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Perfumery uses the fragrance classifications developed by Michael Edwards & Co.
Michael Edwards is undoubtedly the world's leading authority on fragrances today. He works in collaboration with all fragrance houses, suppliers, perfumers and evaluators to develop a unique classification system whilst remaining independent and impartial, accepting no advertising.
Michael Edwards is the perfume experts' expert. His annual Fragrances of the World guidebook is the most comprehensive reference for perfume industry professionals, journalists and fragrances lovers alike. Now in its 24th edition, the success of the guide is a testament that it is the most reliable and valuable fragrance resource available today.
Recognized by two FiFi awards for his contributions to the fragrance industry, Michael Edwards is the author of both Fragrances of the World and Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances, the cult book that opened a secret world. For the first time, perfumers spoke openly about their creations and the sources of their inspiration.
Michael Edwards is a 'fragrant gypsy' – he now lives between Paris, New York and Sydney.
Think of fragrances as musical notes, with the freshest, highest notes on the left of each family page and the richest, deepest notes on the right.
When four fragrances from the same family are compared - one a Fresh interpretation, the second a Crisp, the third a Classical and the fourth a Rich version - one's nose steps down a fragrance scale from Fresh > Crisp > Classical > Rich. With each step, the fragrance note becomes a little deeper.
The most effervescent fragrances in the family
Lively interpretations with a crisp accent
Balanced notes characteristic of the family
The richer, deeper fragrances
In order to give a fuller picture of the scent, Michael Edwards & Co. includes sub-groups in each family that capture the dominant notes characterizing the fragrances.
Grouping the Fresh and Crisp fragrances under the headings Citrus-Fruity, Gourmand, Green, Water and White Flower notes makes it easier to imagine the scent of each fragrance.
Green notes, for example, will add the sharp freshness of green leaves, crushed grass. A hint of green will make a fragrance crisp while a touch more will make it fresh.
Citrus-Fruity notes come from citrus oils, from apple and apricot, melon and peach, plum and exotic fruits. Their scent adds a tangy freshness quite different from the sharper Green notes.
Water notes, by contrast, capture the cool freshness of sea air or the pure scent of a waterfall. The scents of fresh White Flowers add the sweet, soft, fresh accents of lily of the valley and jasmine, gardenia, hyacinth, white honeysuckle and freesia.
Gourmand notes. Angel (1992), with its accents of caramel and chocolate, pioneered the category of gourmand fragrances. Its success started a trend that has now influenced fragrances in most every family. Other Gourmand notes include butterscotch, candy floss, fudge, praline and toffee.
From the zest of lemons, mandarins, bergamot, oranges and grapefruit come the citrus oils that lend these fragrances their distinctive, tangy aroma. Floral, spicy and woody notes transformed the light, refreshing eaux de cologne into real fragrances. A new generation of musk and tea accents adds an interesting dimension to the oldest fragrance family.
Peaches and pears, apples and plums. A twist of tropical fruits. Essences of strawberry, raspberry and berries of all hues. Add a splash of flowers to create a family of fruity cocktails that smell delicious.
Green fragrances capture the sharp scent of fresh-cut grass and violet leaves. Despite the outdoors imagery, the impact of the classic resinous galbanum accord is so potent that many green fragrances have a formal rather than sporty personality. In recent years, a palette of softer, lighter green notes has given this fragrance family fresh appeal.
Redolent of the scent of soft sea breezes, the marine notes were created in 1990. The early water notes captured the ozonic aroma of wet air after a thunderstorm. Today, the water notes are more often used as an accent to enliven florals, orientals and woody fragrances.
Florals remain the most popular fragrance family. Their repertoire is vast, ranging from concertos on the theme of a single floral note to mighty symphonies of heady mixed bouquets. Headspace technology* has given perfumers an avalanche of exciting new floral notes: it allows them to identify and clone the scent of blooms from which no oil can be extracted by traditional methods. Each year, unusual new notes are found, revitalising the traditional floral theme.
Soft Floral Fragrances
The marriage of sparkling aldehydes and delicate flowers creates a family of soft, often powdery, abstract florals. Aldehydes are found naturally in rose and citrus oils, but in such minute amounts that they have to be re-created in the laboratory. Their natural scent is not pleasant: some have a sharp, metallic fragrance, others the burnt, waxy aroma of a just snuffed candle. Add them to flowers, however, and their subtle magic makes the blossoms sing. Their soprano notes are muted by the powdery accents of iris and vanilla to create a fragrance that is both soft and flowery.
Orientals are the exotic queens of perfumery. Sensual, often heavy, blends of oriental resins, opulent flowers, sweet vanilla and musks are introduced by refreshing citrus, green or fruity top notes. The new 'sheer' Orientals gained some ground in the late 1990s, but the appeal of the full-bodied, take-no-prisoners Orientals endures.
Woody Oriental Fragrances
The liaison of rich Oriental notes and the potent scents of patchouli and sandalwood produced some of the most original perfumes of the 1990s. This family emphasises the woody character of Floral Orientals. The key difference is that their flowers and spices play second string to the dominant sandalwood and/or patchouli notes. The Oriental influence is more noticeable, too, and balances the deep wood notes.
Lately, perfumers have rediscovered woody notes in a big way, so it makes sense to distinguish them from the Chypre or Mossy Woods fragrances. Classic woody scents are dominated by harmonies of cedar, patchouli, pine, sandalwood and vetiver but a new palette of exotic wood notes - often cloned from headspace technology – has stimulated greater creativity in this neglected fragrance category.
Mossy Woods Fragrances
Perfumers call these forest notes of oakmoss, amber and citrus Chypre fragrances. The family takes its name from the first significant mossy-woody fragrance, Chypre de Coty, created by François Coty in 1917. Chypre is the French name for the island of Cyprus, birthplace of Venus, the legendary goddess of love. From Cyprus, too, comes the oakmoss that is at the heart of all Chypre fragrances.
Dry Woods Fragrances
A mossy-woody fragrance takes on a drier character with the addition of cedar, tobacco and burnt wood notes. The Dry Woods family is often called Leather, after the dry, smoky scent of Russian leather. Fresh citrus notes play an important role in most Dry Woods fragrances, lightening the deep, almost animalic heart notes.
This is the universal fragrance family, with sexy cool-warm notes of citrus and lavender, sweet spices and oriental woods. It takes its name from a fragrance long since discontinued: Fougère Royale, introduced by Houbigant in 1882. Men grew up on Fougères. Most of the key men's fragrances developed since the mid-1960s have come from this family; their zesty, masculine character makes men feel comfortable. Most women, too, find the blend of Fresh, Floral, Oriental and Woody notes appealing. It is a winning combination.
*Headspace technology is a method of trapping and analysing chemical molecules from the air, even at levels as low as parts per million. When this technology is applied to flowering plants it is possible to define the exact make-up of the volatile chemicals which are released from the flower to produce the characteristic scent.
Fragrance classifications © Michael Edwards 2014. All rights reserved.