Understanding The Fragrance Wheel
If you’re searching for advice on how to choose a new fragrance, you may have come across the fragrance wheel. The fragrance wheel is a useful tool that can help us understand how different scents belong to certain families, and how these scents can complement each other.
Understanding the fragrance wheel can be an important first step in finding a fragrance that can truly become your signature scent! But where to begin understanding how to use it?
We’ll talk you through everything we know about the scent families that make up the fragrance wheel, and how to expertly combine these scents to achieve the perfect fragrance for you.
What Is The Fragrance Wheel?
First things first, what is the fragrance wheel? Yes, it’s literally a wheel! The fragrance wheel was developed by Michael Edwards, a fragrance expert, to help perfumiers recommend the best possible perfumes for their customers.
It’s a circular diagram that depicts every scent family and the subfamilies within them. A scent family is a group of scents that have been put together because of their similarities and complementary differences. Scent groups that are closest together share characteristics in their fragrances, while scent groups that are further apart on the wheel are less closely related in terms of fragrance.
What Are Scent Families?
There are four key scent families that feature one prominent scent, then within these families, a range of scent families that blend that prominent scent with other fragrances. The four main scent groups are: floral notes, oriental notes, woody notes and fresh notes. Typically, you’ll be attracted to one scent family more than the others, meaning you should explore the subfamilies of the main scent family in order to find your perfect fragrance.
Unfortunately, while out shopping, you’ll probably notice that fragrances aren’t grouped by their fragrance family. That’s why it’s important to understand which notes appear in your scent family so you can find out which notes appear in the fragrance you’re considering.
Floral Fragrance Family
One of the most popular scent families, the floral fragrance family is often found in women’s fragrances including some of the most famous perfumes in the world! While floral scents are most popular in women’s fragrances, that’s not to say that they are never found in men’s. The overall impression of the fragrance is like a bunch of fresh-cut flowers, but fruits and spices do come into play in the subfamilies.
Floral Fragrance Subfamilies
There are four subfamilies within the floral fragrance family; fruity, floral, soft floral and floral oriental. Each have distinct notes that you can identify them by:
These mouthwatering notes will often have sweet or tropical fruit scents such as peaches, apples and pears for that juicy, fruity fragrance.
Common note: Peach
Doubling down on the core scent, these notes will smell like popular bouquet flowers such as roses or lilies to give you the fragrance of walking past a florist shop.
Common note: Rose
A lighter touch than core floral, soft floral notes will have a powdery or creamy scent to them which can give you a nostalgic musk fragrance.
Common note: Jasmine
These notes will blend floral notes with a subtle hint of spice leaving you with a smooth but stylish fragrance reminiscent of incense.
Common note: Orange Blossom
Popular Floral Fragrances
Oriental Fragrance Family
You’ll recognise a scent from the oriental fragrance family for its rich scent. Oriental fragrances tend to be full and heady scents created with spices, resins and herbs for an opulent and appeal. Even if you don’t recognise the notes, oriental fragrances are often described as seductive and exotic, so keep an eye out for the description!
Oriental Fragrance Subfamilies
There are three subfamilies within the oriental fragrance family, soft oriental, oriental and woody oriental. Each brings slightly different notes but have that rich, heady scent at their core:
To soften the rich scent of the oriental fragrance, soft oriental brings in floral notes to blend with the warm spices for a fragrance similar to incense.
Common note: Anise
Building on the core oriental fragrance, this note introduces warm scents such as vanilla and cinnamon to create a more musk-like effect.
Common note: Vanilla
By blending the spicy and sweet notes of the core oriental fragrance with notes like patchouli and sandalwood, the woody oriental fragrance creates an appealing earthy scent.
Common note: Myrrh
Popular Oriental Fragrances
Woody Fragrance Family
Woody fragrances can be identified by their warmth – to stop the fragrances from being too bitter, they’re often combined with fresh notes such as floral or citrus to keep the woody warmth an appealing scent. Woody fragrances tend to be opulent and incense-like, but are different from oriental fragrances as they rely on fresh notes rather than spices.
Woody Fragrance Subfamilies
There are three key subfamilies within the woody fragrance; woods, mossy woods and dry woods, each of which sit on a spectrum of sweet to bitter:
The smoothest of the woody fragrances, mossy wood notes combine earthy scents such as oakmoss and amber with a sweetness that makes for a lighter woody fragrance.
Common note: Vetiver
The core scent of the woody fragrance family, woods notes are based on scents such as cedarwood and sandalwood but combine to create an aromatic scent.
Common note: Patchouli
Mixing smoky notes with the scent of leather, dry wood notes make for a smouldering fragrance.
Common note: Sandalwood
Popular Woody Fragrances
Fresh Fragrance Family
More often than not found in men’s fragrances rather than women’s fragrances, fresh fragrances offer a clean and bright scent that brings in notes of herb, citrus and the ocean paired with spices for a stronger overall fragrance.
Fresh Fragrance Subfamilies
There are four different subfamilies within the fresh fragrance family; aromatic, citrus, water and green. Fresh fragrances cover a broad spectrum and can be combined with a range of notes, giving them a larger scope for fragrance subfamilies much in the same way as the floral fragrance family.
Fresh scents are often combined with aromatic notes to create the aromatic fresh fragrance, common combinations mix the bright scent of fresh herbs with floral or woody tones such as lavender.
Common note: Sage
Citrus fruits have an extremely fresh and bright scent that works well as a fragrance, anything with a zesty scent or a tangy kick such as mandarin can invigorate the senses.
Common note: Grapefruit
Water fresh notes are all about recreating the scent of fresh sea spray or the air shortly after a thunderstorm, blended to create an aquatic, oceanic fragrance.
Common note: Water
While we’re back to nature with green fresh, this fragrance subfamily differs from floral or woody fragrances by taking notes from the scent of a freshly mowed lawn or crushed, green leaves for a distinctly fresh and uplifting fragrance.
Common note: Grass
Popular Fresh Fragrances
How to Combine Fragrance Families
The fragrance wheel is much like the colour wheel in that certain fragrance families pair well together, while others should be avoided! The fragrance wheel is a useful tool that can help us understand exactly which fragrance families pair well together, as well as reminding us which subfamilies sit within each fragrance family.
The Neighbour Fragrance Technique
The first technique we’d recommend for pairing fragrance families is to choose your favourite fragrance subfamily and look at the scents either side of it on the wheel; side-by-side fragrance subfamilies nearly always complement each other well.
The Opposite Fragrance Technique
The second technique we’d recommend is to choose your favourite fragrance subfamily, then look at which subfamily appears directly across from it on the fragrance wheel. For example, soft oriental and citrus would pair perfectly together.
The Triangle Fragrance Technique
The final technique we’d recommend is to choose three fragrance subfamilies that form a triangle on the wheel. As these will each complement the other, so for example if floral oriental was your favourite fragrance subfamily, you could find a fragrance that also contains water notes and woody notes.
How To Choose A Fragrance With The Fragrance Wheel
Once you’ve identified a fragrance combination that you think you’ll love, all you need to do is begin researching a perfume that includes those combinations of notes. It’s wise to remember that fragrances can change when they react with your skin, so try to test a sample out on your skin before you purchase!You’ll be able to find women’s fragrances and men’s fragrances at fantastic prices that feature your favourite notes in our full collection of fragrances here at Beauty Base.