Fragrances 101

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What do Perfume, EDP, EDT and EDC mean?

These terms and abbreviations refer to the aromatic compound strength of the fragrance. All fragrances are made up of these fragrant compounds, typically oils, which make up the wonderful smell of the fragrance. These compounds are typically mixed with a carrier solution; most often alcohol and water. This needs to be done since many of the compounds are skin irritants and could even spark up allergic reactions in their concentrated form, not to mention that the fragrance would be oily and not so easily applicated! So the carrier solution dilutes and allows a means for the compounds to reach your skin in a relatively harmless form. Once the carrier solution has evaporated off of your skin, the fragrance is left behind to give you that lasting scent.

The concentration of the components in a particular fragrance is where we get these terms from. Below we’ve compiled a short descriptive list of the various concentrations and their French and English translations.

Perfume Extract: 20-40% aromatic compounds. This is typically the strongest concentration of compound that you are likely to find in any fragrance

Eau de Parfum (English: Perfumed Water): 10-30% aromatic compounds. Also known as EDP, this concentration is found fairly often and can be expected to have a longer wear than lesser concentrations.

Eau de Toilette (English: Toilet Water): 5-20% aromatic compounds. Also known as EDT, this concentration is weaker in concentration than EDP, yet stronger than EDC. The term toilet (and therefore toilette) refers to the act or process of dressing or grooming oneself, although the term really isn’t used in this context anymore.

Eau de Cologne (English: Cologne Water): 2-3% aromatic compounds. Also known as EDC or just Cologne, this concentration is the weakest form of fragrance.

As the percentage of aromatic compounds decreases, the intensity and longevity of the scent decrease. It should be noted that different perfumeries or perfume houses assign different amounts of oils to each of their perfumes. As such, although the oil concentration of a perfume in eau de parfum (EDP) dilution will necessarily be higher than the same perfume in eau de toilette (EDT) form, the same trends may not necessarily apply to different perfume compositions much less across different perfume houses.

Olfactive families

Fragrances can be classified into several olfactive families, by the themes, or accords, of these fragrances. These are also known as fragrance families.

Floral: Fragrances that are dominated by the scent of one or more types of flowers. When only one flower is used, it is called a soliflore (as in Dior's Diorissimo, with lily of the valley).

Chypre: Fragrances built on a similar accord consisting of bergamot, oakmoss, pachouli, and labdanum. This family of fragrances is named after a perfume by François Coty by the same name. Meaning Cyprus in French, the term alludes to the inspiration behind the original creation.

Aldehydic: Fragrances that incorporate the family of chemicals known as aldehydes. Chanel No 5 was the first aldehydic perfume (created by the French perfumer Ernest Beaux in 1921). Others include Je Reviens and Arpege. Aldehydic perfumes have the characteristic "piquant" note produced by materials like Aldehyde C12 MNA.

Fougère: Fragrances built on a base of lavender, coumarin and oakmoss. Many men's fragrances belong to this family of fragrances, which is characterized by its sharp herbaceous and woody scent.

Leather: A family of fragrances which features the scents honey, tobacco, wood, and wood tars in its middle or base notes and a scent that alludes to leather.

Woody: Fragrances that are dominated by the woody scents, typically of sandalwood and cedar. Patchouli, with its camphoraceous smell, is commonly found in these perfumes.

Orientals or ambers: A large fragrance class featuring the scents of vanilla and animal scents together with flowers and woods. Can be enhanced by camphorous oils and incense resins, which bring to mind Victorian era imagery of the Middle East and Far East.

Citrus: An old fragrance family that until recently consisted mainly of "freshening" Eau de colognes due to the low tenacity of citrus scents. Development of newer fragrance compounds has allowed for the creation of primarily citrus fragrances.

Fragrance Notes

A mixture of alcohol and water is used as the solvent for the aromatics. On application, body heat causes the solvent to quickly disperse, leaving the fragrance to evaporate gradually over several hours. The rate of evaporation (vapor pressure) and the odor strength of the compound partly determine the tenacity of the compound and determine its perfume note classification.

Top notes: Scents that are perceived immediately on application of a perfume. Top notes create the scents that form a person's initial impression of a perfume. Because of this, they are very important in the selling of a perfume. The scents of this note class are usually described as "fresh," "assertive" or "sharp." The compounds that contribute to top notes are strong in scent, very volatile, and evaporate quickly. Citrus and ginger scents are common top notes.

Heart notes or Middle notes: The scent of a perfume that emerges after the top notes dissipate. The heart note compounds form the "heart" or main body of a perfume and act to mask the often unpleasant initial impression of base notes, which become more pleasant with time. Not surprisingly, the scent of heart note compounds is usually more mellow and "rounded." Scents from this note class appear anywhere from 2 minutes to 1 hour after the application of a perfume. Lavender and rose scents are typical heart notes. Top notes and heart notes are sometimes described together as Head notes.

Base notes: The scent of a perfume that appears after the departure of the top notes. The base and middle notes together are the main theme of a perfume. Base notes bring depth and solidness to a perfume. Compounds of this class are often the fixatives used to hold and boost the strength of the lighter top and heart notes. The compounds of this class of scents are typically rich and "deep" and are usually not perceived until 30 minutes after the application of the perfume or during the period of perfume dry-down. Musk, vetiver and scents of plant resins are commonly used as base notes.

Pour Homme, Pour Femme, Pour Enfant?

These are French phrases. Put simply: Pour Homme (for men), Pour Femme (for women) and less often used Pour Enfant (for children).
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