A Beginner’s Guide to the Perfume World.

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“OMG yes!  If you do a newbie blog here is what newbies like to know (read it on Wikipedia but have heard about it!).  We do not know top, middle, basenotes.  We do not know what sillage  or “close to the skin” is.  Another word “cloying”.  What is Indie?  What is a “niche”, what is a “house”.  Etailers vs Retailers, EDT  EDP differentials and the whole categories “ambers” (amber send what they are or smell like – familiar run of the mill perfumes for examples would help too)” -K.L.

Perfume 101

(Note: In this article I will use the word perfume alot, it is interchangable with the masculine word for perfume, Cologne. Same thing, although Cologne is also a word used to describe a composition or concentration of of fragrance.)

Note structure

Image Borrowed from Fragrantica.
Image Borrowed from Fragrantica.

Imagine a perfume like a pyramid. At the top we have…

Top notes. Commonly stuff like, lemon, like, citrus, orange, mandarin, sea notes, watery, light, some musk, anything light on your nose is generally a top note. Top notes evaporate faster because of their smaller molecular structure the don’t last as long. Say thirty minutes, maybe an hour, but some dope perfumes like to play with you and do it for only five minutes.

Middle notes or heart notes. This is the essence of a perfumes composition After the top notes evaporate. Commonly, rose, woods, peppers, incense; labdanum,  benzoin, ect, smokes BBQ to smooth sexy smoke, mosses, other synthetics, floral notes of all types of flowers, gourmand which is sweet, foody notes, coffee, Cinnamon, mineral notes, donuts, fruits, whatever, you understand where this is going. If you can imagine it, it’s out there. As appear heart note.

Basenotes. Like the now partially defunct basenotes.com may she rip are the very longest lasting notes at the bottom of the pyramid. This is what holds everything and anchors the perfume composition to your skin. The evaporate slower. Bigger heavier molecular structure. Larger scent molecule. Commonly stuff like oud, which I love, sandalwoods, dark heavy chocolates, honeys, musk, animalics that can be filthy dirty sexual to dog pee that for some reason smells good in a perfume, to oh you get the picture. Lol.

Full List of almost every note courtesy of Fragrantica.

We also use weird words like:

Sillage is how far a fragrance projects and how thick it is in the air around you. How far away you can smell it. Heavy notes often project heavily, but can also stay close to the skin. Meaning most of us put our noses to our forearms repeatedly to check we can still smell it when a perfume becomes a skin scent. I’m still not sure how to pronounce this either. So I’ve included a link below.

Edit. And why this community is awesome.

From Portia Turbo Gear

“Hey Aldous,
Sillage means wake in French. Like the water disturbed by a boat going through it. Speed boats make a huge wake sometimes, like perfume does. So when you are moving, sillage is your fragrant wake or how much you can smell you after you’ve walked past.
Projection means how far the scent can be smelled from your body and how quickly it will fill the space around you.

I hope this helps.

Cloying is how noxious a perfume to your nose, when it’s too sweet and have like syrupy. Cloying.

The Drydown of a perfume is how a scent changes as the notes evaporate off one’s skin. Top notes evaporate revealing middle heart notes and middle notes evaporate leaving basenotes.

Anosmic, Anosmia is when the scent receptors in your nose become blocked by scent molecules. It is the temporary loss of the ability to smell a perfume. When large molecules stick in those receptors you become anosmic. Note: Sometimes you can wear a perfume and not smell it when everyone else can. This happens a great deal actually.

Longevity refers to how long a scent last.

Homme means a man’s perfume or scent.

Eau or L’Eau is a light version of a scent.

Soir is evening. (Thanks)

Cuir is leather.

Vetiver is a white smelling earthy mineralic rooty note that can have many forms and variations from dark and wet to dry and smokey.

Oud is a delicious woody scent. Dark, sumptious and majestic. Primarily a middle eastern scent and very expensive in it’s natural form it become popular with the recent rise of synthetic oud notes.

Guerlinade is the famous base for many of the classic Guerlain’s. Andy Tauer also has a Tauerade to his scents.

