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Posts tagged ‘meaning of perfumery terms’

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musical language of perfumery

Creating perfumes is definitely an art. Just as a master musician composes a symphony, so too does a perfumer create a harmonious blend combinations with ‘musical notes’ that are pleasing to the senses.

Although I truly adore natural perfumes, (I won’t use synthetics – they are an attack on my senses and is the main reason I started my whole essential oil journey), certain popular fragrances can appeal to me at times, but I still won’t buy them and choose to create my own with naturals.

Throughout history there has been much written about how compositions are created using musical characteristics to describe them.  Each essential oil has a ‘note’, whether a top note that dissipates quickly (like lemon or lime), or a heart note (middle note- like rose or jasmine), or a base note that holds a blend together (like sandalwood or patchouli). Did you ever wonder how that came about?

The art of perfumery goes back centuries, and many chemists/scientists and geniuses have used musical inspirations to describe their uses and combinations. I found this great blog post from ‘perfumeconcubine’ and had to share it to give a little more insight:

Aromatic Symphony

The musical language lends numerous expressions and phrases to the art of perfumery. Some of its terminology helps us to understand how perfumes are composed from conception to conclusion.
Charles Piesse, a French perfumer from the 19th century, was one of the first to equate music to perfume.  He devised a system to identify perfume ingredients by classifying fragrances according to musical notes. Piesse relates odors to the octaves of the musical scale and theorized that scents influence olfactory nerves in the same manner that sounds influence the auditory nerves. Although his method of classification ultimately failed, musical expressions continue to be a mainstay in the art of perfumery.

Just as a musician harmonizes notes to create chords, a perfumer must be proficient in harmonizing scents into fragrant combinations. Thus, the creation of perfume should be pleasing to both the mind and senses. The experience should emulate the composition of an intricate piece of music. For example, a three-part fugue with the olfactory notes being the key signature, the usage of notes identifying the individual elements of the arrangement – as well as describing the perfume and how it smells as it evaporates from the skin. Therefore, it is imperative that the perfumer has vast knowledge of raw materials, and a clear understanding of how they evolve and change.

Dry Down – what does it mean when describing a scent? It’s the “lifetime” of a fragrance; the phases a fragrance goes through when worn.

(LOVE THIS!!!  <3)

____________The process is initiated with the master seated at the fragrance organ, his surroundings being an array of aromatics. There, the inhalation of exotic scents, along with the distinguishing of olfactory notes, takes place.  Imagine this phase as the prelude, an extravaganza of brilliant notes coming together in unison.  Bear in mind that notes show more than the aspect of the perfume’s range, they also can represent a particular quality or tone that reflects the mood of the composition.

The first movement begins with what is referred to as top notes. Typically citrus odors, bright and bursting with freshness and, on occasion, is considered sharp. Although quite expressive, they seem to maintain lightness, as well as lending to the initial impression of the composition. They are also the most volatile of the notes, being the first to evaporate. The dissipation of the top notes quickly transitions us into the second movement or middle notes.

Middle notes are predominately floral aromas, and as they unfold they exhibit the true heart of the composition, adding fullness, roundness, and complexity. Middle notes, can be either heady and exotic or delicate and subdued. They emerge as the perfume warms on the skin, escorting us gracefully into the third movement or the base notes.

Base notes — originating from woods, resins, and spices — are rich, warm and exotic. They are viscous, having a consistency between solid and liquid. And they also have a dual function and are held in high esteem for their fixative qualities. That anchors the composition, completing the structural unity necessary to achieve harmony while, at the same time, adding longevity. The base notes emerge slowly, almost as if the movement is marked adagio, bringing the symphony to its entirety. Base notes are the last to surface but have the longest duration, or in musical terms sustainability. Base notes leave their clinging impression behind by embracing us for hours, thus completing the fragrance evolution.

Not every symphony will be vivacious or sparkle with brilliance. Depending on the composer, the concert may be inferior, lacking life, or absent of character, with tonality being non-existent. On the other hand, a symphony composed by a true virtuoso will be exquisite, giving an accurate exposition on his thematic idea. Every note being smooth and harmonic as they progressively transition from one phase to another, accompanying us gracefully through the fragrance evolution.

An aromatic symphony is a classical perfume, bearing semblance to a beautiful musical composition, one of consonance, as simple notes mingle and produce harmonious blends.

