What Exactly Is A Fragrance Profile? A Perfumer’s Guide

What exactly is a fragrance profile and how does it aid in perfume creation? Our master perfumers explain the notes, accords and olfactory families of scent when creating perfume formulations.

A fragrance profile is indelible and incredibly specific; it never changes because its components, namely the notes, are always the same.

The scent on skin however, does transform over time. This will depend upon the skin’s ph balance, how dry or oily it may be, hormone levels and the fact that each person’s skin contains a unique amalgam of water, acid, fats, proteins and sugars.

Understanding the notes in a fragrance is the first step to establishing the true anatomy of a particular fragrance profile.

It is a venue that allows perfume experts, such as the masters at Alpha Aromatics, to classify a particular fragrance into a designated group in which new and exciting combinations can be constantly discovered.

According tho Tynan Sinks, writer and co-host of the Smell Ya Later podcast: “…While a profile can serve as the umbrella term for the main notes of a particular fragrance, it can also touch on the layers of a scent, such as the top, middle, and base notes, or how the fragrance is built.”

The process of identifying a scent profile runs from exploring the layered notes to identifying the scent family to which it belongs.

What is an Olfactory Profile


Its establishment provides a way to understand the potency of a fragrance’s composition while at the same time, pairing it with a desired mood or ambiance.

Unravelling the answers to the following questions are vital determinants of a fragrance’s specific composition and purpose.

1. Can A Fragrance Profile Change Over Time?

As mentioned above, the profile itself never varies, but a fragrance will react differently over time if applied directly to the skin instead of sprayed onto clothing.

There are some scents that progress easily from one stage to the other without weakening, but in most cases, there is a decrease in power that occurs on the skin with wear time.

According  to beauty journalist and Smell Ya Later co-host, Sable Yong: “You are more likely to experience the “tiered reveal” of a fragrance if you only apply on the edges of your wrist or collarbone, whereas you’ll be able to smell the whole composition for longer if it’s also added to fabric.”

2. What is The Most Important Note In A Fragrance? 

While all the notes in any formulated fragrance work in tandem to recreate the desired scent, many perfumers believe that the heart and “dry down” or base notes, which are the framework of the fragrance, are the most important because they contain the scent’s authentic, specific nature.

The top or head notes are immediately recognized upon the application of a scent. They are the lightest of all the notes, and as such, the first to evaporate.

3. What Is The Desired Mood Of A Perfume?

All of use are different and prone to different moods and mind sets.

We also diverge when it comes to our tastes in perfume, as some prefer only strong perfumes, while others may only turn to them on special occasions. Some fragrances render specific feelings such as comfort, confidence, courage, joy and warmth.

Our master perfumers at Alpha Aromatics work on the principle that the right selection of any fragrance is how well it meets the personality moods of the wearer.

What Are The Different Groups Of Olfactory Families?

There are four basic fragrance families; namely woody, floral, oriental (ambery), and fresh.

They are all indicated on the iconic Fragrance Wheel, which presents them in relation to their corresponding sub families. More on each follows below.

Fragrance Wheel Simplified Guide

Floral Fragrances

By far the most popular and extensive family of scents, it includes any and all fragrances that retain a sweet and flowery aroma.

It includes but is not limited to: sweet smelling notes such as: romantic, musky rose, intoxicating jasmine, bright, tropical and waxy lilies and potent, rosy peonies.

Floral Scents And Fragrances

Not surprisingly, the floral family is most commonly found in feminine fragrances and notes of soothing rich lavender, potent, rosy peony, green, rich and honeyed jasmine sambac, or subtle, herbaceous and green daisy, which maintain a sense of freshness and sweetness.

Fresh Fragrances

Many citrus facets are the preferred elements in this family of fragrance. These oils are the lightest in perfumery, and as such, evaporate more quickly than others.

Favorites include a mosaic of: lush orange, fresh, clean lemon, spicy, complex and pleasing bergamot and tangy, uplifting grapefruit.

Fresh Fragrances

Aquatic and green notes, like like sea spray, are often added to these formulations which accentuates their sharp, clean character.

Refreshing, zesty and vibrant, fresh fragrances are clean, and many eau de toilette and cologne versions fall into this category. Fresh water fragrances, however, are made with aquatic notes like sea spray. 

Sometimes referred to as hesperidic scents, this word refers to the Hesperides, from Greek mythology, who were the maidens known as the Daughter of The Evening, who guarded the tree bearing the golden apples that Gaea bequeathed to Hera at her marriage to Zeus.

Fresh scents are the epitome of summer, and they are ideal for carefree splashing within the frothy folds of eternal ocean waves, standing beneath a glorious wind-in-your-hair sea breeze or the joyful feeling of the sun at your back.

Oriental (Ambery) Fragrances

Societal implications have brought about a name change to this distinctive family of fragrances.

Now known as Ambery rather than Oriental, this category of scents is known for its warm sweet, luxurious and somewhat spicy character.