Decants and Splits are small vials of perfume split off from a larger bottle of perfume. A lot like a Split but Decant is where an individual sells an already purchased bottle of perfume to help people try scents at an affordable price point, while a split is an unpurchased bottle that people sign up on a list for to split, usually hosted by a well respected individual within the perfume community.



House means the brand of perfume. Bath and body works is not considered a house though.

And then we have the niche versus designer debate. Niche are the nicer fragrance houses, among which there are approximately one new one every second of every day. Designers are all the perfumes you can buy at Macy’s, Nordstroms, Target, everywhere. Niche are not generally not supported by a larger parent company, however there are exceptions. Estee Lauder has recently purchased a couple of the larger and more well known Niche brands. (Frederic Malle and Le Labo) Designers are always supported by a parent company. Perfumers can also work for both Niche and Designer interchangeably as they are commissioned to create a scent. There are designer fragrances that smell better than niche, and niche that smell better than designer. At the end of the day it’s up to personal taste, although niche are generally softer on your nose and cause less headaches.

Chanel, Dior, Guerlain, Yves Saint Laurent are some of the best designers.

Notable most is Guerlain. The oldest perfume house in the world.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.com
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.com

Then we have Indie Perfumer’s. Self done, small perfuming and perfumers. Perfumers new to niche are generally considered Indie.

Indiescent is a great place to find Indie Perfumes

A list of Indie Perfumers from the Independent Perfumers Guild Website


1000 Flowers


The Alchemist’s Heart

Arabesque Aromas

Black Baccara

Dabney Rose

DSH Perfumes

Ebullience Perfume

Essentially Me

Exotica Perfumery


Flossie Fern

For Strange Women

Herbal Alchemy

JoAnne Bassett


Lulu Beauty


Marble & Milkweed

The Morbid The Merrier


Noir Perfumes

Phoenix Botanicals

Plume Perfume

Rebel & Mercury

Sonoma Scent Studio

Sweet Anthem

Vireo Perfumes

Wiggle Perfumes

A Wing and a Prayer

Wylde Ivy

Notable IMHO are Dawn Spencer Hurwitz (DSH Perfumes), Joanne Bassett, Terri Bozo, Mandy Aftel (Aftelier) and Josh Meyer (Imaginary Authors- although not sure if niche or not. Lines blur.)

Image borrowed from Kafkaesque.com
Image borrowed from Kafkaesque.com

Niche are what you wear when you’ve tried almost every good designer and don’t know what else to do. They are the most expensive hobby one can have. They exist within a rabbit hole and include every conceivable style of scent one could imagine. From anti perfume, to avant garde Minimal scents, to organic, niche fill specific niches or scent.

Notable houses are Guerlain, Creed, Heeley, Amouage, Byredo, Bond #9, Tauer, Maison Francis Kurkdjin and many others.

Full List of Every Brand Almost courtesy of Fragrantica.



(EDC, EDT, EDP, EXTRAIT, Pure Parfum, Parfum)

Eau de Cologne means a light formulation of a scent. Least amount of perfuming oils. (2%-5%)

Eau de toilette (EDT) (5%-20%) is right above that, stronger would be an Eau de Parfum (EDP) (10%-30%)  which can be the same specific scent as an EDC or EDT but with an different concentration of oils and compote on of notes and note structure. For instance Jicky has EDT, EDP, and Extrait Formulas that are distinctly different. ( I enjoy the EDT most.)

Extrait (Pure Parfum, Parfum) (20%-50%) is the strongest concentration besides oils generally. The highest ratio or perfume to perfumers alcohol. Usually they are more complex and sit closer to the skin because of less alcohol. Alcohol helps evaporate the scent and project it. Contributes to sillage.

Attars are oils. General with their own perfuming style apart from the western style. Very strong.

Fragrance Groups.

(Links via Fragrantica.com a beautiful lexicon of everything perfume related.)

Aromatic Aquatic

Aromatic Fougere

Aromatic Fruity

Aromatic Green

Aromatic Spicy

Chypre Floral

Chypre Fruity

Citrus Aromatic

Citrus Gourmand

Floral Aldehyde

Floral Aquatic

Floral Fruity

Floral Fruity Gourmand

Floral Green

Floral Woody Musk


Oriental Floral

Oriental Fougere

Oriental Spicy

Oriental Vanilla

Oriental Woody

Woody Aquatic

Woody Aromatic

Woody Chypre

Woody Floral Musk

Woody Spicy


Here is a wonderful link to help with Pronunciation of these crazy fragrance words and names.



