Perfume Glossary

absolute

A concentrated, highly aromatic solvent-extracted fragrance material obtained by using a two step process. First, the raw material is submerged and agitated in a solvent (most often a hydrocarbon solvent like hexane) that is capable of dissolving the desired aromatic compounds. The resulting waxy mass is known as a concrete and consists of a mixture of essential oils, resins, waxes and other oil-soluble material. Ethyl alcohol is then used to dissolve the fragrant compounds. The alcohol is subsequently removed during a second distillation and the resulting material is known as an absolute. Due to the relatively low temperatures of this process, the resulting materials are often more faithful to the raw materials.


accord

A combination of notes that create a certain effect. For instance, leather accords may be made up of a variety of raw materials including isobutyl quinoline, birch tar, cade and castoreum.


aldehyde

An organic compound that contains a functional group with the structure -CHO consisting of a carbonyl center wherein the carbon atom is also bonded to an R group. Many fragrant materials are aldehydes.


aldehydic

Referring to the presence and distinctive aroma of straight-chain aliphatic aldehydes (C10, C11, C12). Examples of aldehydic fragrances include Chanel No. 5 and Estée Lauder White Linen.


amber

A blend of vanilla and aromatic resins such as cistus labdanum, benzoin and/or styrax.


ambergris

A solid, waxy substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales. Ambergris is excreted as a waste product and matures on the surface of the ocean. Freshly-produced ambergris possess a fecal, marine odor while aged ambergris takes on a more subtle, sweet, earthy scent. Contrary to popular belief, it is not possible to harvest quality ambergris from a living whale—the natural aging process is very important and takes years of exposure to the elements. Ambroxan (one of the key constituents responsible for the odor of ambergris) can be sythesized from clary sage and this synthetic substitute has largely replaced natural ambergris in all but the most costly bespoke creations.


animalic

Characterized by an aroma typically associated with traditional animal materials such as musk, civet, castoreum, hyraceum or ambergris.


balsamic

Characterized by the aroma of sweet smelling resins such as Tolu balsam or Peru balsam.


base

A modular perfume forumalated with a simple concept and most often produced by an aromachemical company or fragrance house. Bases are designed to be used by perfumers as a single raw material. Famous bases include de Laire's Mosse de Saxe and Synarome's Animalis.


Calone

A synthetic aromachemical with aquatic qualities and a subtle melon-like character. Calone was widely used in 1990s fragrances such as L'Eau d'Issey.