Small Perfumery Glossary

The absolute (absolu) is a natural raw material coming from a concrete or a resinoid (products obtained from an extraction). The concrete or resinoid is diluted in alcohol, passed at -15°, filtered and then distilled to obtain the absolu.
An accord in perfumery is a blend of notes which lose their individual identity to create a completely new smell.
The alcohol is used in perfumery as a neutral solvent to dissolve a fragrant compound. Normally the ethylic alcohol is adopted, along with other substances to obtain a denatured alcohol. The denatured alcohol is always neutral as odor, but has a bad bitter taste.
Chemical substance with a pungent and metallic odor.
An alembic is the lid with a tube attachment, which is placed on top of a flask, the cucurbit, containing the material to be distilled, but the word is often used to refer to the entire distillation apparatus.
Perfumery accord developed using plants extract (such as labdanum, myrrh and other resins) or synthetics (such as vanillin), and referred to as amber because they were originally meant to mimic the smell of ambergris.
Sperm whale secretion. Sperm whales produce it to protect their stomachs from the beaks of the cuttlefish they swallow. Ambergris was traditionally used as a fixative, and to give warmth and elegance to a composition. In modern perfumery, ambergris is replaced with products of synthetic origin (e.g. ambrox, ambroxan). Ambergris is described as having a sweet, salty, woody odor.
Term referring to animal-derived ingredients such as civet, ambergris, musk, and castoreum. These are usually replaced by synthetics in modern perfumery. In large amounts, many of these notes are unpleasant, but in smaller amounts they provide depth and a sensual feel to a fragrance.
Anosmia is the inability to perceive odors or the loss of the sense of smell. Anosmia may be temporary, but traumatic anosmia can be permanent.
Attar is the English form of itr, the Arabic word for fragrance or perfume. A traditional attar is made from an essential oil (floral or of different nature) in a base of oil, often sandalwood. Traditional attars are made from natural materials, and do not contain added alcohol.
Physiological secretion of some trees, same as resin (Baume).
Elementary fragrance composition used to help a perfumer to compose a complex perfume.
Base notes
Fragrance notes perceived in the final phase of evaporation of a perfume.
See Mouillette.
Name of a family of fragrances originated in 1917 from the perfume “Le Chypre” by François Coty. It’s a composition based on an accord of bergamot, floral notes (rose, jasmine), patchouli, oakmoss and labdanum.
Classification of fragrances based on families and facets according to their structure.
Perfume composition originating from Italy, but become famous in Cologne, Germany. It has since come to be a generic term for scented alcoholic formulations in low concentration of essential oils (2%–5%) typically based on a blend of citrus oils (lemon, orange, tangerine, bergamot, lime, grapefruit) along with neroli (orange blossom essential oil). It can also contain oils of lavender, rosemary, thyme, petitgrain (orange leaf), jasmine, and tobacco.
Solid or semi-solid mass obtained by solvent extraction of fresh plant materials or other natural materials.
Perfumery accord based on natural and synthetic materials giving the typical smell of leather.
Propagation of a fragrance into the surrounding environment. Often it’s also referred to as volume.
Distillation is a process of separating the component substances from a liquid mixture by selective evaporation and condensation. Distillation may result in essentially complete separation (nearly pure components), or it may be a partial separation that increases the concentration of selected components of the mixture.
Old extraction process where fragrant plant materials are infused into solid, odorless fats. Traditional cold enfleurage used refined lard or tallow spread on a frame; the petals were placed on top of the fat and replaced up to fat saturation.
Essential Oil
Fragrant product obtained from plants distillation or citrus peel expression.
A perfume at a very high concentration in alcohol at 96°.
A perfume bottle made for commercial display only — the contents are not actually perfume.
Process that aims to remove undesired precipitates in an alcoholic solution.
A “sequel” fragrance that capitalizes on the success of a best seller or “pillar fragrance” (e.g. Chanel n.5 and Chanel n.5 Eau Première).
Terms adopted above all in the world of food and beverage to indicate an organoleptic quality that involves both taste and smell.
Name of a family of fragrances referring to the perfume “Fougère Royale” by Houbigant (1882). It’s a composition based on an accord of lavender, geranium, vetyver and other woody notes, oakmoss and tonka bean (or coumarin, its principal odorant).