Great book about Charles Piesse’s workThe art of perfumery and the methods of obtaining the odours of plants; the growth and general flower farm system of raising fragrant herbs; with … dentifrices, cosmetics, perfumed soap, etc

Other great reading for natural perfumery; Anya’s Garden Perfumes

MORE; natural perfumery books

WIKIPEDIA perfume: HOW to Describe a perfume:

The most practical way to start describing a perfume is according to the elements of the fragrance notes of the scent or the “family” it belongs to, all of which affect the overall impression of a perfume from first application to the last lingering hint of scent.[13][14]

Fragrance notes

Main article: Note (perfumery)

Perfume is described in a musical metaphor as having three sets of notes, making the harmonious scent accord. The notes unfold over time, with the immediate impression of the top note leading to the deeper middle notes, and the base notes gradually appearing as the final stage. These notes are created carefully with knowledge of the evaporation process of the perfume.

  • Top notes: The scents that are perceived immediately on application of a perfume. Top notes consist of small, light molecules that evaporate quickly. They form a person’s initial impression of a perfume and thus are very important in the selling of a perfume. Also called the head notes.
  • Middle notes: The scent of a perfume that emerges just prior to the dissipation of the top note. The middle note compounds form the “heart” or main body of a perfume and act to mask the often unpleasant initial impression of base notes, which become more pleasant with time. They are also called the heart notes.
  • Base notes: The scent of a perfume that appears close to the departure of the middle notes. The base and middle notes together are the main theme of a perfume. Base notes bring depth and solidity to a perfume. Compounds of this class of scents are typically rich and “deep” and are usually not perceived until 30 minutes after application.

The scents in the top and middle notes are influenced by the base notes, as well the scents of the base notes will be altered by the type of fragrance materials used as middle notes. Manufacturers of perfumes usually publish perfume notes and typically they present it as fragrance pyramid, with the components listed in imaginative and abstract terms.

Fragrance wheel

Fragrance Wheel perfume classification chart, ver. 1983

Main article: Fragrance wheel

The Fragrance wheel is a relatively new classification method that is widely used in retail and in the fragrance industry. The method was created in 1983 by Michael Edwards, a consultant in the perfume industry, who designed his own scheme of fragrance classification. The new scheme was created in order to simplify fragrance classification and naming scheme, as well as to show the relationships between each of the individual classes.[15]

The five standard families consist of Floral, Oriental, Woody, Fougère, and Fresh, with the former four families being more “classic” while the latter consisting of newer bright and clean smelling citrus and oceanic fragrances that have arrived due to improvements in fragrance technology. Each of the families are in turn divided into sub-groups and arranged around a wheel.

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c

Perfumery and Aromatherapy Glossary of Words – Making Sense of Scents

The aromatherapy and perfume industries have adopted a language of thier own.And sometimes trying to decipher the terms seems a daunting task when you have no idea what they mean by and absolute, or a chypre or a tenatious scent. So when you’re buying fragrances, you need to understand what the salesperson is saying when the perfume’s being described to you.

Below you will find some of the more commonly-used words in the aromatherapy and perfuming world…this glossary will help you make wise and informed choices.

 

