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.