We also use alot of acronyms because some perfume names can be really long, and we are lazy. (List compiled by Andrew Nguyen a fellow fragrance lover, thank you.)

AdG:  Acqua di Gio, by Giorgio Armani

AdP:  Acqua di Parma

AdV: Aedes de Venustas

APLS: Absolue Pour Le Soir, by Francis Kurkdjian

APOM: A Part of Me, by Francis Kurkdjian

BNIB:  Brand New In Box; new perfume, box is unopened

BPAL: Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

CdG: Comme des Garçons

CdR: Cuir de Russie, by Chanel usually.  May also be applied to Creed but usually Chanel.

CF: Carnal Flower, by Frederic Malle

DHI: Dior Homme Intense

ECC: Égoïste Cologne Concentrée, by Chanel

EDC: Eau de Cologne – a perfumed liquid containing a fragrant oils lower in concentration than in eau de toilette

EDP: Eau de Parfum – a perfumed liquid containing a percentage of fragrant oils that is lower than that in perfume but greater than that in eau de toilette; “perfume water” literally in French

EDT: Eau de Toilette – a perfumed liquid containing a lower percentage of fragrant oils than is contained in ordinary perfume or eau de parfum

EXTRAIT: extracts, or handkerchief perfumes, containing about 10–25 percent perfume concentrates

FB or FB WORTHY:  Full Bottle or Full Bottle Worthy

GPH: Gucci Pour Homme I and II

HdP: Histoires de Parfums

HTF: Hard To Find

IFRA: International Fragrance Association – an international regulatory association that ensures standards for fragrance manufacturing are followed

JCE: Jean-Claude Ellena; a perfumer known particularly for formulating many Hermes fragrances among others

JHAG: Juliette Has A Gun

LDDM:  L’air du Desert Marocain, by Andy Tauer

LIDG: Guerlain L’Instant de Guerlain

LIDGE: Guerlain L’Instant de Guerlain Eau Extreme

LR: Lipstick Rose, by Frederic Malle

MFK: Maison Francis Kurkdjian

MiN: MiN New York, a specialty perfume store

MiP: Midnight In Paris, by Van Cleef & Arpels

MR: Musc Ravageur, by Frederic Malle

NIB: New perfume in it’s original box, may be opened, but untried.

PDT: Parfum de Toilette; a less common term that is generally analogous to Eau de Parfum

PHI: Phi Une Rose de Kandahar, by Tauer Perfumes

POAL: Portrait Of A Lady, by Frederic Malle

RAOK:  Random Act of Kindness; a giveaway drawing or simple giveaway.

SA: Sales Associate

SDV: Spiritueuse Double Vanille (Guerlain)

SL: Serge Lutens

SMN: Santa Maria Novella

SOTD: Scent of the Day

SOTE: Scent of the Evening

SOTN: Scent of the Night

STC: Surrender To Chance – one of several online companies that sells samples of perfume

TDC: The Different Company

TDH: Terre d’Hermes

TF: Tom Ford

TPC: The Perfumed Court – one of several online companies

UR: Une Rose, by Frederic Malle

VCA or VC&A: Van Cleef & Arpels

Facebook Groups

My post in Facebook Fragrance Friends Group about this article.
My post in Facebook Fragrance Friends Group about this article.

A huge collection of fragrance fanatics and groups exist on Facebook. This is where for a large part the perfume community exist.

A list of groups although this is incomplete.

Facebook Fragrance Friends

Fragrance Swap

Fragoholics Worldwide

Fragrance Guru Nation

My Mickers Fragrance Community

Bond Friends

Raiders of the Lost Scent

Fragrance Websites (That you need to know.)

Encyclopedic and forums:

(Note: When searching for reviews remember that some people’s noses are different than yours. Some fragrances that get bad reviews are great. It’s best to keep an open mind and listen to your own nose. Hands on Experience is very important.)