Amber Fragrances In Scented Products

Extremely potent and aromatic, these scents enfold the exotic, indulgent lure of the far away realms of ancient Arabia and India, the dazzling luxury of precious jewels and the tender warmth and elusive sweetness of unspoken comfort.

Notes are more exotic than those found in other fragrance families.

The most popular include: lush and elegant vanilla, warm, spicy and inviting cinnamon, dusty-violet-nuanced orris, rich, highly sensual and haunting jasmine, powdery, vanilla-like orchid and fresh, floral and sugary orange blossom.

These facets render  a family of scents that is most popular for both men and women and favored for winter or fall evening wear. 

Woody Fragrances

Common facets for this warm, mysterious and captivating family of fragrances include: green, sensual and slightly sharp vetiver, potent, earthy oak moss, dark, rich and honeyed amber, dry, clean cedar, musky, potent patchouli and smoky, woody and smooth oudh. Their base notes are often a blend of citrusy and bittersweet elements, which in tandem, provide a redolent tapestry of rich complex aromas.

Sandalwood Blends In Scented Products

When woody scents are fused with floral aspects, results are the formulation of a more feminine formulation. All woody fragrances are favored for wear after darkness falls. 

The Key Fragrance Sub Families

Each of the four main fragrance sectors have numerous sub families, and master perfumers rely on these classifications, which are the true essence of scent diversification because they represent some of the myriad varieties of possible scent combinations.

Each subdivision contains a handful of key notes. More on each follows below.

Oriental (Ambery)

The woody subfamily is the most prominent in this sector.

They draw their richness from notes such as: creamy sandalwood and dry cedar, which in turn are often blended with warm and piquant facets such as lush vanilla, floral resinous and woody incense and spicy, slightly sugary cardamom. 

Other sub families include: musky, sweet Soft Floral, Floral Oriental, which blends floral and oriental notes and Woody Floral.


Sub families in this group includes: Mossy Woods, which was immensely popular as a men’s fragrance back in the 70s and 80’s; Dry Woods; a newer style of niche fragrance that is pure and dry and Aromatic Woods, which is often found in fragrances designed for office and “ more mature” gentlemen wear, and refers to wood accords blended with perfumed herbs.

These include: soothing, sweet, fresh and floral lavender, woody-nuanced, sharp and clean rosemary and peppery, spicy and green basil. 


In this category, there are four sub families; namely, citrus; fruity; green and water.

Most popular variations include: citrus facets of sharp, clean lemon, spicy, refreshing bergamot and lush orange fused with lighter musks and woody tones.

Fruity perfumes feature aspects of crunchy apple, dense pear, velvety peach, juicy, sugary and green strawberries and tropical elements, while perfumes within the green sub family often overlap with others.

Water is perhaps the most popular green sub family, featuring sea breeze types of scents. It is not uncommon for ozonic watery notes to be combined with aromatic compounds.

The Notes and Accords Of A Fragrance Profile

An educated master perfumer is fully aware that these two aspects of a fragrance profile are vitally important to the establishment of any perfume formulation.

Notes can be considered as ingredients and accords as “fantasy” notes that are combined with some 6 to 10  diverse raw materials, resulting in one unique accord that could not be recreated any other way.

Fragrance Accords Scent Creation

Accords can be simple or complex, and some examples include: leather, amber, and marine notes. Top, middle and base notes and accords are divided into three different sectors, which are known collectively as the fragrance pyramid. 

Each individual stage of perfume creation is selected by how fast or slowly it evaporates.

Citrus top notes, for example, are always the first that are discerned, and they dissipate faster than others, while buttery sandalwood and fruity, vanilla-nuanced agarwood are always found either in the middle or base stage of a scent.

Heart or middle notes are more complex and full bodied than head or top notes. They provide balance and harmony to the scent.

Some popular examples include: classic florals, light fruits, berries, and spicy or herbaceous notes.

Base notes are the longer lasting facets that have a heavier molecular structure and include: vanilla., woodsy, amber or musky elements. These notes round out and weigh down the scent experience. 

A Leading American Perfume Designer and Supplier

While we are a proudly American, family-run fragrance designer and supplier situated in our hometown of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, we are a leading fragrance pioneer across the global perfume industry landscape.

To this day, our company mantra and focus is and always has been “to build great scents that build great brands.”

Scent Profile Perfumery

World renown for our one-of-a-kind organic, natural and designer fragrances that are found in a myriad of personal care products, candles and diffusers, fragrances for home, odor neutralizers, private label brands, industrial air fresheners, household cleaning products and fine, customized perfumes, we can transform any company’s level of brand loyalty, traffic, and ultimately increase that elusive bottom-line.

Whatever your goal for a commercial enterprise, our masters at Alpha Aromatics can help in translating that vision into all you need it to be.

Contact them today to discuss the specific fragrance profile that will work for your own company’s unique signature scent – (412) 252-1012

Photo Credits: Pixabay

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