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Fragrance Glossary

GLOSSARY
The Definitions

A

Highly concentrated perfume ingredient obtained by the alcohol extraction of the concrete. The concrete is obtained by the solvent extract of the plant material.
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The basic character of a fragrance. Perfume accords are a balanced blend of three or four notes which create a completely new, unified odor impression.
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Denatured ethyl alcohol is added to a fragrance compound to serve as the carrier. It modifies the fragrance intensity and makes application to the skin easier. Concentration of alcohol to perfume oils varies from perfumer to perfumer.
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Aldehydes are an essential class of perfume ingredients that impart a vivid top note to the perfume. Aldehydes were first successfully incorporated into a perfume by Ernest Beaux in 1921 in Chanel No 5.
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Lumps of oxidized fatty compounds, whose precursors were secreted and expelled by the Sperm Whale. Ambergris is commonly referred to as “amber” in perfumery.
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Characterized by bodily aromas or aromas most associated with traditional animal materials such as musk, civet and castoreum. These materials are now banned and have been replaced with musks obtained from plants and civet and castoreum smelling molecules obtained synthetically.
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The medical term describing the loss of the sense of smell. It may be caused by a cold, head injury, nasal disorders, allergies, a virus or perhaps other maladies. People who have lost their sense of smell also lose the ability to detect many pleasurable aspects of food.
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A type of sweat gland which contributes to the sexual and body scent in humans and which influences the odor characteristics of one’s fragrance.
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A term used to describe a sensation which is between smell and taste, such as the aroma of coffee.
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Molecules obtained from natural products or made by synthetic organic chemistry that have an aroma. Most of the synthetic aroma chemicals are nature identical, i.e., identical to the same molecule obtained from a natural product.
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A term coined by The Fragrance Foundation to describe the interrelationship between psychology and the latest in fragrance technology to elicit a variety of specific feelings and emotions.
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The use of volatile plant oils, including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being. The therapeutic use of pure essential oils and herbs in body massage,which is described by proponents as “healing, beautifying and soothing” the body and mind.The history of aromatherapy stretches as far back as 6,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. It wasn’t until the 1920’s, however, when the term was actually coined by a French chemist, R.M. Gattefosse.
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From the ancient Persian word “to smell sweet.” Attar or otto refers to essential oil obtained by distillation and, in particular, that of the Bulgarian rose, an extremely precious perfumery material.
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B

Sticky, resinous materials obtained from trees or shrubs which give a combined sweet-woody odor associated with well-seasoned, nonconiferous woods such as maple.
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The base notes or “fond” (meaning “bottom” in French) are the underlying, most enduring tones. They are responsible for a fragrance’s lasting qualities.
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Describes a perfume odor that has a metallic green quality, without sweetness.
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Harmonious mixture of perfumery ingredients.
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The main fragrance theme – the middle or “heart” of a perfume. Also used to describe a fragrance that is well rounded or full.
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C

A fragrance family or type – a complex of moss mixed with woods, flowers or fruit odors.
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Odors from citrus fruits such as orange, lemon, lime, mandarin and bergamot which give fresh, fruity top notes used especially in eau fraiche, classical and men’s colognes.
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Also called Civet Musk, this is obtained from the odorous sacs of the civets, animals in the family Viverridae, related to the Mongoose.
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A fragrance that has been widely accepted and enjoyed popularity for a minimum of 15 years.
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An odor that is excessively sticky sweet.
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Unlike women’s colognes, it is similar to the concentration of eau de toilette and in some instances perfume.
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A compound is a completed perfume formulation ready to be used in a product. The term “composition” and compound are interchangeable.
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Solid waxy substance obtained by the solvent extraction of plant material, e.g., flowers, bark, leaves, etc. The absolute is obtained by alcohol extraction of the concrete.
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Cone-bearing trees and shrubs.
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A chemical compound with a sweet, distinctive vanilla-like odor with grassy elements. Found naturally in some plants, it may also be produced synthetically. It is used by perfumers as a base note to add warmth and depth.
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D

