In the perfume trade you will often hear the term “Olfactive families” used. Though initially this might seem like impenetrable industry-specific jargon it is really quite simple. Oflactive refers to our sense of smell and families are the different groups under which various scents or elements within a fragrance can be grouped. Simply put it means smell groups. Of course no two people will ever have identical senses of smells, or even opinions about different scents, so the process of classifying these different aspects of fragrance that occur in perfumes are in no way objective. Nevertheless they do provide some sort of basis for common understanding, as well as a language that can be used in order to express and convey the experience that a perfume gives us. In this respect they are quite similar and can be thought to run parallel to the sort of language that wine aficionados have developed over the years so that they are better able to express the intricacies of a specific wine to each other and also to the general public at large.
In the description of perfumes and throughout the development of the science of perfume production there has been a split between what can be thought of as the traditional classification of olfactive families that emerged at around the turn of the last century and the modern classification of olfactive families circa around 1945 and inspired by the development of perfume technology as well as the ongoing change of tastes.
The following is a description of the subcategories that exist under the traditional classification of oflactive families. These were developed from the early twentieth century onwards and are heavily dependent on nature but also on geography in order to identify and taxonomise the different natural scents that went into perfumes at the turn of the last century.:
Amber: Quite a broad class of scents that is composed of sweet, and animal smells such as labdanum and ambergris and tend to be sweet in fragrance and bring to the imagination the Middle or Far East. These scents also tend to have a synergistic effect with vanilla, flowers, woods and may be amplified by camphorous oils and incense resins.
Chypre: Chypre is the French word for the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Scents in this family would have once been associated with the island and include Bergamot, labdanum. oakmoss, and patchouli.
Floral Bouquet: This is a combination of different single floral scents into a synthesis or bouquet
Fougère: Fougère is the French word for fern, smells that belong to this category tend to be more masculine in nature, smelling quite woody and herby and often built over a lavender or oakmoss base.
Leather: This family of fragrances are typified by strong middle and base notes that bring to mind the smell of leather. These smells include wood tar, tobacco and .honey
Single Floral: Single floral are simple fragrances that originate from only one source flower, such as rose, or carnation.
Wood: These smells consist of all the well know wood smells found in various essential oils such as agarwood, cedarwood, sandalwood and Patchouli..