Fragrance Families

Start your perfume search by identifying a single element--or mood--that you're drawn to.

Last year, there were 760 new women's scents, and that's not counting the thousands already lining the display shelves. Where do you start? Narrow your preferences to a single family -- though be warned: The experts don't always agree on categorizations. If there's a perfume you already love, it undoubtedly has variations-on-a-theme siblings, cousins, and in-laws that may draw you in, too.

Excerpts from a fragrance editorial, All in the Family, in Allure Magazine, October 2011 issue.

Fragrance families: Fresh, Oriental, Gourmand, Chypre, and Floral perfumes

Fresh fragrances

These are the lightest, sportiest splashes, designed to smell like lemon slices (the citrus group), fresh herbs and mowed grass (the green group), or the ocean (the marine group).

If you like...

  • Calvin Klein ck one - The citrus-and-green -tea scent that put clean-cut unisex fragrance on the map in the '90s.

Then try...

Oriental fragrances

Heavy, sexy, spicy, and usually wintry -- with a whiff of Middle Eastern souk -- these scents were born to be dabbed on the cleavage.

If you like...

  • Guerlain Shalimar - Contains most of the vampy, genre-defining oriental artillery, including patchouli, sandalwood, and musk.

Then try...

Floral fragrances

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, almost all perfumes were florals. Like real flowers, there's a huge range, and they're prone to intermarrying with other families, which is why you'll hear about "floral greens" and "florientals."

If you like...

  • Fracas de Robert Piguet - This has been a popular fragrance since the 1940s and is rich and heady with tuberose and jasmine.

Then try...

  • Chanel No. 5 - Perfumers might quibble that this is not a true floral, since it incorporates the synthetic compounds known as aldehydes, but this icon is redolent of roses and jasmine.
  • Estee Lauder Beautiful - Dreamy and pure, it contains notes from more than 1,000 flowers, including rose, lily, tuberose, marigold, muguet, and jasmine.
  • Clinique Happy - Pink grapefruit meets orchids and lilies in an effervescent fruity floral.
  • Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl - Fresh and young, with apple blossoms and mint.
  • Dior Miss Dior - The fragrance that, in 1947, launched Christian Dior as a perfume house as well. It is subtle and greenish.
  • Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey - Not as lush as the others, with sharp floral tones.

Gourmand fragrances

Purists might scoff that this newish group of fragrances doesn't deserve a category of its own, but its growing popularity speaks to the sensual connection between smell and taste. They won't make you lick your pulse points, but they have strong hints of chocolate, vanilla, caramel, run, and cotton candy.

If you like...

  • Thierry Mugler Angel - A big fragrance that's frequently called an oriental, with berry, chocolate, and vanilla notes.

Then try...

Chypre fragrances

"Chypre" means Cyprus in French, and it originally referred to the odd mix of scents of the island's vegetation: a bit of citrus, some amber, and a lot of the bitter native moss. People tend to love chypres for their sensual complexity or hate them for their mossy dankness. Newer chypres depart from the mossiness.

If you like...

  • Guerlain Mitsouko - One of the oldest chypres -- it launched in 1919 -- and easily one of the most gorgeous, with lots of peach and rose notes on top of the mossy one.

Then try...

  • Chanel 31 Rue Cambon - An updated chypre that's light, lean, and sheer, with extra patchouli and less moss.
  • Amouage Jubilation 25 - A modern chypre with a bright bolt of citrus that still manages to please traditionalists.
  • Chanel Coco Mademoiselle - Another updated chypre, and wildly popular, although purists note that it does promiscuous leaps into fruity, floral, and oriental territory.

Learn more about the Fragrance Families.

(Van Gelder, Lindsy. "All in the Family." Allure Oct. 2011: 263.)

Learn about all the latest perfumes and home fragrances! Perfume Articles