Attar and Oud Samples

Understanding the Fragrance Jargon

*NOTE*:  This post will have ongoing updates.

Some industries have a barrier to entry due to the use of industry specific language, here I hope to remove some of these barriers.

Fragrance Types:

There are several fragrance types, and distinguishing them is important to be able to develop an appreciation for them. Here I will try to define some of the common fragrances.

Essential/Fragrance/Perfume Oils: Volatile and liquid aroma compounds from natural sources, usually plants. They are extracted from plants using steam and water distillation methods. This is a broad term that encompasses any fragrant oil produced in this manner [1]. 

Attar/Itr/Ittar: All synonymous, and the word is a Persian/Arabic word meaning fragrance, scent or essence [1]. Traditional attars are produced by hydro-distilling natural ingredients like flower petals, spices, wood, etc. However, what makes attar, attar, is the use of a wood base (usually sandalwood) and aging of the fragrance [2].

Perfume: A mixture of fragrant essential oils or aroma compounds (including Attars/Oud), fixatives, and solvents. It also contains a mixture of alcohol, water, and molecules that evaporate at room temperature. This makes the liquid less viscous, and allows it to be sprayed [3].

Oud/Oudh: One of the most luxurious natural substances that can be found. It is created when Agarwood trees become infected with a certain type of mold [4].





Oils extracted from botanical sources and distilled into a sandalwood base, and then aged [1] [2].

Agarwood is distilled using either forced distillation of hydro-distillation producing the oud oil [4].

Can be created using essential oils; however, will always contain synthetic ingredients and alcohol [3]. 


Key is sandalwood [2].

Key is agarwood [4].

Alcohol, which is added so that the blend of scents becomes homogenous, as different oils have different weights [5].


Concentrated oils, hence applied by direct contact of liquid on skin [1].

Concentrated oils, hence applied by direct contact of liquid on skin [1].

Due to the alcohol, perfumes come in spray bottles [3].


Completely natural, biodegradable, and there are no chemicals [3].  

Completely natural, biodegradable, and there are no chemicals [3].  

Perfumes mixed in chemicals pollute the air, and can be harmful to your skin and overall health [3]. 

Other Notes

Labor intensive process, and high concentration contributes to a higher cost [3].

Labor intensive process, and high concentration contributes to a higher cost [3].

While come niche perfumes from designers can be expensive, the process and materials involved is generally cheaper, and there is heavy dilution [3].


Other Words:

Note: The meaning differs based on the industry, but here it is a single element of a fragrance, the building block level of a scent [6].

Base Note: The term for the heaviest ingredients, molecularly, in a fragrance formula. Base notes help to fix other notes (make them last longer), enhance the scent of other ingredients, and often impart their own scent [7].

Top note: The molecularly lightest note in a fragrance formula. They are the first notes you smell in a composition [7].

Middle/Heart Note: Heart notes are somewhere between top notes and base notes in their longevity, and usually refer to florals, like jasmine and rose, or herbs, such as lavender [7].

Concentration: There are four major concentrations of (natural) fragrance you can buy. They determine the longevity of a fragrance, its ingredients, and qualities. From the least concentrated (smaller natural oil ratio in relation to alcohol) to highest: 

  • Eau de Cologne, with around 2–5 % natural oils; 
  • Eau de Toilette, with around 5–20% natural oils; 
  • Eau de Parfum, with around 10–30% natural oils;
  • and Extrait or Extract, at around 20—40% concentration [7].

Musk: Used to extend the life of fragrances and to add a sensual feel [7]. Usually musk comes from natural excretion of animals (like musk deer); however, in today's practice, most perfumers will recreate the smell using natural ingredients [8].

Natural: An ingredient derived from non synthetic sources [6]. 

Synthetic: An ingredient that is created via chemical synthesis, as opposed to those extracted from natural material [6].





[5] D%20alcohol,diffuse%20and%20lift%20perfumes%20notes.





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