If you love perfume, candles, lotion, body wash or soap, it's pretty likely you've read the term "fragrance family" on the back of a label or website. But what does it actually mean?
A fragrance family is a classification system that's used to broadly to describe what the scent is like. Similar to a colour wheel, there's a perfume wheel and professional perfumers often use that to formulate new scents. It's a bit like cooking, a bit of this and a bit of that. Some scents go together well and some don't. It's a fascinating topic if you're into that sort of thing.
Here's Soap Cult's fragrance families. We've strayed from the norm a little here and done away with some problematic terminology (we're anti-racist of course).
Soap Cult Australia's guide to fragrance families
Woodsy + Earthy Fragrances
Woodsy or Earthy fragrances tend to smell like the woods and forest floor. Cedar, Sandalwood or Pine, with deeper, earthy notes like soil, moss + petrichor. From there they can be blended with anything from a floral, to fruit to citrus + spa fragrances.
Woodsy or Earthy fragrances are generally considered to be unisex in nature + feature in fragrances worn by all.
We interpret Woodsy or Earthy fragrances as cosy, meditative, sexy, steadfast, clear headed, down to earth + cooling depending on what they're mixed with.
Dark and Mysterious type fragrances
Dark fragrances are sometimes called mysterious, Halloween-like, creepy or otherworldly. They're a niche of their very own and seem to shift change on the skin the longer it sits.
Dark fragrances tend to have both resins and woods, perhaps some leather and smoke.
If your favourite Beetlejuice quote is "I myself, am strange and unusual" then you'll probably enjoy a dark and mysterious fragrance.
Herbal type fragrances
Herbal or herbaceous fragrances tend to have culinary notes like mint, lemongrass, rosemary, tarragon, sage, clove etc. From there they can be blended with anything from a floral, to fruit to woody fragrances.
Herbal fragrances are generally considered to be "masculine" but we hate the term and don't believe gender applies to fragrance.
Instead, we see herbal scents as uplifting, energetic, inspiring, down to earth, fresh and cooling depending on what they're mixed with.
Foodie and Gourmand type fragrances
Foodie and gourmand fragrances smell like food, drink, dessert or sweet treat. They often include scents like honey, chocolate, caramel, lollies, fairy floss, nuts or coffee. Whatever the combination of scents, it's usually anchored with a good dose of vanilla.
These scents tend to be comforting, youthful and favoured by anyone with a sweet tooth.
Fruity type fragrances
Fruity fragrances tend to be bold and in your face. They scream "I'm an apple, ain't I grand!" at you. Fruity fragrances can be any kind of fruit but they are typically berry or tropical. Fruity fragrances lean towards being in the Foodie or Gourmand category, especially when they're blended with creamy notes to mimic smoothies or fruity ice-cream.
Fragrances that have fruity notes are typically youthful, fun and somewhat trend-driven.
Australian type fragrances
Australian scents tend to be complex and feature noticeable top, middle and base notes. They often include fresh citrus notes like lemon or bergamot, grounded with woods like sandalwood, tea tree or gum and highlighted with lighter and sweeter bush flowers such as wattle and grevillea.
Australian scents are often worn by nature lovers, active, gym loving people and are considered to be a youthful fragrance. Sophisticated but approachable, friendly and down to earth.
Amber and Musk type fragrances
Amber and musk fragrances are very heady and tend to linger. Generally, they have a sweet, woody or floral opening and spicy notes to anchor the scent together.
Sweet contains more vanilla and musk which is warming and comforting whereas woody is more grounded and tends to open with patchouli or sandalwood.
Floral often features exotic, unusual flower scents not generally found elsewhere, such as carnation, orange flower and gardenia.
These fragrances are very complex and it can take a while for the nose to pick up on the individual scents creating the entire fragrance.
Typically this fragrance category is simultaneously comforting, warming, mature and sophisticated.
Resinous type fragrances
Resinous scents tend to be heady and meditative, similar to incense. They often contain frankincense, myrrh, balsam of Peru, labdanum, or benzoin. Even pine and fir, although they are much "lighter" in their fragrance profile.
Resinous scents tend to be warm, mysterious, sexy, deep and mystical.
Spa and Soft type fragrances
Spa and soft type fragrances are like the indistinguishable but very enjoyable fragrances you often smell in high-end day spas, shampoo and some skincare. They can be more herbal or more floral but what they have in common if their lightness and dryness. They aren't cloying or heavy and most people tend to find spa and soft fragrances enjoyable.
Citrus type fragrances
Citrus fragrances are bright, invigorating and reminiscent of Summer. Lemon, orange, bergamot, mandarin and grapefruit tend to be the main focus of these scents. To help anchor down the fleeting citrus notes that evaporate quickly, they're often mixed with herbals, fruits and even oceanic fragrances to create a layered, fresh scent.
If you enjoy feeling bright, cheery, invigorated, closer to nature and fresh, a Citrus fragrance is for you.