Like wine, coffee and cheese, perfume has its own complex vocabulary that can sound like gibberish to outsiders. Here is a brief glossary of some of the more obscure words – perfect for impressing guests at a dinner party, or showing off
your niche knowledge to coworkers. Anyone can describe a perfume as being floral, but you’ll be able to
In perfume terms, an accord refers to a unique scent made by blending several ingredients. The scent created is distinct from any of the individual notes, which blend together indistinguishably. Many perfume experts liken the harmony of notes forming an accord in perfumery to the harmony produced by notes forming chords in music.
Perfume notes can either refer to the scent produced by a single ingredient like gardenia, or to that of a family of ingredients, like woody notes. A perfume containing a note of gardenia, could also be described as having a floral note.
This term is a little more literal, and refers to the scent produced by the combination of two or more floral notes. When a fragrance is built around a single floral note, and not a bouquet, it is described as being a soliflore.
A family of light, bright notes from citrus fruits such as bergamot, lemon, grapefruit, tangerine and orange. Citrus and floral notes go well together, and are often found in combination in popular brands of women’s perfume.
Fougere is the French word for fern, and is used to describe a family of herbaceous scents. These fragrances typically have a base made by combining notes like oakmoss, lavender, coumarin and bergamot. Scents described as fougere tend to be considered masculine.
This descriptor is fairly new and has evolved with the addition of synthetic ingredients. Gourmand scents evoke whole foods, like a dessert, chocolate, or honey, and often contain notes of vanilla.
Scents described as woody are evocative of the smell of fresh cut wood or a lush forest. Often, woody perfumes contain cedarwood, sandalwood or vetiver notes. Like with fougere scents, those described as woody are usually quite masculine as well.
The French word for cyprus, Chypre (pronounced SHEEP-reh)
describes an accord usually made of oakmoss, labdanum and patchouli. Floral and citrus notes are then added. Chypre perfumes are based on those made by ancient Romans, and produced throughout the centuries, finally gaining wide commercialization in the 1990s.