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Types of Perfumes and Fragrance Categories

Perfume has always been a vital part of human culture: people have perfumed their hair and bodies with oils, resins, flower and herb extracts and animal scents since earliest history. Wearing scent is pleasurable; it is an expression of individuality; it attracts mates and makes us nice to be close to. Perfumes are more for the wearer: they make us feel wonderful.

Why are Some Fragrances More Expensive than Others

Fragrances are classed—and priced—by their alcohol content, with the least expensive being eau de toilettes and eau de colognes containing between 3% and 8% fragrance with the other 92-97% of the content being made up of alcohol, water and color. Eau de parfum contains actual perfume oils of 8-15%. You pay more for perfume because it is stronger at application and lasts longer than eau de toilette. Perfume (or “parfum”) contains somewhere between 15% and 30% of perfume oils and lasts longer than other scent types—typically around six hours. Always try to take a sample of perfume home to try for a week or two and make sure it is the right fragrance and strength for you before buying.

Fragrance Blending Families

Fragrances may be floral, spicy, woody, herbal, musky, powdery (also called “chypre”) or “aqueous” a recent designation for aromatherapy scents that are based more on a concept of a “watery” smell than an actual scent. The recent rediscovery of herbal and floral scents combined with recent technology for scent capture has created new markets for subtle extracts—“headspace” scents extracted through the use of gas chromatography, creating entirely new classes of perfumes. Food scents such as vanilla, chocolate, cherry and coffee have made their way into perfumery to the chagrin of many classical perfumers and to the happiness of younger customers who like fruity, foody, unsophisticated scents. Many perfumes combine the scent categories, creating combinations such as “Oriental” which is usually identified by heavy florals and spices. Aldehydes, which made their debut with the heady scent of Chanel No. 5, are pure chemicals whose particular odors are named by letters rather than names. Aldehydes, while completely man-made are also compelling and immensely popular, making up many of the elegant perfumes of today.

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