafted under our nose by an assistant at the perfume counter. Firstly, this is no way to test a fragrance as you don’t know how it will smell on you until it reacts with your own body’s chemicals so perfume should always be tested on a patch of warm skin. Secondly, you could try out so many that your olfactory nerves are so overloaded that you can’t distinguish between the different smells.

You should also know that there are basically 3 levels of any fragrance, these being top, middle and base notes. Essentially this means, the initial scent, the settled scent and the lasting scent that lingers until it fades to nothing. When testing a new perfume, always leave a short time for base notes to develop.

Fragrances fit into different families of smells and knowing these families can help you find perfumes that are right for you. It is the base notes that determine the groupings and here are the 8 perfume families and some examples of well known brands.

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This is the most common of all the perfume families and most prevalent in female scents. The name speaks for itself but the scent might be a single flower such as Yardley’s English Rose or Stella from Stella McCartney or a floral bouquet like Givenchy’s Amarige or Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir. Chanel No. 5 is the most well known of the floral family even though this scent is synthetically produced. Other examples are L’Air du Temps, Eternity and Anais Anais.


Woody (Chypre)

Some women simply don’t like this group as they find them too earthy and better suited to male fragrances. They range from mossy to smoky and the base notes are provided by sandalwood, patchouli, cedar and pine. Examples in the woody perfume family are Chanel 19 and Lovely by SJP.



Green perfumes are crisp and fresh-smelling and capture the scents of fresh cut grass, young shoots and fresh rain-washed leaves. They tend to be less heavy than most of the other families and examples are Diorissimo and Arden’s 5th Avenue



The fruity perfume family is similar to Greens but with a citrus or a distinct fruity smell if say for example, strawberry has been specifically used. Sometimes you will see the citrus scents listed as a separate perfume family to fruity. Examples are DKNY Be Delicious, Eau de Rochas and Lauren.



If you want to evoke the mysterious east then fragrances with warm and exotic spices in the oriental perfume family should be your choice. Heady and usually heavier scents, examples include Guerlain’s Mitsouko, Coco, Opium, Fendi and Angel.



To be described as marine a scent should conjure up smells that remind you of the ocean, sea breezes, waterfalls and mountain air. Examples of this family are Dior’s Dune, Acqua di Gio and Escape from Calvin Klein.



If you want to spice up your life choose something from the spicy family such as Poison or KL from Karl Lagerfeld. These perfumes contain ingredients like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom and lavender.



This perfume family is a bit peculiar because it really refers more to the method of scent production than the actual fragrance. These are synthetic scents – i.e. they are manufactured. This means they might actually fit in any of the above groupings. The first all synthetic perfume was actually Chanel No. 5. Other examples are Estée Lauder’s White Linen and First by Van Cleef and Arpel.

One other grouping you should know about if you are choosing a new aftershave for your partner is tobacco/leather. These smell exactly as they sound and not generally found in female fragrances.

I hope you have found this explanation of the perfume families useful and they help the next time you are looking to choose a new fragrance.

Top Photo Credit: Little_Karen

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