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The World of Perfumes: A Guide for New Noses

A gentleman’s outfit is not complete without perfume. However, not every guy is well-versed in seeking out scents, and the terms can be confusing for the uninitiated. Perfumery jargon, however, is crucial when you’re buying a bottle. It helps you identify the best perfume for an occasion or the price.

If you want to elevate your everyday wardrobe with a dab of perfume but don’t know where to start, here’s the world of fragrances, explained.


Let’s begin by defining what a “perfume” is. The first thing you need to know is that fragrances are divided into different categories based on the concentration of perfume oil. When you buy fragrances, you’re choosing from eau de parfum, eau de toilette, eau de cologne, and eau fraiche.

Eau Fraiche

Eau Fraiche means fresh water, and as its name implies, it provides a subtle fragrance that doesn’t last long. Eau Fraiche contains 1% to 2% of perfume oil, the lowest concentration among all types of fragrances. It only lasts up to 2 hours.

Don’t dismiss it just yet. Eau Fraiche is a lighter choice compared to its stronger sisters and is a great way to freshen up. More importantly, it’s the most affordable.

Eau de Cologne

Eau de Cologne delivers a heavier scent than Eau Fraiche because it contains around 2% to 5% perfume oil. It lasts up to 3 hours and usually comes in bigger bottles because they’re meant to be reapplied throughout the day.

Its price point sits between those of Eau Fraiche and Eau de Toilette.

Eau de Toilette

Eau de Toilette (EDT) delivers a stronger fragrance than the previous two, thanks to 5% to 15% concentration of perfume oil. Additionally, they often have a more sophisticated and complex smell than the other two.

A spritz of EDT lasts around 4 to 7 hours, and a bottle is usually more expensive than Eau Fraiche and Eau de Cologne.

Eau de Parfum

Eau de Parfum (EDP) is the strongest and most concentrated type of fragrance, with up to 20% perfume oil. Because of its high perfume oil content, it lasts up to 8 hours. Some even last longer than a day.

It’s also the most expensive type of fragrance. Some retail for upwards of a thousand dollars.

Perfume connoisseurs don’t limit themselves to one type of fragrance; their collections often have all kinds. This is because some occasions call for an EDP, while others simply call for a light spray of Eau Fraiche.

Fragrance Families

We now move on to the main purpose of perfumes — what do they smell like? All fragrances, from Eau Fraiche to EDP fall into different scent families: fresh, floral, woody, and oriental.


The fresh family emulates the zesty, citrusy, and oceanic. It’s further divided into subfamilies like aromatic, citrus, and green.


perfume bottle

The floral family emulates the scent of flowers. It’s further divided into subfamilies like fruity and soft floral.


The wood family emulates the warm, rich, and mossy scents. It’s further divided into subfamilies like dry woods and mossy woods.


The oriental family emulates the scents of spices and herbs. It’s further divided into subfamilies like woody oriental and soft oriental.

Take note, however, that these aren’t clean-cut categories. Perfumes often belong to two different families, displaying overlapping characteristics. For instance, there are woody-floral perfumes that combine the feminine notes of florals and the rich scents of the woods.


When you hear someone say “notes” of a perfume, they are referring to the ingredients that make up that specific scent. Every perfume has three notes: top, middle, and base.

  • The top note is the first thing you smell when you spray on the fragrance. It only lasts 15 minutes.
  • Once the top note evaporates, you smell the middle note, also known as the heart note. This lasts about two hours.
  • The base note is the last scent that lingers on your skin, lasting up to six hours.

Fragrance Qualities

Regardless of the family a fragrance belongs to, it has various characteristics.

  • This is the trail of scent that your perfume leaves. For instance, if you catch a whiff of fragrance when someone in a miniature golf cart drives by, then that person’s perfume has a strong sillage.
  • This indicates how long the perfume stays on the skin. In general, EDPs are the most long-lasting.

Finally, people choose a signature scent, or a specific perfume that defines you and acts as an extension of your personal style. This is the one fragrance that people will remember you by. Hopefully, this short guide will help you find it.


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