(Huge online community and nifty features like search by note, virtual fragrance wardrobe, and the forums make this my favorite go to site when searching for perfume info quickly.)


(A website that some people prefer to Fragrantica.com)


(A huge forum of fragrance knowledge. This website taught me so much in the beginning of my journey. I highly recommend.)



(For full descriptions please go to this website with a list of 50 Blogs. I added on a few more that they missed however)

Fragrance Daily

Natural Perfumes by Joanne Bassett

The Scented Salamander

Scentsory Meltdown

Victor Wong’s Sillyage

Scent Epiphany

Odiferess Blog



The Perfume Magpie

The Aromaconnection Blog

The Goodsmellas Blog out of NY

The Perfume Chronicles

Jessa’s Perfume Blog

The Black Narcissus

Monsieur Guerlain

Scent Hive

Scent Notes

1,000 Fragrances

Now Smell This

Perfume Shrine

Perfume.com Magazine

Marcus McCoy’s House of Orpheus Blog

Scent Trunk

Kafkaesque Blog

Australian Perfume Junkies



Sugar and Spite

Muza Perfumista

Natural Perfumery ( Russian)

Perfumerie Nasreen

Fragrantica Articles by John Biebel

Fanciful Fantabulous

The Candy Perfume Boy

Sorcery of Scent

Katie Puckrick Smells

Being Led by the Nose


I Smell Therefore I Am

Mossy Loomings

Perfume Posse

Perfume Smellin Things


Bonker’s About Perfume

Bloody Frida


The Vintage Perfume Vault

Yesterday’s Perfume

Anya’s Garden Natural Perfume

Blogdorf Goodman


A Natural Perfumers Journal White Witch


Frag Name of the Day

Nathan Branch

Chicken Freak’s Obsession

The Non Blonde

Bois de Jasmin

Victoria’s Own

Beauty Café

The Beauty Alchemist

Obsession Isn’t Just a Perfume

Beauty Addict

Notes From the Ledge

Makeup and Beauty Blog

Beauty Blitz

Tauer Perfumes



Perfume Journal

+ Q Perfume Blog

Learning to Make Perfume


Youtube Reviewers

Natky's Youtube Channel
Natky’s Youtube Channel

If you don’t like reading and youtube is your thing then there are some great people out there who are very dedicated to the Fragrance Community. These wonderful people can also be found in many of the Facebook Fragrance Groups.

(Note: This is not a complete list, just the ones I can remember.)

Carlos J Powell aka THE Brooklyn Fragrance Lover

Fragrance Bros

Katie Puckrik

Natasa C.

(Personal Favorite.)

The Fragoholic

Street Scents

My Mickers

The Goodsmellas





Le Grand Duc!

Marc’s Channel

Cody’s Channel (DracDoc)

Wearing Perfume


There are many places one can apply perfume and it’s generally a matter of taste. No one way is specifically right. I apply mine to the back of my wrist as it’s easier to smell (Haha). I find that a perfumes reaction to skin chemistry rather than clothing allows the perfume to drydown and show more of its facets, however if there is a problem with longevity one can apply to clothes or hair and it will stay forever. Also, never rub perfume as it destroys the composition of the scent molecules.

Wearing Perfume by Season.

Generally lighter scents are best in the heat, and heavy scents are better in the cold. It has to do with the projection or sillage I believe. However wear whatever you want, whenever you want.

Buying Perfume

There are many ways to go about trying all of these perfumes. The cheapest way to try perfumes are Decants and Splits which you can find on many facebook groups most notably Fragrance Swap amongst others. You will find great, amazing people who enjoy this hobby very much. I highly suggest decants as a way to prudently find what full bottles you want to buy. People also swap partial bottles a lot on facebook, that is another route to take.


The Crystal Flacon

(Great website to track down decants. Note: Many of these people are in the Facebook Groups.)

For full bottles the following websites are ones that I have used and trust.

(There are many more, GOOGLE)

For Niche/Indie

Essenza Nobile

(also has samples @ 2ml)

That’s about all that I could think of at the moment. I really hope this helps explain a little bit more about the world of perfume. There’s so much to learn. Goodluck!

Sincerely, your friend, Aldous.

Find out more about me and why I write on my website.


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