What Makes a Fragrance? A Guide to Scent Families

What Makes a Fragrance? A Guide to Scent Families

How is a Fragrance Made?

Ever wonder what makes a candle smell like it does? Almost every single one of our fragrances are handcrafted and custom blended but what does that mean? 

I am often asked how I know what is going to pair well together when I'm down in the candle lab working my mad alchemist magic.  I wish it were as simple as just throwing some things together and boom - instant awesome. The truth is, in order to make a winning fragrance, you need to understand the different scent families and how those scents present themselves.  

Right now, you might be thinking, "Ok, Laura, enough of your crazy candle jargon - what are scent families?"

Scent Families: How Fragrance is Categorized

Simply put, scent families are categories that the singular scents we know and love fall into. There are 4 Main Categories that can be further broken down into sub-categories:

Floral: Fruity, Floral, Soft Floral, and Oriental

Oriental: Soft Oriental, Oriental, Woody Oriental, and Woody

Woody: Woody, Mossy Wood, Dry Wood, and Aromatic

Fresh: Aromatic, Citrus, Water, Green, and Fruity

Complimentary Fragrances

    These scent families can be easily visualized using the fragrance wheel, a delightful creation originally introduced in 1983 by Michael Edwards. Like the color wheel we all learned about in primary school, the fragrance wheel organizes scent families in such a way where complementary fragrance notes can be easily identified.

    Scents next to each other on the wheel share common olfactory traits and tend to pair well together, while scents directly across from one another on the wheel are complimentary.

     Scent Families Fragrance Wheel Scent Pyramid of Fragrance Notes

    Once we've chosen which scents to blend together, we need to consider how those scents are going to present themselves - this is where the olfactive or fragrance pyramid comes into play. Have you ever gone perfume shopping and noticed how they list top, middle, and base notes? That's the fragrance pyramid.

    A Guide to Fragrance Notes

    The olfactive pyramid organizes scents by the time in which they take to evaporate/are able to be detected by your nose. The pyramid is organized into three sections: Top, middle, and base notes.

    Top Notes: These are scents that have the smallest molecules, evaporate the fastest, and are the first thing we smell when we take a whiff. Scent families in this category include Citrus and Aromatics (herbs).

      Middle Notes: These are the heart of the fragrance and are what we smell the longest. Scent families include Floral, Green, Fruity, Oriental, and Aromatics (spices).

        Bottom Notes: The bottom notes are what really give our fragrance depth and dimension. These scents have the largest molecules, take the longest to evaporate, and are rich and full-bodied. Scent families include Woody, Vanillas, and Musks.

        How a Fragrance is Created

        By referencing  both the fragrance wheel and olfactory pyramid, we can build a fragrance that is unique and complex using complimentary scents combined to present themselves in unexpected ways.

        A great example of this would be Cranberry Breeze. When you open your candle or wax melts, the first thing that hits you is that delicious sweet cranberry smell, followed shortly after by the refreshing scent of fir nettles and something warm just below that really comes out once it starts burning/melting.  Looking back on what we just learned about fragrance families and the olfactory pyramid, the order in which those scents present themselves should make sense: Our top note is cranberry (fruity), our middle note is fir nettles (green/woody), and our base note is that special 'something warmer' that I am calling autumn breeze because I can - you'll have to pry that blend out of my cold dead hands.

        And there you have it - my not-so-secret method to designing all your favorite Fervor fragrances! I hope this guide was informative and answered some questions you might have had about candles or other fragrance products.


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        1 comment
        • T his was a very informative article, I feel I have learned a lot.

          Alan Birmingham Jr. on

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