So What is the Fragrance Wheel?
The fragrance wheel is just that. A wheel that represents the various scent families and subfamilies. Scents are grouped according to their differences and similarities to show how they are related. It’s pretty simple really, olfactory groups that are close to each other share similar characteristics, while those further apart are less related. This is why it is often likely that you will like fragrances that belong to one or two families. After all, the sense of smell is emotional! Although there have been versions of the fragrance wheel since 1949, the modern fragrance wheel was created in 1992 by the leading perfume expert Michael Edwards.
Families and Subfamilies of the Fragrance Wheel
Floral, Oriental, Woody, and Fresh make up the four main families of fragrances. Each of those subcategories has its own description; for example, ‘Floral Oriental,’ ‘Fresh Citrus’. Their position on the wheel determines which family a fragrance belongs to. Each family comprises a prominent scent, while the subfamilies are blended variants of these fragrances.
Most commonly used in women’s fragrances, floral scents smell like fresh flowers or might have a powdery note.
Think herbs and spices or dry, resin notes. This fragrance family consists of rich exotic scents.
Sandalwood and patchouli are incense-like scents that combine with drier notes like cedar to create a sweet, rich perfume. This is what woody scents are all about.
This scent family embraces clean bright scents. Citrusy, herbal, and oceanic scents are what the fresh fragrance family is all about.
Subfamilies fall at the heart of fragrance classification. Each subfamily has a handful of main fragrance ‘notes.’ For instance, under the Oriental family comes the ‘Woody Oriental’ subfamily, which usually contains woody notes like sandalwood and cedarwood paired with warm and spicy notes like vanilla and cardamom. Subfamilies represent the absolute variety of scent combinations, which make perfumery complex and beautiful!