Refers to a fragrance odor of low volatility with a dimension that is rich and full-bodied.
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The ability of a fragrance to quickly radiate around the wearer and subtly permeate the environment.
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A common technique for obtaining aromatic compounds from plants, such as orange blossoms and roses. The raw material is heated and the fragrant compounds are recollected through condensation of the distilled vapour.
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A sensation produced by certain perfume ingredients which give a woody, masculine effect.
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The final phase of a fragrance – the character which appears several hours after application. Perfumers evaluate the base notes and the tenacity of the fragrance during this stage.
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E

The provocative odor of freshly turned earth, musty and rooty.
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Contains the lowest concentration of 2-4% base. It’s light, refreshing and can be applied often.
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Contains 8-15% base. This can be applied more liberally than perfume.
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Contains 4-8% base. This form is light yet relatively lasting.
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In this process, aroma materials are absorbed into wax and then the odorous oil is extracted with ethyl alcohol. Extraction by enfleurage was commonly used when distillation was not possible because some fragrant compounds denature through high heat.
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The use of a scent to enhance the comfort, enjoyment and overall perception of indoor spaces.
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The “essence” of plants obtained by distillation of the plant material or its concrete. Plant materials include flowers, grass, stems, seeds, leaves, roots, bark, fruits, tree moss and tree secretions.
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Powerful spicy odour of clove found in oils of clove and cinnamon leaf. Also found in roses, carnations, hyacinths and violets.
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Fleeting or quickly vanishing fragrance.
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The process of changing from a liquid to a vapor.
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Raw material is squeezed or compressed and the oils are collected. Of all raw materials, only the fragrant oils from the peels of fruits in the citrus family are extracted in this manner.
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Extraction with volatile solvents is the most effective and commonly used method to obtain essences.
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Concentrated perfume or flower products obtained through the process of extraction using volatile solvents.
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F

Oversize perfume or cologne bottles filled with a tinted liquid for display purposes.
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The property of a fragrance which prolongs the continuity and life of the odor. A fixative acts by improving, fortifying or transporting the vapors of other perfume materials.
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A word to describe beautifully designed perfume bottles sometimes especially designed for portability.
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Lacking in lift, diffusion and distinction.
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Fragrance family or type; either characteristic of a specific flower or a blend of several flower notes.
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Possessing a fragrance resembling a flower. Term often used to describe certain aromatic chemicals such as heliotropin, hedione, rhodinol and anistic aldehyde.
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Aromatic, woodsy – mossy notes.
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The French word for “fern.” Fougère fragrances depend on aromatic chemicals to produce the fern-like notes that combine well with lavender, citrus and coumarin in fragrances for men.
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Fragrances that are constructed in a similar manner and have key ingredient combinations in common are said to be in the same fragrance family.
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To apply various forms of the same fragrance to make it last longer.
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A collection of fragrances that a person owns to meet different moods, occasions, and even times of day.
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An invigorating, outdoor or nature-inspired type fragrance with green, citrus notes.
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The impression of full, ripe, edible fruit odors (excluding citrus) within the fragrance theme.
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Well-rounded fragrance possessing depth and richness.
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Odors suggestive of molds, mushrooms and fungi; important note in muguet fragrances as well as other florals.
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G

A food-like quality in a fragrance. Edible.
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Fragrance family or type whose odor is reminiscent of fresh-cut grass, leaves or a warm, moist forest. Green notes add lift and vigor to a fragrance composition.
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The resinous substances exuded from the bark, twigs or leaves of trees or shrubs.
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H

Order, accord and unity in fragrance.
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A crude, unbalanced, rough pungent odor.
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Exhilarating, sparkling, stimulating.
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An odor which can be forceful, intense, often sweet and balsamic.
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A fragrance note that is grassy-green, spicy and somewhat therapeutic, e.g., thyme, chamomile.
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A very sweet, heavy, syrupy, fragrance note; is tenacious.
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The construction in which the fragrance evolves as it warms and develops on the skin. The top, middle and bottom notes are separate, and as they merge, the true scent is revealed.
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A beautiful lily aromatic, this synthetic is widely used in perfumery, particularly as the basis of all fragrances in which lily is incorporated.
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I

