Your Guide To Modern vs Traditional Fragrances

 Whether you’re a complete novice or an aspiring perfumer, understanding the qualities of different fragrance notes can help you pick one that matches your taste and style. Just like a colour wheel can help you match and identify colours, a fragrance wheel allows you to identify and contrast fragrances.

All fragrance categories can be divided into two olfactive (relating to scent) families: traditional and modern fragrances. Your more traditional fragrance categories such as single floral, floral bouquet, oriental, woody, amber, leather, chypre and fougère appeared in the early 1900s. As  technology developed from about the 1940s onwards, perfumers experimented and invented brand new fragrance categories: bright floral, green, citrus, fruity, aquatic and gourmand.

Let’s explore what defines these fragrances.

Traditional Fragrances Categories

  • Single Floral: Floral fragrance notes comprise the various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or aroma compounds released by floral tissue, e.g. petals. A solifleur, or single note fragrance, is a celebration of a single floral note within a fragrance, incorporating either one specific note or various elements that replicate the aroma.
  • Floral Bouquet: A carefully curated selection of fragrance notes inspired by different flowers to replicate the smell of an opulent bouquet of flowers, often delivering a particularly feminine fragrance, with no single scent dominating the fragrance profile.
  • Oriental: Oriental perfumes often have a very indulgent and luxurious quality to them. These fragrances include exotic notes such as vanilla, cinnamon, jasmine, orchid, orris and orange blossoms. 
  • Woody: These fragrances are distinguished by their luxuriant woody character, with notes derived from wood sources such as trees, resin bark, moss, pine cones and shrubs. An interesting spin-off on the woody fragrance can be derived from roots, grasses and leaves, which deliver a rich earthy scent.
  • Amber: The amber scent category can be described as warm, powdery and sweet. These fragrance profiles are usually made up of fragrance compounds extracted from natural and synthetic sources, including vanilla, patchouli, labdanum, benzoin and styrax. This category can also be used to compose oriental perfumes with a rich, spicy and powdery character.
  • Leather: Often considered rare and exclusive, this fragrance category features atypical fragrance notes that reproduce the notes of leather. Common interpretations can be described as smoky, burnt or even different shades of tobacco. Leather fragrance compounds are commonly derived from birch tar, which has a distinct leathery smokiness, juniper berries, aldehydes, or synthetic compounds designed to recreate the fragrance inspired by leather.
  • Chypre: A distinctly feminine fragrance concept characterised by a composition of citrus top notes, middle notes based on cistus labdanum, built on a base of mossy fragrance notes derived from oakmoss. The resulting fragrant has a warm and dry quality to it. The concept leaves a lot of room for experimentation with different floral, citrus or woody notes.
  • Fougère: A distinctly masculine themed concept all based on the interplay of citrus, lavender, rose or geranium, oakmoss and coumarin, which is a warm, hay-like substance found in tonic beans. Fougère exists as the most recognisable of all masculine fragrances and presents a lot of room for experimentation as well.

Modern Fragrance Categories

  • Bright Floral: These perfumes are either based on a single flower’s scent or a blend of different ones. This modern take on floral fragrances sought to incorporate a more masculine element instead of an exclusively feminine scent. Bright florals, in particular, have a non-binary quality to them, delivering the ideal fragrance for daytime usage because it contains a distinctly masculine quality softened by floral undertones. 
  • Green: Scents in the green fragrance category inspire nature’s lush vegetation and provide a sense of being immersed in it. The green note is characterised by the smell of a crushed leaf, chopped stem, and fresh wet grass with dew. It is a feature that adds vitality, liveliness and naturalness to the perfume. It represents rejuvenation and spring and is often considered a very novel characteristic to add to a perfume’s composition.
  • Citrus: Although citrus compounds were included in traditional fragrance categories, the lone citrous notion is decidedly new. This category is distinguished by its zesty and fresh notes, synonymous with the spring/summer months or sunnier climates. Fragrance compounds derived from clementine, grapefruit, lemons, lemongrass, verbena and bergamot are prominent features in the citrus category.
  • Fruity: Fruity scents typically exude ripe, fresh edible fruity aromas. Composed of fragrance notes like cherry, mango and watermelon, this category remains reminiscent of hot summer days. Fruity fragrances can be sweet, but the best ones are never overbearing, and they can range from playful to refined, depending on which complimentary fragrance notes they’re combined with.
  • Aquatic: Aquatic perfumes are those that are inspired by water, most often the ocean. They are also known as “oceanic” or “marine” perfumes. To achieve marine freshness, aquatic fragrances frequently use’ saltier’ elements such as seawood, oakmoss or cedarwood. Although distinct, the aquatic category evokes a lot of creativity, conjuring up images of vetiver and birch drying up on a peaceful island beach.
  • Gourmand: A gourmand fragrance is a perfume that is predominantly composed of synthetic edible (gourmand) overtones like honey, chocolate, coffee, vanilla, or candy. Gourmand fragrance top and middle notes can be combined with non-food foundations notes like patchouli or musk. These tantalising aromas evoke memories of deserts and smell almost as if you can taste them.

Defining your personal style begins with understanding all available options. The more insight you gain, the better you will be at piecing the picture together. There could be one fragrance category that sums you up perfectly or different fragrance categories that paint the complete picture of what makes you uniquely you. 

For all your traditional and modern fragrances, browse our shop or contact us.

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