Fragrance Families

Here are a few brief descriptions of both traditional perfume categories and some more modern descriptive categories of natural aromatic notes. These are based on my interpretations and studies and may differ from the opinions of other noses.

 Gather Perfume

CHYPRE: a classic, bold fragrance style based on the synergy of oakmoss, patchouli, labdanum, and bergamot. Usually very dramatic and often with a powdery, mossy, musky feminine undertone. Chypres commonly feature rich, heady floral hearts and varied top notes, but always flaunt a sultry and dynamic character, true to a chypre style fragrance. Because of the alchemy in the ingredients, chypre perfumes can be incredibly complex, mysterious, and it is usually harder to distinguish single notes but rather it becomes its own signature altogether. Chypre perfumes often need a longer aging period than other fragrance styles.

CITRUS: the brightness of sunshine, the joy of laughter, and the juiciness of life! Citrus fragrances are known for their uplifting qualities and are often associated with spring and summer, the colors yellow, orange, and light green, and present primarily as top notes, though a few can carry through the heart. Gather perfumes in this category are fully balanced with top, middle, and base notes for a complete fragrance profile that highlights the citrus and evolves beautifully through the different layers as it is worn, lasting some time but generally more ephemeral than the other fragrance styles.

CONIFEROUS: Conifer needles; crisp with bitter citrus edges and bright with herbaceous notes, these evergreens bring us cheer, clarity, and a sense of newness. Pine, fir, spruce, and juniper transport us to the lush, green, enchanted forest.

FLORAL: Floral aromatics are the soul of the flower; nectar, pollen, and the scented skin of petals reaching for sunrays and pollinators. They are known for their romantic,  aphrodisiac nature and heart opening influence. Jasmine, ylang ylang, rose, neroli, osmanthus, and plumeria are cornerstones of floral perfumes.

FOUGERE: A traditional alchemical blend based on the synergy of oakmoss, lavender, and coumarin (ei; hay, clover). Often a masculine or unisex result. Frequently features green variations and fresh top notes, but can also present closely to a chypre, depending on the blend. Fougeres are often associated with men's colognes, however this assumption is softening with the increased consumer knowledge of natural perfumes. Fougere fragrances can lean towards feminine, masculine, and anywhere in the gender fluid range, as the layers of a Fougere can lend itself to such creativity.  Fougere means "fern" and is representative of one of the first fragrances that included synthetic aromas and imaginary concept, as ferns are relatively odorless.

HERBAL / AROMATIC: Herbal fragrances usually present its character at the beginning of the perfume, as most herbals are top - middle notes, such as basil, rosemary, sage, and mint. The rest of the fragrance character will depend on the composition as a whole. Herbaceous notes vary from soft and floral (lavender leaves) to sharp and medicinal (camphor, eucalyptus) and sometimes have hints of spice or licorice (basil, anise, coriander).

GOURMAND: Gourmand perfumes are the foodie kind. Edible notes like chocolate, honey, spices, coffee, tea, fruits, and edible flowers can be found here. This perfume style can range widely from sweet, sugary chocolates to effervescent light citrus blends. Spices, woods, and light flowers can add beautiful contrast to notes like tonka and osmanthus, while zesty citrus and edgy herbs can deliver intrigue and sophistication.

GREEN: Grassy green, Coniferous green, Citrus peel green, or Herbal green. Each subcategory of green presents some range of clean, with a semi-bitter edge that can modernize a traditional fragrance, contrast a heavy base, or bring to life a landscape. Gender neutral scents and historical colognes rely on green notes for freshness and balance.

MUSK: Musk is soft and powdery, and animalic to a greater or lesser degree depending on the blend. Gather perfumes utilize a natural musk using hibiscus seed (ambrette) and hand blended botanical accords. These perfumes that feature a 'musk' base are very different from each other and a far cry from synthetics, don't let the idea of musk scare you off - commercial musks are very often overly sweet, cloying, 'dryer sheet' like, or baby-powdery. Natural musk notes are beautiful layers in a perfume that add depth, femininity, allure, and beauty.

AMBER SPICE (formerly) ORIENTAL: Amber base, exotic spices, floral and/or citrus top notes. Dramatic and sensual. They are known for their seductive nature. Variations can include floriental, woody, leather, and animalic, among other more modern combinations of styles. Oriental fragrances are sexy, rich, dynamic, and often aphrodisiac. The sensual and long lasting nature of amber perfumes makes it among the most popular fragrance families. Amber perfumes have a long and fascinating history.
Ambreine is a constituent found in ambergris and is heralded as the greatest natural fixative material known. In contrast, the "amber" material is usually an accord, though we now have more access to fossilised amber tree resin

RESINOUS, BALSAMIC: Resinous and balsamic notes are needed to create amber accords and spiced amber fragrances. They are more or less sweet with herbaceous curves and have a lovely 'hum' to them which I liken to the sound of a cello.  They have a lovely 'hum' to them which I liken to the sound of a cello. Balsamic examples are vanilla, tonka, benzoin, labdanum, myrrh, oakwood, poplar bud, and sweet gum. The more resinous materials such as pinon and spruce resin also feature slightly camphorous, coniferous qualities, and resins like frankincense can also smell medicinal, lemony, peppery, or like incense. They can evoke a meditative, comforting, or seductive feeling, and are often associated with fall, winter, and rich earth tones. 

SMOKE: Smoke brings us comfort and nostalgia. The lingering smell of a bonfire, the fragrant smoke swirling from an incense wand, or the steam of freshly steeped lapsang souchong. 

UNISEX: Unisex fragrances dance the middle of the wheel, somewhere between the perceived feminine and masculine, thriving in androgynous expression of scent and art. The highly subjective notion of unisex is up to the wearers' nose and the chemistry between skin, scent, and feeling. 

WOODS: Woods - the center of the tree. Earthy and familiar, woods give us depth, warmth, comfort, reverence, and longevity. Sandalwood, cedar, rosewood, oak, and palo santo .. ground and center us while giving exquisite complexity to fragrance. Sacred woods have been used for centuries in ritual and ceremony, to purify and cleanse the air and anoint the body, for prayers, oracles, and magic objects. We know that all of the plants here in natural perfumery hold sacred value, but perhaps none so and long and spiritual as trees.


Gather Perfume Fragrance Families Glossary

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