The burning of fragrant gums or resins in a solid or powder form. It gives off a lingering, scented smoke and is the original form in which fragrance was used.
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A solution obtained by prolonged contact with hot alcohol.
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One of the most valued synthetic perfume ingredients. They have a fresh, violet aroma and were first introduced into perfumery in 1936 in Violettes de Toulouse.
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Odour of clove weaker than that of eugenol. Constituent of nutmeg oil and ylang ylang oil.
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Aroma chemicals that are primarily isolated from natural products. They are highly refined natural substances.
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L

The ability of a fragrance to retain its character over a given period of time.
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One of the many variations of the green note.
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Fragrance type and odor resembling the sweet, pungent smokiness characteristic of the ingredients used in the tanning process of leathers.
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To add life to a fragrance blend is to give it lift and some brilliancy; lift can also refer to diffusiveness of a given blend. A perfume having lift has a brilliant top note with wide diffusiveness.
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A generally non-sweet, non-cloying fragrance where the fresh note is predominant. Often formulated as an eau fraiche or deodorant cologne for all-over body wear in warm climates or for sports.
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M

Is a method used to process flowers by steeping them in hot fats. The steeping process produces pomades. These are washed in alcohol for purification, and from this scented mixture, the extract of floral oil is obtained.
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A fragrance that gives a balanced, smooth and rich impression.
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A method of incorporating thin-walled, microscopic capsules containing fragrance oils into a solid substance (fragrance advertising inserts, capsules, blotters, paper, etc.).
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The middle or “heart” notes make up a main blend of a fragrance that classifies the fragrance family or accord. It usually takes from ten to twenty minutes for the middle notes to fully develop on the skin.
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In perfumery, the modern era began at the beginning of the 20th century when synthetic aroma chemicals such as aldehydes were first used. A modern fragrance is a harmonious creation of the perfumer based on new notes or harmonies often unknown in nature.
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The odor suggestive of the aromatic lichens, and mosses, primarily oak moss and tree moss; reminiscent of forest depths.
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Strips of odorless white blotting paper, which the perfumer uses to evaluate a scent as it develops.
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The French term for Lily of the Valley. One of the three most used florals in perfumery.
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Originally derived from the musk sacs from the Asian musk deer, it has now been replaced by the use of synthetic musks which usually are called “white musk”.
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N

Neroli essential oil is extracted from the fragrant blossoms of the bitter orange tree and has a beautiful aroma that appeals to men and women alike. In common with rose and jasmine, neroli oil is almost a complete fragrance in itself and forms the heart of one of the worlds most enduring perfumes, ‘Eau de Cologne’.
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Creators of fragrance.
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Borrowed from the language of music to indicate an olfactory impression of a single smell, or to indicate the three parts of a perfume – top note, middle note, base note.
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O

A resinous substance exuded from lichen, usually found around oak trees.
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Odor fatigue results from overlong exposure to an odor, or from smelling too many fragrances at one time. The nose can no longer discern any particular smell.
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The ability of a perfumer to hold, and bring to recall, hundreds of single perfume odors and odor blends.
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Airborne chemicals emanating from water, objects, one’s body, flowers or fragrance that stimulate the olfactory system. The characteristic smell of something.
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Emitting an odor.
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Relating to the sense of smell.
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Relating to, or concerned with, the sense of smell.
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The first region of the brain to receive sensory inputs from the olfactory epithelium. The olfactory bulb presents the initial input and communicates via multiple pathways with numerous other regions of the brain, e.g. limbic system, hypothalamus and cortex.
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Layer of sensory cells in the upper-rear portion of the nose. Each side of the nose contains roughly 15 million sensory cells in the epithelium.
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Fragrance family or type denoting heavy, full bodied and tenacious perfumes. Amber notes are dominant in this category.
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P

