Perfume ingredients from A to Z
What do you love to smell in your perfume? Ever thought about it? How do you choose your perfume? We have compiled a list of common ingredients in perfume. This way you discover more about the composition of your perfume!
How are ingredients converted into fragrance extracts?
You have a lot of vegetable substances that are suitable for perfumes, because they smell wonderful. Think of flowers, resins, woods, herbs, grasses and much more. It is important that these fragrances are extracted from the plant material. This can be done through various chemical processes, such as evaporation, heating or cooling. After this chemical process, the fragrance extract remains, an oil or an absolute. All the different fragrance extracts are added together, along with water and alcohol, and voilà!
Top notes, heart notes and base notes
Top notes, heart notes and ba Each perfume consists of a so-called ‘olfactory pyramid’. This means that a perfume is made up of top notes, heart notes and base notes. You can smell the top notes of the perfume as soon as you spray it on. They are the very first scents that open the perfume, as it were. They can be smelled on the skin for about half an hour. The heart notes form the core of the perfume and last for 4 to 5 hours. The base notes of the perfume are the notes left on your skin after the top and middle notes have passed. They last for a long time.
Fragrance extracts in the pyramid
It differs per plant species which chemical process is suitable. The different chemical processes give you different types of fragrance extracts, each with its own structure and character. Oils dissipate faster and can therefore usually be found in top notes of a perfume, while absolute is regularly used for base notes. Top notes of perfumes often consist of citrus, green or aromatic notes. Heart notes often consist of flowers, herbs or fruit. The base of a perfume is usually made up of woods, amber, musk, vanilla or patchouli, because these last the longest.
If you would hold an aldehyde pure under your nose, it would be difficult to place what you smell. You have no frame of reference that reminds you of existing scents from nature, for example. There are many different aldehydes with different profiles. Most have a very strong scent with a slightly greasy waxy character with a thin almost metallic twist. Other aldehydes can also give off a citrus, tangerine-like or rosy accord.
A heavy, full, powdery, warm note. Amber oil comes from the Baltic amber.
A sperm whale secretion with a sweet, woody scent. Mostly produced synthetically, as the sale of amber is illegal in many countries.
The oil obtained from ambrette seeds – which come from hibiscus – has a musky scent. Usually ambrette is used as a substitute for real musk.
A white flowering shrub or tree found in Haiti and South America. Often used as a cheaper alternative to sandalwood.
Fragrance properties that evoke associations with frankincense, benzoin, pinewood, resin, juniper, turpentine, and so on.
A balsamic resin from the Styrax tree. It’s a warm, sweet scent and it smells a bit like vanilla too. In addition to this fragrance, it also has powdery, milky and spicy notes. In perfumery you also use the word balsamic to describe this.
The spicy oil expressed from the (non-edible) bergamot orange, grown mainly in Italy.
An aromatic chemical that adds a “sea breeze” or maritime note to fragrances.
A synthetic aldehyde with a spicy, amber, musky, floral scent. Used to evoke the velvety scent or “feel” of cashmere.
An animal secretion of the beaver, used to impart a leathery scent to a perfume. Often synthetically reproduced.
The rind of the fruit of this tree is used to create citrus scent notes.
Musk produced by a gland of the tail of the African civet. Pure civet is said to have a strong, unpleasant odor, but in small amounts it is often used to add depth and warmth to a fragrance.
A commonly used perfume composition that smells like vanilla. Usually derived from the tonka bean (see below), but can also be found in lavender, sweetgrass and other plants.
A fragrant tropical flower, also known as “West Indian Jasmine.”
Fruity notes are very popular in the floral-fruity category of the new millennium, while peach and plum were important components as the basis for the classic perfumers, used in many of the iconic fragrances of the first half of the 20th century.
A gum resin that gives off a green, vegetal scent. It smells spicy, green with an undertone of celery and pine
With the term “green nuts” we refer to notes of leaves and freshly cut grasses, which exude a piquant quality. In this categorization we find some classic pungent essences, such as galbanum, which is actually a tall grass resin with an invigorating, pungent bitter green scent profile.
Wood from a resinous South American tree, the oil of which is used in perfumery.
An aroma compound with a soft, radiant jasmine aroma.
Flowers of the heliotropium family, which have a strong, sweet vanilla-like fragrance with undertones of almond.
Perfumers have a fantastic palette of woody elements to weave into their creations: Warm, mysterious sandalwood, drier and sharper cedarwood, agarwood (also known as Oud), Guaiac wood (pokwood) as well as vetiver and patchouli. These last two are not woods, they are roots and leaves respectively, but you wouldn’t think so, because of their intensely earthy, woody character. The addition of spices, fruity notes or herbs gives a twist to woody scents. Resinous and sultry exotic strains are usually accompanied by aromatic and citrusy notes. So if you like woody perfumes, explore the other members of this family as well. Many men’s, considerably many shared (unisex), but also women’s fragrances belong to the woody family.