Cooling process used to let some impurities precipitate in an alcoholic solution.
Word that in perfumery describes fragrances which evoke food smells, such as vanilla, chocolate, honey, milk or fruits.
This is a technique developed in the 80s to elucidate the odor compounds present in the air surrounding various objects. Usually the objects of interest are odoriferous objects such as plants, flowers and foods. After the data is analyzed and the scents can be recreated by a perfumer.
Heart notes
Fragrance notes perceived in the middle phase of evaporation of a perfume. Normally this accord give the theme of the fragrance.
Term adopted to refer to citrus notes.
The indol is a chemical raw materials typical of some flowers, above all white flowers. It smells floral at low concentration, but animalic and fecal at high concentration. The terms refers to a facet of a fragrance which is at the same time floral and animalic.
Process of extraction of a fragrant chemical compound from plant materials in a solvent such as water, oil or alcohol, by allowing the material to remain suspended in the solvent over time. Infusion is also the name for the resultant liquid.
Term that indicates a facet of a fragrance with creamy and fruity notes.
Process that involves some chemical reactions during the period ranging from weeks to few months during which the fragrant compound rests in alcoholic solution to obtain the desired quality. During this period some natural raw materials could form some precipitates that will be removed with subsequent processes of “glaçage” and filtering. The process of maceration is of capital importance for a fragrance. A short period of maceration could affect both intensity and longevity of a fragrance and also could put in evidence some unpleasant and undesired facets of the fragrance. Also a very long period of maceration could give other kind of defects to the fragrance.
Piece of paper used to smell a fragrance.
Animalic raw material coming from a gland of the Siberian musk deer (moschus moschiferus). Nowadays prohibited to preserve the animals and substituted by lot of synthetic raw materials often referred to as white musks.
Perfumer, Nez in French
Olfactory characteristic of a raw material or of a compound.
Furniture shaped with stepped shelving containing hundreds of bottles of raw materials.
Fragrance family based on balsamic notes like vanilla, complemented with spicy and woody notes. Frequently also applied more generally to perfumes that are heavy, full bodied, sweet and tenacious.
Name of the French conservatory of perfumes (Versailles). The name is a trademark of S.F.P. (Société Française des Parfumeurs).
Chemical reaction to which undergo a fragrance if exposed to the oxygen of the air. This reaction implies a degradation in the fragrance.
Term used to describe a raw material or a facet of a fragrance reminding of the smell of fresh air. Frequently described as the smell of air right after a thunderstorm.
The range of aromatic materials from which a perfumer selects to use in the formulation of a perfume.
Product resulting from enfleurage.
The result of a precipitation. Precipitation is the creation of a solid in an alcoholic solution.
Plants secretion. It’s a viscous liquid, composed mainly of terpenes, with lesser components of dissolved non-volatile solids, which make resin thick and sticky.
Product resulting from  volatile solvents extraction from resinous plant exudates (balsams, oleo gum resins, and natural oleoresins) and animal secretions (ambergris, castoreum, musk, and civet).
Root-like stem with nodes which grows under or along the ground. Certain perfume raw materials come from rhizomes (e.g. iris, ginger, vetiver).
The trail of scent left behind someone wearing a perfume. Fragrances with minimal sillage are often called “skin scents”, because they stay close to the skin.
Fragrance focused on a single flower. A soliflore contains more than the single essential oil of reference, trying to reconstitute the natural sensation given by that flower.
Product from a large and diverse class of organic compounds, produced by a variety of plants, particularly conifers. It’s often strong-smelling. Terpenes may protect the plants that produce them by deterring herbivores and by attracting predators and parasites of herbivores. Many terpenes are aromatic hydrocarbons.
The product resulting from an alcoholic infusion.
Top notes
Fragrance notes perceived in the first phase of evaporation of a perfume, just after having sprayed it.
See Mouillette.
Characteristic of a fragrance with good sillage.
Odor linked to the aroma of freshly cut or dry wood such as Cedarwood, Sandalwood, Vetiver  or Patchouli.
Raw material prepared by scraping or cutting from the outer, colorful skin of unwaxed citrus fruits such as lemon, orange, citron, and lime.