Handmade fragrances from Brooklyn, NY.

Photo of perfumer Edmond Roudnitska from The Perfume Magazine

Olfactive families are groupings of ingredients into broad categories. There are about 1,500 ingredients that a perfumer can choose from, and grouping them into olfactive families helps to identify, memorize, and understand them.

There are a few different models of olfactive classifications, and the one I learned is by Jean Carles, a perfumer and director of the first big perfume school, Roure, in the 1940s. Jean Carles sorts scents into 26 main categories:

CITRIC   /   ALDEHYDIC   /   ANISE   /   WOODY   /   SPICY   /   FRESH   /   AMBERY   /   FLORAL   BALSAMIC   /   HONEY   /   SEA   /   JASMINE   /   MINTY   /   ROSE   /   VIOLET   /   ORANGE   /   GREEN leaves   /   GREEN aquatic   /   VANILLA   /   POWDERY   /   GREEN   /   MUSK   /                                       FRUITY aldehyde   /   FRUITY   /   ANIMAL   /   MISCELLANEOUS

Under each of these would fall all of the ingredients. For example, cedarwood essential oil, vetiver absolute, cedramber and bacdanol would all fall under Woody. Peppermint, menthol and menthone under Minty. And ambergris, civet, and indole (mothballs!) under Animal. Both naturals and synthetics can be categorized in this olfactive family chart.




Post a comment
  1. XO #
    September 4, 2012

    Hi, I am just curious if you know any good books on perfumery. I am having difficulty finding anything that isn’t really amateurish. I am looking for something that is not unlike a textbook and discusses natural as well as synthetic perfumery ingredients, how to use them, maybe a few recipes etc. For me it isn’t an option to go study in Grasse and I’d love to learn more about the art/science of perfumery. I own several aromatherapy books as well as a couple of Mandy Aftel’s, but I am having trouble finding anything that discusses synthetic ingredients. Jean Claude Ellena’s book touches on snythetics but doesn’t go into the level of detail that I’d like. Thank you.

    • September 10, 2012

      Hi there! You’re absolutely right. It’s difficult to find high-level books on perfumery and I have to admit that I don’t know of any that are quite like textbooks. One option might be to try a supplier’s site like The Good Scents Company, and read through the information on all of the ingredients. They have a pretty good sidebar which explains the synonyms of an ingredients, olfactive profile and what the ingredient mixes well with. Beyond that, the best thing is just to slowly get samples of ingredients and test them out for yourself. Smelling them on blotters slowly and over time.
      Hope this helps!!

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  1. perfumery lesson #4: building your library of ingredients (pt 1, natural) | MCMC Fragrances

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