A chemical compound that smells floral at low concentrations, but fecal at high concentrations. Widely used in perfumery.
A chemical aroma described as a soft, woody, amber note with a velvety sensation. Used to give perfumes fullness. Iso-E-Super is used, among other things, in the popular perfume Molecule 01 by Escentric Molecules
A flower widely used in perfumery. Jasmine is one of the most expensive perfume ingredients in the world.
The coconut scent allows you to return to your summer memories every day of the year. The exotic scent of coconut provides a good mood and a feeling of relaxation. Delicate and captivating sweet tones also get the attention of those around you very quickly.
An aromatic gum from the rockrose bush. The sweet woody scent is said to mimic ambergris (see above), and can also be used to impart a leathery note.
Tough and sexy, or soft and supple: a leather accord in a perfume always gives a special touch. Russian leather, suede, the inside of a leather bag, an old Chesterfield: rich associations to enjoy.
lily of the valley
One of the three most used flowers in perfumery. Unlike jasmine and rose, mostly synthetically produced.
Derived from the iris plant. Has a floral, heavy and woody aroma. Orris also called orris root is very rare.
Gardenia (tiare) petals macerated in coconut oil. Sometimes also called Monoi de Tahiti.
Natural musk comes from the glands of the musk deer. But the vast majority of musk produced and sold in the world today is synthetic. This is a good thing, since musk is found in almost every men’s perfume and cologne. Natural musk is also one of the most expensive perfume ingredients.
A gum resin produced from a shrub found in Arabia and East Africa. It is extracted from a shrub called Commiphora. Myrrh smells warm, amber, aromatic, resinous, balsamic and sensual. Sometimes with a smoky and syrupy character.
The white flowers of this tree are used extensively in French perfume production.
A citrus oil distilled from the blossoms of the sweet or bitter orange tree. The Italian term for neroli is zagara.
Derived from a lichen that grows on oak trees. Prized for its aroma, which is heavy and oriental at first, then becomes refined and earthy when dried, reminiscent of bark, coast and foliage.
An herb that grows in the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean, also known as sweet myrrh. The resin produces a scent similar to that of balsam or lavender.
A flowering tree native to China, prized for its delicate fruity apricot aroma.
Oudh is a fascinating type of wood and is extracted from the tropical tree Aquilaria. Because the Aquilaria tree is rare and the process of resin formation and harvesting is so complex, Oudh is one of the most precious perfume raw materials in the world. The most commonly used name is the Arabic name Oudhof Oud (pronounced ‘ud’). In Dutch, the term eagle wood is also used.
A modern synthetic note intended to mimic the scent of petrichor or fresh air after a thunderstorm.
A bushy shrub native to Malaysia and India. It smells woody, like wet earth and green leaves. It has a dark character and gives perfumes depth and sensuality. Patchouli reacts very strongly to other ingredients. If you mix it with, for example, vanilla, the perfume takes on an oriental character, something warm and creamy.
One of the most important flower notes used in perfumery. Rose is, shockingly, also one of the more expensive perfume ingredients.
Rose de Mai
The traditional name given to Rose Absolute (rose essential oil) produced by solvents and then alcohol extraction.
An oil from the Indian sandal tree. One of the oldest but also best known perfume ingredients, often used as a base note.
The oil of this herb smells sweet to bitter sweet, with nuances of amber, hay and tobacco.
Derived from a plant native to Brazil. It has an aroma of vanilla, but with a strong hint of cinnamon, cloves and almonds. Used as a cheaper alternative to vanilla, although it has also become quite popular on its own.
Tuberose is a beautiful flower that smells very strong and specific. Love it or not, it’s literally ‘love or hate’. In nature you often see that white flowers have a strong smell. They cannot attract the bees and butterflies with their color, so much the more with their scent! Tuberose smells voluptuously floral, exotic, gardenia-like, lusciously full, creamy, honey-like, sometimes green and can have an animal accent (due to the high concentration of indole). Theatrical and dramatic at its best!
Derived from the seed pod of the vanilla orchid. Very fragrant, popular and expensive to produce. Most vanilla in perfumes and aromas is now synthetic and often consists mainly of vanillin. Most synthetic vanillin is made from the residual flows of wood/paper production. In perfumes you will find vanilla a lot in oriental perfumes. Vanilla smells sweet, balsamic, slightly spicy and soft.
Vetiver is a dried type of grass and therefore smells like grass – but slightly more woody. It also evokes associations of earth and salt, a kind of salty sea. A popular note because of the warm and elegant character it gives to perfumes.
An Asian evergreen tree with fragrant flowers, the oil of which is used in expensive floral perfumes. Ylang-ylang smells floral, exotic, soft, slightly jasmine-like, also somewhat similar to the scent of narcissus, spicy and ethereal. In nature, the flowers spread a stronger, enchanting scent, especially at night, to attract the right moths. The flower can be combined very well in perfumes with other flowers. It gives elegance, texture and originality to a perfume.