A Top Fragrance Expert Explains What 6 Fragrance Buzzwords Actually Mean

Updated 09/21/17

Have you ever wondered what it really means to smell sexy? Fresh? What about classic? If you have, we're right there with you. We get thrown fragrance buzzwords in ads or hear them whenever we get surprised attacked by the fragrance sales associates on the beauty floor of our favorite department stores. But these words are so subjective, sometimes it can be hard to wrap our minds around them—how are we actually supposed to smell when spritzing on a [insert any fragrance buzzword here] perfume? 

"They're abstract," says Celine Roux, vice president of global fragrance development of Jo Malone London. "Brands want to take you into a universe or set a specific mood, so it becomes a little harder to express." Because Jo Malone London is more transparent ("We call our fragrances by the ingredients [we use]," says Roux) than others, we asked her to break down popular fragrance buzzwords and explain what type of notes and smells to expect from them.

Scroll down to see what Celine Roux says about fragrance buzzwords.

Sensual

"When we say a fragrance is sensual, there is a warmth to it," says Roux. The ingredients that are usually included into a scent like this include amber and warm, woody notes. You may also find a bit of spice and vanilla. She says all these notes create a warm base. 

 

Fresh

This centers around citrus and green notes. Roux likens it to cooking. "For example, when you have a dish and you add the peel of an orange, you're going to bring something fresh, or you can play also with [an] herb to bring freshness. If you do a quinoa salad, you add mint, coriander—you know all of these notes are going to bring freshness." 

Green

So what's the difference between a fresh and green scent if a fresh note can sometimes contain green notes? When you think green, think grass. "In general, when the fragrance is green, you can think of cut grass. You know when you just mowed the lawn and you have this very fresh grass, and you have this very green note? [The smell] is almost a bit sharp," Roux says. 

Musky

Musk is an animal-derived scent. For that reason, it is usually not taken naturally to make a fragrance. "It's only a recreation of [the] scent," says Roux. She likens the scent to something that smells like powder. 

Classic

This is something subjective to what is popular in the market at a certain time. "Something like Chanel No.5 is considered a classic, but nowadays I think our generation does not really wear those types of fragrances." According to Roux, she thinks popular scents now include notes that are sweet and fruity-smelling. 

Dry

When you think dry, think of wood. "When you sharpen a pencil … that smell is very dry. When you actually smell [something like] cedar wood, most of the people say, 'Oh, it smells like when you sharpen a pencil. It's the opposite of wet. There is no moist; it's not damp," Roux says. 

Next up, check out what we know so far about the highly anticipated Glossier fragrance

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