The 9 Different Perfume Scents You Need To Know


Scent is a powerful thing. Science has even shown that odors have the ability1to send our olfactory senses down memory lane and evoke feelings from our past. It is common to associate a favorite fragrance when we want to shift our emotions and channel positive energy, but how do you decide on a scent?

Selecting a fragrance is made a little bit easier when you familiarize yourself with the categories that scents fall under. There are currently nine different types of perfume scents, all of which cover along list of ingredients that can be sweet, spicy, warm, musky and more. We reached out to two perfume experts for their take on each of these types of fragrances, and why we are so drawn to them.


Reminiscent of a walk among the California redwoods or sitting around a campfire, woody scents are characterized by smelling like the great outdoors—but they can honestly be very sultry. If you like the smell of wet asphalt (which is called petrichor), youll probably enjoy a woody scent. Also recommended for people who enjoy hiking, camping, and various other outdoor activities—or those who simply want to give off the illusion that they enjoy those things.

One example of a woody scent is Ojai Wilds Redwood Leaves Eau de Cologne ($98). All the ingredients in this fragrance were ethically sourced in California. Extract from redwood leaves is paired with notes of blonde tobacco and chamomile.

We also like Le Labos Santal 22 Eau de Parfum ($99), a cult-favorite creamy, woody scent with notes of violet accord, cardamom, iris, cedarwood, leather, and sandalwood.

Store fragrances in a cool, dark place away from air conditioning or heating units to keep them from going bad prematurely.


Citrus scents are crisp and clean, usually characterized by notes like lemon, grapefruit, orange, and bergamot. Theyre refreshing, like a Pamplemousse La Croix on a hot summer day.

"Citrus notes also pair beautifully with spicy notes for a juxtaposition of a tart and spicy feel," says fragrance expert Marian Bendeth. "The permeations are endless and all depend on the blend."

To dip your toe into the world of citrus fragrances, try Montale Paris Soleil de Capri Eau de Parfum ($147), a super flirty fragrance with notes of grapefruit and kumquat.


Gourmand fragrances are probably the most divisive type: You either love them or you cant stand them. Thats because theyre sweet—a good gourmand fragrance will be almost-but-not-quite cloying—and powdery. Think fragrances that smell like the top of a crème brûlée. Common notes include vanilla, chocolate, burnt sugar, and caramel.

"A good gourmand fragrance evokes a sense of something yummy, sweet, and indulgent. Perfumers use notes like chocolate (dark or white), caramel, honey, or candied hazelnut with more classical notes like vanilla and ambery resins to create the gourmand theme," says fragrance expert Clayton Ilolahia. "Thierry Mugler’s Angel is the gourmand icon that has inspired thousands of fragrances."

As Bendeth explains, gourmand fragrances are perhaps the most nostalgic of the bunch. "There are literally hundreds of notes in this category, which has been a leader in fragrance families for the past decade," she says. "These notes stir our appetites and are also used in many blends to tantalize our noses, as well. They are comforting and familiar."

Another good option is the super-sweet Prada Candy Eau de Parfum Spray ($115), which is made for anyone who likes to smell like dessert (in the best possible way).


Floral fragrances are unapologetically romantic. Theyre flirty and feminine and can range in intensity—some floral fragrances are full-on "walking the Brooklyn Botanic Garden during cherry blossom season," while others incorporate fruity elements for a sparkling, playful effect.

Notes of rose, orange, marjoram, and sandalwood combine in the breathlessly beautiful fragrance by Strange Invisible Perfumes, Aquarian Rose ($210). All the ingredients are certified organic, wildcrafted, and biodynamic.

Or opt for Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau de Toilette ($101), a whimsical floral fragrance that incorporates notes of jasmine, violet leaves, strawberry, and sandalwood.


Composed of notes like cherry, pear, and watermelon, fruity scents are evocative of hot summer days. They can be sweet, but the best ones never get cloying and can range from playful to sophisticated, depending on the other notes the fruit is paired with. Try any of Jo Malones scents from her fruity collection, but we love Nectarine Blosom & Honey ($165) for its sweet notes of nectarine, peach, and honey.


Formerly known as oriental, spicy fragrances are sultry and warm. Sensual notes of cardamom, incense, and pepper are common. "Spicy scents will possess heavier base notes where the molecules are denser, providing longer-lasting life on the skin," Bendeth says.

"Aromatic spices provide a broad range of smells. Cardamon is a cool spice, which has a minty freshness. Clove and cinnamon are considered warm spices and are often paired with warm ambery resins and woody notes," Ilolahia says. "Think of classics like Guerlain’s Shalimar or Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium. Pink pepper is a trendy spice you will find in many contemporary fragrances. It has a fresh peppery note with a berry accent. This pairs well with rose and fresh floral notes."

We also love Tom Fords Private Blend Soleil Blanc Eau de Parfum ($185), which is a little bit summery, a little bit spicy.


Also called oceanic, this scent category conjures up images of drinking limoncello along the Amalfi Coast or reading a good book on the beach. Aquatic perfumes, as the name suggests, are characterized by marine notes like algae, salt, and fresh sea air, and have a very pleasing, clean scent.

Maison Margiela fragrances are always evocative of a moment; the Replica Sailing Day Eau de Toilette Spray ($85) brings to mind breezy summer sailing days with notes of aquatic accord and red seaweed essence. As with any scent, aquatic fragrances should be enjoyed—meaning "there are no strict rules on how to wear a fragrance," Ilolhia says.


If you love the smell of freshly-cut grass (or even soil), a clean, green scent is likely for you. As Ilolahia notes, a green fragrances aroma might shift with time—but that doesnt necessarily mean you have to toss it. "Fragrances can change over time as the juice is exposed to light and air introduced to the bottle as the fragrance is consumed," Ilolahia says. "We recommend storing your fragrances away from direct light and heat. Like wine, which changes as it ages, fragrances that have changed with age have not necessarily ‘turned bad’, but if you don’t like the way your fragrance smells as it ages, we recommend replacing your bottle every year."

For those who gravitate to green scents, try Henry Rose Jakes House ($120), a grassy, watery blend thats perfect for daytime.


The most important thing to look for with a fresh scent (or any kind, for that matter), says Bendeth, is how you plan to wear it. "Think of your fragrance choices as you would your makeup, and the strength in application for the night as opposed to a day affair," she says. "Fragrance should be appropriated not only for your fashion sense before you get dressed but most importantly, how it makes you feel about yourself first and foremost. If it doesnt move you, move on."

If youre in the market for something from this category, Aerins Waterlily Sun Eau de Parfum Spray ($186) is a delicate, bright, fresh fragrance thats floral without being overly flowery.

The Most Common Perfume Ingredients from A-to-Z

Article Sources

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  1. Brain Sciences. "The Role of Odor-Evoked Memory in Psychological and Physiological Health." 2016.



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