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All You Need To Know About Fragrance Families

Having knowledge about perfumery does not only come handy when going for perfume shopping but is incredibly cool as well. A lay person without any knowledge of perfumery only knows whether they like a fragrance or they don’t like it. Any knowledge beyond this will make you look like you know what you’re doing in life!  

Perfume notes are the main ingredients that make up a perfume. In reality, there are thousands of notes in the world of perfumery. However, the most common notes have been majorly divided into broad groups or families according to their smell and their source. Here, we will tell you all the basics you need to know about fragrance families so that the next time you go perfume shopping you feel like an expert!

The world of perfume notes is very complex and we have tried to break it down and give you the simplest version. This is for those people who aren’t familiar with the world of perfumery but want to explore it. For a beginner it is best to familiarize themselves with the families of perfume notes and then delve further into subcategories as their nose gets accustomed to appreciating more nuances.

We have divided perfume notes into four basic categories: Floral, Oriental, Woody & Fresh. 

Once you go further into these families you’ll find more variations within these categories.


Floral is quite self-explanatory and it is the most common category in perfumery. This is the largest and the oldest family of notes in the perfume industry. Who hasn’t smelled flowers? Just imagine smelling a flower (or many flowers!) and that’s exactly what this category smells like. Some floral notes are like freshly plucked flowers while others are more subtle and creamy.


The oriental category consists of rich scents. The notes belonging to this category are often described as powerful and sensual. The origin of these notes are often spices or incense.

Here’s a tidbit: the term ‘Orient’ was used to refer to the east by Westerners. It is derived from the Latin word ‘oriens’ meaning ‘east’. Simply put, Westerners referred to the Eastern part of the world as the Orient. 

The fragrances that come under the category of ‘Oriental’ are actually closer to us and our culture than we think. To have a category based on a geographical area may seem a bit odd, however, in the world of perfumery this term refers to smells that are rich, dense and spicy. Another term commonly used for oriental fragrances is ‘exotic’ which also shows how the western eye perceives the east – something out of reach, unusual or exciting for the westerner. Yet another term associated with the term ‘oriental’ is ‘seductive’. Much has been written about this phenomenon academically. If you want to read more about it, you can read ‘Orientalism’ by Edward W. Said.

This category of oriental fragrances also overlaps with the category of woody notes since woody notes are very commonly used in Middle Eastern fragrances. 


Woody notes are exactly what they sound like: woody! They smell of the woods and are often described as taking a walk in the forest. They are warm and earthy, often dense. The variations of this category have leather incorporated in them or have a certain sweetness to them. 

The notes in this category originate from trees, bark, moss, pinecones, resins, bushes and roots. Woody notes have a depth and complexity that is unmatched by any other category of notes. And they are usually extremely long lasting.

Perfumes with dominant woody notes are mostly quite expensive since their extraction process is quite tedious. However, at Scents N Stories, you’ll get woody perfumes at extremely affordable prices. 


Fresh – this is an overused word in perfumery. But a lot of perfumes do genuinely make you feel fresh! They make you feel uplifted, rejuvenated and clean. This category has the most diverse variations. 

One of the subcategories of fresh is ‘citrus’ which is tangy and zingy. Some people place fruity as a separate category of notes.

The other subcategory where this term truly fits is the ‘aquatic’ category. Aquatic perfumes make one smell clean like water or the ocean. Or like the rain. They give the wearer a sense of purity.  

Yet another one is the category of ‘greens’ which refers to the smell of freshly cut grass or crushed green leaves. They are earthy, sharp and crisp and add a naturalness to the fragrance.  

A fragrance has many facets. It is impossible to categorize and list down all the notes used in the world of perfumery since there are numerous subcategories and nuances. There are uncountable combinations of notes that have been used to compose the fragrances of the world. One perfume can have a combination of many categories. Therefore, knowing the broader categories is good for a beginner and once their nose becomes accustomed to their fragrances, they can delve further into subcategories and nuances. 

Now that we have given you an intro to how each major category of perfumes smells like, it’s time for you to go perfume shopping like a boss. Make sure to enjoy the process be it online or in person. 

To shop from SK Fragrances visit, www.skfragrances.com

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