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We Are (Fragrance) Family

When shopping for a new fragrance it’s important to understand the various classic fragrance families. This way you can tell the perfumer at the counter what it is that you like or that you feel smells good on you. This type of knowledge can also help you identify a type of perfume you may smell when someone passes by and their fragrance suits your fancy. With a little practice, you’ll be able to nail it down to a fragrance family and make it easier to find, or at worst identify the fragrance family and research scents that fit in that category.

1. Floral – This is by far the largest perfume family. It makes up nearly half of all the fragrances available on the market. Within this family, there are two distinctions made. Is the fragrance based on a single type of flower or multiple types. Here are some examples of floral fragrances: Diorissimo by Christian Dior is based on one flower (Lily-of-the-Valley) whereas Joy by Jean Patou though it is primarily a rose-scented perfume is comprised predominately of jasmine and rose, but also has ylang-ylang, michelia, and tuberose in its composition. 

2. Floral-Green – This is a mix of floral notes and those of green grass, stems, and leaves. Examples of Floral-Green Fragrances are Floral Street by Wonderland and Florence by Tocca

3. Floral-Fruity – Think of floral notes with hints of fruit like pineapple, apples or stone fruits like apricots, plums or peaches, or berries like raspberries or blackberries. Examples of Floral-Fruity fragrances are Signatures Of The Sun Osmanthus by Aqua di Parma and Amethyst Exquise by Lalique.

4. Floral-Fresh – Freshness is provided by citrus or bergamot and brighter floral notes by orange blossoms, lily-of-the-valley, lavender, or hyacinth. Examples Vanitas by Versace and Champs de Provence by Eight and Bob.

5. Floral Flowery – This is a large group of floral fragrances whose main compositions are rose, jasmine, bland-slang, , narcissus, tuberose, iris, and carnation. From this base, other notes can be added to create a unique fragrance. Examples are – Elixir Charnel Floral Romantique by Guerlain, My Burberry by Burberry, Eternity by Clavin Klein.

6. Floral Aldehydic – Floral notes here are compliments with synthetic aldehydes of which Chanel No 5 was the first fragrance to use such a combination. Aldehydes have a fatty, or blown-out candle-like scent to them, but even though it might sound strange, it’s all based on how much of the aldehydes are used and in what combination of florals. When aldehydes are mixed with florals some very sophisticated scents are possible, but it’s a balancing act as with all fragrances. Examples are Flora Psychedelica by 1460 Tuesdays, First Eau de Parfum by Van Cleef & Arpels

7. Floral-Amber – Known also as floriental, the oriental scent is provided by the amber resin and its smoky-tar-like aroma. This combines seductive middle eastern heavy fragrances with a floral component to give it lightness. Think in terms of exotic spices and resin with brightness, gardenia, jasmine, freesia,  tea, intense, and cassis. Ginger Cinnamon, Orange Blossom, and musk, again balance is key. Examples are Alien by Mugler and A Rose For…by Floris, Rouge Hermes by Hermès and Modern Muse Le Rouge by Estée Lauder.

8. Oriental – These are seductive scents reminiscent of the middle east, exotic flowers, resins, and spices, as well as balms. These are heavy scents more suitable for evening wear. Examples are Red by Giorgio of Beverly Hills, Omnia by Bvlgari.

9. Oriental-Amber – Smell for vanilla mixed with amber, citrus, green notes, and/or spicy aromas such as sage, rosemary, artemisia, and lavender. Examples are Creed White Amber and Bond No 9 Dubai Amber.

10. Oriental-Spicy – Many of these fragrances today are unisex. Think in terms of cloves, cinnamon, coriander, and pepper with a touch of leather and resin. Examples are Le Gemme Oriental Selima by Bvlgari and Versace Pour Femme Oud Oriental.

11. Chypre – The genesis of all Cypre fragrances is Chypre by Coty. It’s so iconic that it became the symbol of a family of fragrances. This fragrance is characterized as being a fresh citrus scent with a background of oak moss, labdanum, and patchouli. It was originally associated with plants of the eastern Mediterranean and thus called Chypry by the French which means Cyprus alluding to the island in the Mediterranean. Examples are L by Clive Christian, Bois d’Argent by Dior, and of course the original Chypre by Coty (top of the page).

12. Chypre-Fruity – A heavy rich combination with a very pronounced fruity composition often peach-like. Aventus by Creed, Jimmy Choo by Jimmy Choo, Body by Burberry, and Nejma 6 by Nejma.

13. Chypre-Floral-Animal – Warm rich ones with animalistic notes of musk, civet, ambergris, or casotium. Examples are For Her by Narciso Rodriguez and Mystery by Rochas.

14. Chypre-Floral – In this subcategory the fresh scents of Chypre become drier and more subdued and approachable with the addition of the floral notes. Example are Féminin Pluriel by Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Reine de Nuit by Byredo,  Halson by Halston, Diva by Ungaro.

15. Chypre-Fresh – This is the purest form of Chypre. Examples include Albaura by Kingdom Scotland, Diorella by Dior and Note di Colonia IV by Acqua di Parma.

16. Chypre-Green – Think tangy fresh and dry. but with spicy and coniferous (evergreen) components like pine and juniper. Examples include, Geranium Nefertum Eau de Toilette by Molton Brown and Mad Madame by Juliette Has a Gun.

And there you have it, well most of it because as we move forward some of these families are being blended to create new and interesting fragrances some of which will become modern classics and may end up being with us 100 years from now only time and your nose can tell. 

Mme V. Fontaine (Fashion Blogger for

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