An introduction to the scent wheel

Published August 9, 2020

When it comes to perfumes, tastes are as personal and diverse as they can get. And that’s wonderful! Why? We are truly elated by the thought of our sense of smell being deeply emotional – the same scent will never have the same meaning and memory connotation for two people. What’s more, the same perfume will smell different on each person wearing it!

The beauty of the perfume game is that sometimes it’s not love at the first sniff. Sometimes you need a few dates before settling in. Although the scents you’re most likely to obsess about belong to just one or two fragrance families. Experimenting with new scents is a thrill, but what about if you could nail down your scent preferences just a little more?

Read below our guide on how to figure to become a pro when it comes to choosing scents.

The scent wheel is simply a wheel illustrating the relationship between olfactory groups based on their similarity or differences.

Different versions of this useful categorisation have been around, but the modern fragrance wheel that we use today was created by perfume expert Michael Edwards:

“I became intrigued by the problem people have in finding a fragrance that will suit them and the lack of advice. Fragrance advisors tend to push the fragrances they personally like. It’s quite natural. Our sense of smell is emotional, not logical. We are confident about the fragrances we like. That’s why we talk about them and tend to push them. Problem is, what I like will probably not be what you like. And so finding a new fragrance so often ended up being a frustrating experience. That was what prompted the idea of a fragrance guide.” – Michael Edwards

Let’s start with the four standard note families: Floral, Oriental, Woody and Fresh. These four are then divided into subgroups which describe the scent more in detail. For example: “Woody Oriental” or “Soft Floral”. Which category a scent falls into depends on the notes that the fragrance contains. So “Floral Oriental” with notes of incense fall into “Soft Oriental” and so on. The term Oriental has come under fire recently (rightly so) and the perfume world is trying to find a new name for the family.

Still following?

We know that at first it seems like visiting an ice cream store with a million flavors – hard to pronounce and even harder to choose from – but don’t feel overwhelmed. We’ve got you covered.

All the sub families together with the most common notes:

  • Floral – Fresh-cut flowers
  • Soft Floral – Aldehydes and powdery notes
  • Floral Oriental – Orange blossom and sweet spices
  • Soft Oriental- Incense and amber
  • Oriental – Oriental resins
  • Woody Oriental – Sandalwood and patchouli
  • Woody – Aromatic woods and vetiver
  • Mossy Woods – Oakmoss and amber
  • Dry Woods – Dry woods and leather
  • Aromatic – Lavender and aromatic herbs
  • Citrus – Bergamot and other citrus oils
  • Water – Marine and aquatic notes
  • Green – Galbanum and green notes
  • Fruity – Berries and non-citrus fruits 

If you are as intrigued by scent and perfume as we are, we hope that you will be able to use your newly found knowledge to categorise your own scent wardrobe. Hopefully you will also be better at picking out perfumes in the future!

Discover scents with different notes