THE FRAGRANCE WHEEL
Although there are an infinite number of olfactory notes and combinations, most people tend to be drawn to certain types of scents time and time again. To simplify the process for both perfume shoppers and connoisseurs, we classify the world of fragrance into families.
There are four scent families: woody, floral, amber, and fresh. These families each take a respective space on the Fragrance Wheel, a circular diagram which illustrates the four scent families in relation to each of their corresponding subfamilies.
The Fragrance Wheel, invented by scent expert Michael Edwards, aids perfumers and fragrance lovers alike by placing families that share common olfactory characteristics next to one another. Subfamilies that are side-by-side on the wheel are most similar and therefore very likely to blend well together in a perfume, whereas families located further away from each other are less related.
The floral scent family is one of the most common families. Used in many well-known perfumes, it usually takes on a feminine characteristic in fragrance.
Smells Like: Fresh Cut Flowers, Powdery
Subfamilies: Fruity, Floral, Soft Floral
Common Notes: Rose, Jasmine, Orange Blossom
The amber (previously known as "oriental") scent family includes herbs, spices, and dry powdery resin notes. Amber scents can be described as “sensual,” warm and “exotic.”
Smells Like: Herbal, Spicy, or Dry Resin Notes
Subfamilies: Soft Amber, Amber, Woody Amber
Common Notes: Vanilla, Myrrh, Anise
The wood family includes scents that are warm and opulent, mixing incense like fragrances like sandalwood and patchouli with drier notes like cedar.
Smells Like: Warm, Opulent, Powdery
Subfamilies: Woods, Mossy Woods, Dry Woods.
Common Notes: Patchouli, Vetiver, Sandalwood.
The Fresh family is defined by zingy, aromatic compositions backed with underlying woodsy notes.
Smells Like: Bright, herby, citrusy, clean, oceanic
Subfamilies Include: Aromatic, Citrus, Green, Water
Common Notes: Citrus, White Flowers, Bergamot
Once you’ve decided which family suits you best, search for the sub-family directly across from it on the fragrance wheel to find secondary notes that are complementary to your preferred scent profile. Taking this extra step will help you master your fragrance preferences.