Scent Jargon. From A – F


From Accords to Fougere. We break it down for you.

If you’ve read our blog post ‘The Language of Scent‘ you’ll already be a bit familiar with how we use our words in perfumery, it can be a complex one. Without a distinct language of its own to describe it with, we often end up borrowing words from different descriptive vocabularies. Hence why some scents are described with words you might not normally associate with smell, such as soft, or sweet, spiky or strong. But how about the specific smell words? At Experimental Perfume Club we’re always trying to make fragrance easier to understand, so we’ve deciphered some of the most common scent jargon for you to familiarise yourself with.

A – C


Accords are simply a blend of three or four ingredients that create a new odour impression. You can have more general accords, say a Floral accord or Woody accord, or you can have accords created to mimic specific smells without containing that particular ingredient, like a rose accord that contains no rose, only molecules that make up the smell of rose.


Absolute is a type of natural extract. While everybody is familiar with essential oil, absolute is a word that almost no one would have heard of. Essential Oil refers to the natural extract of an ingredient by distillation (see Distillation). However, some ingredients do not yield well via distillation and some need to be processed via solvent extraction. This is the case of many flowers and solid resins (jasmine absolute, iris absolute, labdanum absolute).

Base Notes

The base notes in a fragrance are responsible for a scents longevity, or its lasting qualities. They are better smelt when a fragrance has dried down a little, an hour or so after application and can stay on the skin or fabric for hours and up to days!


The most commonly misunderstood of the fragrance families, chypre (pronounced ‘sheep-ra’) comes from the French word for Cyprus. They are characterised by the use of oakmoss, bergamot, patchouli and labdanum, and have a stronger and more leathery signature than the woody family. The first Chypre perfume was released in 1917 by François Coty, and, today, it remains a popular family of scent although the first Chypre fragrances were quite different to more modern Chypre.

D – F


The key technique used to acquire aroma compounds from plants and flowers. Once botanical materials are heated, their essential oils evaporate with the steam. The compounds are then collected through the condensation of the distilled vapour. It is commonly used for extracting from roses, orange blossom, geranium and many other ingredients.


Enfleurage is a traditional method of extracting oils from flowers with the use of fat. Today no longer used and long replaced by other extraction processes. Tiny jasmine or tuberose blooms would be pressed into glass sheets coated with fat, for days, to capture their scent. The oils are then captured by dissolving the fat in alcoholic solvent. Enfleurage used to be the main extraction method when distillation wasn’t possible.


Essentially the recipe for a perfume, formulas must be incredibly precise as a mere drop too much of one ingredient can change the whole composition of a fragrance. Anyone who has attended one of our workshops will know how important it is to write everything down.


Meaning ‘fern’ in French, Fougère fragrances are most commonly male scents. Contrary to what one may think, it is not inspired by the smell of fern but got its name from the first fragrance who opened the Fougere family, “Fougere Royale by Houbigant”. They usually smell aromatic and fresh – fern-like – and traditionally use a combination of lavender, geranium, citruses, vetiver, oakmoss and coumarin within the blend.