Olfactive Families Used in Perfume

Olfactive Families Used in Perfume

Over the years just about anything and everything that had a smell has been used to create fragrances. As you can probably guess some of these concoctions were not very popular but over time a primary grouping of scents have become the most popular.

Called Olfactive families by perfume makers they are actually groups of different scents that have been formulated over time to become the prime base scents used to make our favorite perfumes and colognes. Each of these families can be further divided into sub-families with the addition of other scents to fashion even more complex fragrances.

The most popular families (or accords as they are called by perfumers) of today’s fragrances are:


Many of today’s men’s colognes are based on the Fougere Olfactive family. Coumarin (the sweet smell of freshly cut hay), lavender and oakmoss are the primary ingredients in this scent.


Chypre is the French word for Cypress and is also the name of the first perfume to use this family of scents. Oakmoss, Jasmine and the citrus scent Bergamot make up this family and it is often blended with other families to create new scents. Chypre has an earthy, fruity smell to it and may also contain a hint of leather.


Over half of all women’s fragrances fall into the Floral family because they are suitable for all occasions and easy to wear. They are based on one or more types of flowers depending on the scent but occasionally they are made up of a single flower.


Used mainly in men’s cologne Cedar and Sandalwood make up this family. Woody will often have a hint of citrus scent added to it to give it a brighter smell.


Usually found in men’s colognes this family’s main scent is Leather based with subtle hints of honey and wood.


Lemon, lime and orange as well as some spices make up this popular family. The Citrus Olfactive is used in both men’s and women’s fragrances and has a light fresh smell.


Probably the most popular Olfactive used to make women’s perfume it has a bright floral scent along with traces of vanilla and musk.

These main Olfactive families are just the foundations for creating our favorite scents as skilled perfumers will combine these with many other scents to create fragrances that are rich, complex and great smelling. So, the next time you apply your signature scent try and guess which family your scent is based on. You can check on the Web to see if you are correct as many perfume sites will include the Olfactive family in the perfume’s description.

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Photo. Tristan Mimet

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