  • · Absolute
    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.
    · Accord
    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.
    · Aftershave
    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 one or more of a few reasons: It makes the skin look smoother; it soothes sensitive skin; it 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 who’ve introduced aftershave that complements their fragrances.
    · Alcohol
    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.
    · Aldehyde
    An aldehyde is a highly-reactive chemical compound made by oxidizing different alcohols to make resins and organic acids.
    · Aldehydic
    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
    Amber is a term used to describe a heavy, full-bodied, warm fragrance.
    · Animalic
    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
    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
    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
    Aromatic, in perfumery, refers to the rich scents of Balsamic notes.
    · Aromatherapy
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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.
    · Bouquet
    Not surprisingly, bouquet is a term used to describe a mixture of floral notes.
    · Camphoraceous
    Camphoraceous refers to a Eucalyptus-like fragrance that’s found in the scent of certain herbs, like rosemary and lavandin.
    · Carrier oil
    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
    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
    Citrus notes are fresh scents, similar to the smell of fresh oranges, lemons, grapefruit, bergamot and pomello.
    · Classic
    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
    Cloying is a term used to describe a fragrance that’s sickly sweet and unpleasantly clinging.
    · Cologne
    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
    Compound is the term used in perfumery to describe the concentrated fragrance mixture before it’s diluted to make the finished perfume.
    · Concrete
    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
    Depth refers to whether a scent is complex, sophisticated, rich or full-bodied.
    · Diffuser
    A diffuser is an aromatherapy device that gently dispenses essential oils into the air.
    · Dry down
    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.
    · 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 Parfum (EDP)
    Eau de Parfum is a perfume solution with a 10-15% compound.
    · Eau de Toilette (EDT)
    Eau de Toilette is a perfume solution with a 3-8% compound in an oil and water base.
    · Earthy
    Earthy is a term used by perfumers to describe notes that resemble earth, dirt, moss, and other such scents.
    · Essential oil
    Essential oils are the concentrated essences that are the product of the distillation or expression of plants, including flowers, leaves, wood and grass.
    · Evanescent
    Evanescent is a word used to describe a fragrance that disappears quickly.
    · Expression
    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
    Extraction is the process of removing essential oils from plant material using solvents, which are then evaporated, leaving just the oil.
    · Extract
    An extract is a perfume that has 15-45% compound in an alcohol base.
    · Fixative
    A fixative is an ingredient added to perfume to make it last longer, similar to a preservative.
    · Flat
    A flat fragrance is like a flat beer – no body, no lift, uninteresting.
    · Floral
    Floral is a fragrance scent that resembles flowers, and is usually described as smooth or natural.
    · Flowery
    Flowery is a fragrance with flower or flower petal notes.
    · Forest blends
    Forest blend perfumes have earthy, woodsy, natural notes.
    · Fresh
    Fresh is a term often used to describe citrus or green notes, found in light perfumes.
    · Fruity
    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
    Full-bodied refers to a fragrance that’s rich and has depth.
    · Fungal
    Fungal is used to describe a fragrance that has notes of mushrooms, fungus, or mould, like oakmoss.
    · Fragrance
    Fragrance is often used interchangeably with perfume, but they’re not quite the same thing – fragrance is the scent of the perfume; perfume is the product itself.
    · Green
    Green is a fragrance note that resembles freshly cut grass, or leaves, and it gives the perfume a vibrant scent.
    · Gums
    Gums are the resins that are extracted from the bark, branches and leaves of trees.
    · Harmonious
    Harmonious is a word used by perfumers to describe a fragrance that’s well mixed and well balanced.
    · Heady
    Heady fragrances make you feel light-headed, exhilarated or stimulated.
    · Heart
    Heart refers to the main theme, or the middle of the perfume.
    · Heavy
    Heavy refers to a fragrance that’s potent and not vibrant, and is often described as sweet or balsamic.
    · Herbaceous
    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
    Honey is a term used to describe a fragrance that has a very sweet, almost medicinal scent – very heavy and syrupy.
    · Jasmine
    Jasmine is an absolute used in perfume. There are two kinds – European, and South Asian.
    · Lift
    Lift is a term used to describe a fragrance that has life and brilliance.
    · Light
    Light refers to a fragrance that’s not heavy – go figure!
    · Middle notes
    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.
    · Modern
    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
    Mossy refers to fragrances that have earthy notes, like the forest floor.
    · Muguet
    Muguet is the French word for Lily of the Valley, one of the most popular florals used in perfumery.
    · Narcotic
    Narcotic is the term used to describe the fragrance of some floral notes, said to be intoxicating.
    · Note
    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
    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.
    · Perfume
    Perfume, or parfum, as it is sometimes called, is the highest concentration of oils, with 20-50% compound, which makes it last longer than others.
    · Perfumer
    Perfumer is a multi-use word, used to describe a person who either creates, mixes, or sells perfume.
    · Powdery
    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
    Resinoids are extracts from gums or resins that are used as fixatives in perfumes.
    · Rose
    Rose is used to describe one of the most common notes in perfumery which, of course, comes from rose petals.
    · Spicy
    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 those of cinnamon, or clove and thyme oil.
    · Stability
    Stability refers to how long a fragrance lasts, either in the bottle with the other ingredients, or exposed to heat, light or air.
    · Strength
    The strength of a fragrance refers to how intense its scent is.
    · Substantivity
    Substantivity refers to how long a fragrance lasts on a particular surface, and how it’s affected by temperature, humidity, and other such conditions.
    · Sweet
    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
    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, but for therapeutic use NEVER use a synthetic!
    · Tenacious
    A tenacious fragrance will last a long time, keeping it’s main theme or scent.
    · Thin
    A thin fragrance lacks body or depth.
    · Top note
    The top note of a perfume is the fragrance that you initially smell. Top notes are usually light, citrus notes.
    · Velvety
    A velvety fragrance is smooth and mellow, without any harsh notes.
    · Woody
    Woody fragrances are those that have forest notes, like freshly cut dry wood such as cedarwood and sandalwood.

I sincerely hope this list helps describe any perfumery or aromatic questions you may have about their definitions. If there is one not listed here, please email me and I’ll add it to the list…
thanks and happy scenting!

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