The ABCs of Perfumery

Systematic odour classification groups for Perfumery

The ABC's of Perfumery is very easy to learn and the most powerful tool to date for describing and classifying smells. It was published in May/June 1999 issue of Perfumer & Flavorist, the foremost journal in the perfumery and flavor industry. The Perfumer's Workbook and the Perfumer's Wizard software are both founded on the concepts of The ABCs of Perfumery system. Although listing and keeping materials with similar odour types together may seem strange at first you will find it makes a lot of sense for organ arrangement, storage and creation.


Profiles | Impact | Odour Life | Functions | PDF

A - Z

Class

Common Description

Key Reference Materials
Click to view examples

A

ALI-FAT-IC

Fatty, Waxy, Soapy, Clean

Aliphatic Aldehydes, Alcohols

B

B-iceBERG
(Cooling)

Cooling, Borneol, Mint, Camphor

Menthol, Camphor, Eucalyptol

C

CITRUS

Sour, Sharp, Citrus peel

Citral, Orange, Lemon, Lime

D

DAIRY

Milky, Cream, Butter, Cheese

Diacetyl, Butyrate, Lactone, Valerate

E

EDIBLE

Vegetable, Nut, Fish, Meat

Thiazoles, Pyrazines, Sulphides

F

FRUIT

Sour, Sweet fruits, Strawberry

Allyl caproate, Verdox

G

GREEN

Cut-grass, Leaves

cis-3-Hexenol, Triplal

H

HERB
(Balancing)

Cool Herbaceous notes

Lavender, Sage, (Terpene based?)

I

IRIS

Orris, Violet

Ionones, Methyl Ionone

J

JASMINE

Fruity, Oily, Narcotic, Jasmin

HCA, Benzyl Acetate

K

KONIFER

Pine, Pineneedle

Terpineol, Bornyl Acetate

L

LINALOOL

Fresh light floral chemical

Linalool, Vertenex, DMBC

M

MUGUET

Lily of the Valley, Green, Fresh

Hydroxy, Lilial, Lyral

N

NARCOTIC

Heavy Sweet Florals, Absolutes

Narcissus, White Florals, Benzoates

O

ORCHID

Aromatic, Deep floral

Salicylates, Frangipani

P

PHENOL

Phenol, Medicinal, Honey

p-Cresol, Ethyl Phenyl Acetate

Q

Queen
of the
ORIENT

Resins, Balsams

Benzoin, Tolu, Terpenes

R

ROSE

Rose Otto, Absolute, Geranium

Citronellol, PEA, Rhodinol

S

SPICE
(Warming)

Hot Culinary, Spice

Clove, Cinnamon, Thyme, (Cyclic?)

T

TAR
& SMOKE

Smoke, Tar, Burnt

Cade, Birch Tar

U

Urine
Faecal
ANIMAL

Animal, Faecal, Leather

Civet, Castoreum, Ambergris

V

VANILLA

Sweet Edible, Vanilla

Vanillin, Coumarin, Heliotropin

W

WOOD

Wood, Oily

Cedar, Sandal, Vetivert, Patchouli

X

X-rated
MUSK

Sexy, Musk, Sensual, Sweet

Musk Ketone, Galaxolide

Y

EARTHY
MOSSY

Yeast, Fungal, Moss, Marine

Oakmoss, Calone

Z

ZOLVENTS

Low Odour Solvents, Solubilisers, Additives

TEC, DPG, IPM, Ethanol, PG, DEP

 

Odour PROFILES / Fingerprints of single materials

Even a single aroma chemical rarely exhibits a single facet in it's odour. For example, most would agree that Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol displays primarily a rose character but many find it has a green note, others comment on it's phenolic or chemical aspects. If relative proportions are allocated to each facet that the student observes, the classification then falls into place quite easily.

(e.g., PEA might be classified as Rg indicating mainly R-Rose (70%) with a secondary G-Green note (30%).

Relative IMPACT - a measure of 'speed of perception'

The expression 'impact' has been used in preference to 'strength'. Relative impact is determined by using a Micropipette to apply a fixed amount of Linalool onto a smelling strip. The test material is added until the odour impact is judged as the same. Linalool Synthetic was chosen as the control reference material as it is readily available, being one of the most abundantly used raw materials in perfumes and flavours and because the quality from the major suppliers does not vary greatly (Givaudan, IFF, etc. Linalool from natural sources is not suitable). In terms of its impact it falls about midway (exponentially) in the range of materials used by the perfumer.

Odour LIFE

Odour life is determined on the smelling strip (thinner chromatography 'paper' gives more consistent results) to the point at which the material becomes weak and uncharacteristic of itself. The results of this type of examination are very dependent on the amount dipped, ambient temperature, humidity, air-flow and testers' differences and experience. Despite this even in poorly controlled conditions one is able to produce a set of comparative values that are worthwhile measures of raw materials relative odour lives.

Function

Every component in a perfume formula (or 'compound') is there to fulfill one or more specific functions within the odour.

Heart Material
It may be there to give the heart smell of the fragrance, a rose smelling material in a Rose perfume OR balsam + vanilla in an Oriental fragrance.

Heart materials therefore cover the whole spectrum of A-Z

Modifiers
To modify or decorate the fragrance, add style, naturalness, freshness, diffusion etc. Decoration for the fragrance like a banana note in jasmin and top-note modifiers such as citrus notes (lemon, limes etc.). If modifiers are overdosed then they can become the subject and therefore the heart.

Blenders
Materials to blend the sometimes act as a bridge between very different heart and modifying notes, to round or smooth off, to harmonize. Blenders usually have impact levels of 100 or less, otherwise they will tend to present themselves as modifying notes.

Fixatives
Materials to give completion and fixing the fragrance giving a 3rd dimension, location, time, depth, substance and background. Fixatives usually have longer odour lives that act as the foundation to support the structure of the Heart, Modifiers and Blenders.


"Please be clear that there are no lists of Heart materials, Modifying materials, Blender materials or Fixative materials, even though some materials or groups of materials may lend themselves more often to one function than another, as used in our Creation Kits. The point is that for a perfume to successfully convey its message each of these functions should be fufilled in the context of the objective of the perfume and the other materials present.
This is rather like a Sentence requiring Subjects & Objects (Heart), Adjectives & Adverbs (Modifiers), Conjunctions (Blenders) and Prepositions (Fixatives) to tell its story meaningfully.
More than one Function could be fulfilled by a single material e.g PEA in a Rose perfume could be utilised as a Heart (rose), a Blender (low impact) and even as a fixative (moderate-long odour life). The context of the other materials used and level at which PEA is used determining its functional positioning.
This is the essence of understanding how your perfume works or fails."

Stephen V. Dowthwaite, Founder, PerfumersWorld


Training the ABCs of Perfumery.pdf - Download