Your guide to making sense of scents

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

fragrance, scents, smellSometimes fragrance descriptions can seem like a whole new language. Just what exactly is chypre (and how do you pronounce it?). Everything you need to know is in our handy guide to making sense of scents.

Colognes: This is the oldest genre of scent and actually dates back as far as the 1700’s. A typical, old-school cologne is made up of a blend of citrus, florals, herbs and wood. Perfume guru and author Luca Turin believes that ‘the cologne is perfumery’s waltz and like its musical equivalent, needs sweep, snap and a touch of naughtiness to work properly,’ and Chanel’s Cologne is a perfect example of this, he says.

Chypre: You may have heard of floral chypres, fruity chypres and so on. These are sub-genres of the scent structure that features ingredients such as oakmoss and bergamot. Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir fits the bill. And you say ‘sheepr’ with a French roll of the ‘r’ at the end.

Floral: Self-explanatory yes, but there’s a lot more to this scent grouping than just fragrances that smell like flowers. The iconic Chanel No. 5 Parfum for instance is the ultimate example of a powdery floral, and may seem far ‘heavier’ than Jo Malone’s sweet floral Honeysuckle and Jasmine. This genre even extends to interesting concepts such as Clinique’s Happy, which has been described as a milky floral (it’s fabulously mild and soothing) or Estée Lauder’s ‘snowy’ floral, Pleasures, a clean-smelling floral fragrance that’s definitely an antidote to big, overwhelming scents.

Gourmand: This is actually part of the oriental family, but its popularity over the years entitles it to some space of its own in the fragrance family. The hero in this cocktail of yummy-ness is vanilla, so think sweet, dessert-like fragrances such as Dior’s Hypnotic Poison.

Green: You may have heard a beauty advisor describe a scent as ‘green’ to you. Nope, that doesn’t mean it’s green in colour, or even green in eco-friendly credentials. It means it smells, well, green. Think cut grass and leaves and you’ve got the picture.

Oriental: By now we’ve established that those dessert-like gourmand fragrances are actually part of the oriental family, but there are plenty of others that make up this category where amber reigns supreme. Look out for floral orientals (such as Gucci’s Guilty), woody orientals and spicy orientals (think the legendary Opium by Yves Saint Laurent).

Written by

Julia Hunter is a freelance lifestyle writer, editor and stylist with a special interest in beauty. She’s written for Marie Claire, Women’s Health, and Fresh Living magazines. When not writing about lipstick, she can be found tweeting about other very important topics such as which nail polishes really live up to their long-wear claims! She lives in Cape Town with her husband and far too many beauty products.

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  1. Ladyconfused

    Gourmand vanillas entice me but maybe I can be oriental as well

    6 years ago •

  1. may-may 22

    gourmand … thats what i like sweet innocent and fun jus like me

    7 years ago •

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