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Perfume Families of Essential Oils

The different families of essential oil perfumes

The perfume industry has a great deal of specialized expertise in creating commercial fragrances, and we can learn some tips on blending essential oils from some of the classic perfume families. Although the perfume industry also uses animal aromatics, such as civet, musk and ambergris (which aromatherapists obviously never use), essential oils do play a major role in perfumes.

The heart of the perfume industry is in Grasse in southern France, an area that grows huge fields of lavender, other flowers and herbs. Essential oils are distilled locally for use in making perfumes. Below are some descriptions of perfume families, which include useful information for blending essential oils.

Family Traits

Each perfume family has its own specific character and scent.

  • Floral is the largest family and the scent is best described as feminine, delicate and romantic. Floral essential oils, such as lavender, ylang ylang, geranium and rose, form the base of these perfumes, but other oils are also used (for example, citrus oils are included in floral/fruity blends).
  • Green fragrances evoke summer meadows and freshly mown grass. A typical green perfume includes essential oils from herbs such as basil and rosemary, and mosses, and might also include floral, woods, and citruses.
  • Chypre fragrances are elegant, formal and sophisticated, and typically include clary sage, oak moss and patchouli blended with rich, deep floral and fresh citruses.
  • The citrus family is based on citrus oils and the perfumes are fresh, clean, light and youthful. Other essential oils in citrus perfumes include lemongrass, verbena and palmarosa.
  • Spicy fragrances are sharp, clean and deep, somewhat unconventional and outgoing. The spice essential oils, such as clove, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and nut meg, form the base of spicy perfumes. Individual spice oils are used surprisingly often in other perfumes.
  • Amber-oriental perfumes are deep, heavy, mysterious, seductive and exotic; they tend to be warm and long-lasting. Typically these perfumes include sandalwood, cedarwood, frankincense, myrrh, patchouli, vanilla and ambrette seed. Amber-oriental perfumes tend to suit both men and women.

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