Most highly concentrated form of fragrance, the strongest and the most lasting. Perfume may contain hundreds of ingredients within a single formulation.
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Refers to a unit of semi-circular stepped shelving containing hundreds of bottles of raw materials. Arrangement is in a way to assist the perfumer in the creation of perfume compositions.
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The range of perfume ingredients from which a perfumer selects to use in the formulation of a perfume. There are 3400 raw materials available to perfumers – 400 naturals and 3000 synthetics.
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Chemical substance secreted by animals to produce a response by other members of the same species.
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Combination of purified fats and flower oils produced by the enfleurage and maceration processes. Pomades are found in the form of an oily and sticky solid.
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Sweet, dry, somewhat musky odor.
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A perfume or perfumed product profile is a description of the fragrance prepared by a marketer, which is given to a perfumer for inspiration and formulation. The profile contains all pertinent details in relation to marketing the new fragrance plan, type, name, package, color/theme, mood, impression, cost parameters, etc.
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R

Located in the olfactory epithelium, each cell has microscopic hairs (cilia) extending into the mucus. Odoriferous substances are thought to bind chemically to specific sites on these cilia. This chemical event is translated into an electrical message that is transmitted along the olfactory nerves to the olfactory bulb.
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Extracts of gums, balsams, resins or roots (orris), which consist in whole or in part of resinous materials. They are generally used as fixatives in perfume compositions.
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Stimulation of the olfactory receptor cells by chemicals that originate in our mouth (most often during eating) and travel to the olfactory epithelium via the nasopharynx during exhalation.
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Root-like stems with nodes, which grow under or along the ground. Certain perfume raw materials come from rhizomes, e.g., Orris absolute and ginger oil.
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Perfume ingredients, often from natural origins, added to fragrance compositions to enrich, modify or soften any harsh qualities.
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S

The ethereal mark of a fragrance that makes a distinct impression on those who encounter it. Some perfumers’ works contain a singular signature, which is as individual as a fingerprint.
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The ability of certain perfumery ingredients to work together to produce an effect greater than the ingredients could achieve independently.
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Perfume ingredients that are produced by synthetic organic chemistry rather than bio-synthetically by a plant. In most cases the synthetic ingredients used in perfumery are nature identical, i.e., identical to the same molecule made by the plant.
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Volatile fluids used to extract water insoluble, odorous substances from plant material. The solvent extract of a plant material is called a concrete.
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Natural oils, natural isolates or synthetics, either alone or in combination, which are used as building blocks for fragrance compounds. They are less complex than a finished fragrance compound. They may be an end-product of special processing treatments or unique raw materials. A single company under a trade name usually supplies them.
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Piquant or pungent notes such as clove oil, cinnamon; characteristic of notes of carnation, ginger, lavender or the chemical spicy notes of eugenol or isoeugenol.
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A reasonable length of time for a fragrance to remain stable before the product is affected by certain raw materials, heat, light and air.
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The relative intensity of a fragrance impression.
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Can be used to describe a fragrance that has richness and ambrosial characteristics associated with sweet taste.
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T

The ability of a perfume to last, or a fragrance note to retain its characteristic odor.
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When a fragrance complex has not been given enough “floralcy” or warmth to soften the impact of the more aggressive and volatile components; lacking in body and depth.
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Fragrant materials produced by directly soaking and infusing raw materials in room temperature or warm alcohol.
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Dominant note or theme of a fragrance.
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The first impression of a fragrance when sniffed or applied to the skin; usually the most volatile ingredients in a perfume.
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U

One of the five basic tastes together with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Popularly referred to as savoriness.
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The subtle characteristics of the fragrance background.
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V

A soft, smooth, mellow fragrance without harsh chemical notes.
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The construction in which no transition from top to base notes is discernible. The fragrance has been purposely created so that the scent remains the same from the first note to the last.
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The property of being freely diffused in the atmosphere; easily vaporized at a low temperature.
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W

An odor which is linked to the aroma of freshly cut, dry wood or fibrous root such as sandalwood or vetiver.
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