Terms you need to know to understand fragrance

Last Updated on

Posts may be sponsored. Post contains affiliate links. I may be compensated if you make a purchase using my link.

I admit to being a bit of a fragrance nut.  Last count, I had close to 50 different types of fragrances to choose from. Each fragrance is special and unique in its own way.   Before I purchase a perfume, I read reviews on it.  For a while, I was a paid reviewer on a fragrance website which gave me a greater understanding of what perfume terms really mean.  If you aren’t familiar with perfume terminology, some of the words can be a bit confusing.  To understand whether you’re purchasing the best perfume for you, you really need to understand what the terms mean.

Accord – A perfume accord is a combination of three or four scents that when put together loose their individual scent to create a brand new scent.

Base notes – A base note is generally the strongest scent or main scent of the perfume. They generally determine what fragrance family a scent will belong to (floral, gourmand, etc.)

Dry down or bottom notes – This is the scent that is noticeable several hours after you’ve applied the fragrance.

Gourmand – Gourmand fragrances are food based fragrances.  Scents like vanilla, cinnamon or chocolate would be considered gourmand scents.

Heart or Middle notes – These are the fragrance notes that you start noticing about 15 minutes after you apply the scent. They appear after the top notes have faded.

Signature scent – A signature scent is the one that you find yourself returning to over and over again. For me, it’s anything by Thierry Mugler.  When your friends or hubby smell the scent out in public, they immediately think of you.

Sillage – Sillage is the trail of scent you leave behind as you walk through a room.  If someone steps into the space you were in moments after you, it’s how much they can still notice your scent.   A perfume with great sillage would be wonderful for a party or get together but not necessarily for work or an interview.

Top notes – Top notes are the very first scent you notice when you apply the perfume. They fade after 5 or ten minutes to reveal the heart or middle notes.

Do you have any fragrance terms that you’re unsure of?

Like this post? Use the buttons below to share it to your favorite networks!

Opt In Image
Subscribe Today!

Get access to my free Aromatherapy Arsenal when you sign up for my newsletter today.


  1. This is SO helpful and insightful, all news to me! Thank you for posting! I +1’d also.

  2. East9thStreet says

    I equate this to the technical terms they throw out at wine tastings. I just spray and sniff never really knowing how to describe what I like or don’t like.

  3. I love how you broke it down so simply! Thank you.
    Whirlwind of Surprises

  4. Heavenly Savings says

    What a unique post! I have never thought of fragrances like that! Pretty cool terms! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Well, ya definitely learn something new everyday. I had no idea there were so many terms when it came to fragrance. Thanks for sharing and thanks for educating me 🙂

  6. Madame Deals says

    I feel smarter now! I never looked up this information watch out NYC I am going to be a perfume snob! Great job!

  7. LOVE MELISSA:) says

    Thank you so much! I am a huge perfume wearer. I thank you for this!

  8. Still Blonde after all these YEARS says

    I really don’t wear fragrance because I am so allergic but you really helped me understand the terms.

  9. Thanks for the information. I read this last time but didn’t make a comment. There sure is a lot of technology involved I didn’t realize the differences. Rita Spratlen rjspratlen@gmail.com