Common fragrance words and their definitions.
Ambergris: a sperm whale secretion. Sperm whales produce it to protect their stomachs from the beaks of the cuttlefish they swallow. Ambergris was traditionally used as a fixative, but in modern perfumery, ambergris is usually synthetic. Ambergris is described as having a sweet, woody odor.
Benzoin: a balsamic resin from the Styrax tree. It has a sweet odor that is sometimes described as smelling like root beer.
Bergamot: the tangy oil expressed from the nearly ripe, non-edible bergamot orange. The oranges are grown mostly in Italy and are also used to flavor Earl Grey tea.
Cassis: black currant, or a liqueur made from black currant.
Citron: a citrus fruit tree, sometimes referred to as a cedrat lemon. It is not a true lemon, although it is related to both lemons and limes.
Coffret: a gift box or set. A coffret might include several fragrances, or a fragrance and matching body products.
Factice: a perfume bottle made for commercial display only — the contents are not actually fragrance.
Flanker: a sequel fragrance that capitalizes on the success of a master brand.
Frankincense: a gum resin from a tree found in Arabia and Eastern Africa.
Galbanum: a gum resin that imparts a green smell.
Gourmand: in perfumery, describes fragrances which evoke food smells, such as chocolate, honey, or fruits.
Heliotrope: flowers of the family heliotropism, which are said to have a strong, sweet vanilla-like fragrance with undertones of almond.
Labdanum: an aromatic gum that originates from the rockrose bush. The sweet woody odor is said to mimic ambergris, and can also be used to impart a leather note.
Myrrh: a gum resin produced from a bush found in Arabia and Eastern Africa.
Neroli: an oil from the blossoms of either the sweet or bitter orange tree. True neroli is created using steam distillation.
Ozonic: used to describe aroma chemicals that are meant to mimic the smell of fresh air. Frequently described as the smell of air right after a thunderstorm.
Pamplemousse: French for grapefruit.
Patchouli: a bushy shrub originally from Malaysia and India. Supposedly the leaves were folded into the cashmere shawls shipped from India to England during Victorian times in order to protect the fabric from moths.
Sandalwood: an oil extracted from the heartwood of the Sandal tree, originally found in India. One of the oldest known perfumery ingredients, the powdered wood is also used to make incense.
Vetiver: a grass with heavy, fibrous roots, which are used to distill an oil with the scent of moist earth with woody undertones.
Ylang Ylang: the Malayan term for Cananga odorata, an Asian evergreen tree. Translates to “flower of flowers”.