Even if you're just starting to explore the world of scents, you’re likely aware of the various fragrance families. They’re broad categories defined by a range of individual aromas. Cedar and patchouli fall within the woody families, for example, and rose and jasmine are floral. Bright aromas like citrus and grass are in the fresh families, and spicier smells are found in the oriental families. (Yep, that one's a little problematic, but it's the terminology that has taken hold in the industry.)
If you like a scent, often you’ll like many other scents from that same family. But how do you know which cologne falls where?
That’s where Michael Edwards and his company, Fragrances of the World comes in. In the 1980s, after working in-house at notable parfumerie Halston, Edwards noticed that scents could be classified almost like wines, and each consumer has his or her own preference for specific varietals. Think about how wines can be full-bodied or thin, dry or sweet: If you prefer white wines, you’ll be asked further if you like Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and so forth. The same goes for scents.
That perspective helped Edwards to create his fragrance wheel, which defined the 14 families into which all scents can be classified. His team of expert noses receives pretty much every new scent that enters the market, and they analyze its notes and characteristics. Imagine the size of this database, some 30 years later.
So how is this relevant to you, the curious consumer? Well, Fragrances of the World creates a massive database of all of this information—by brand, family, creator, notes, year, and so forth. Department stores and other big retailers will subscribe to this database in order to suggest fragrances to their customers. Say you like a specific scent—maybe Dior's Eau Sauvage. (Edwards calls this one “the fragrance of my life.”) You could walk into a store, say “I like the citrus notes in Eau Sauvage, but my best friend wears it. So can you recommend me something similar, with many of the same notes?” Then, using the database created by Edwards and his team, you’ll get a load of suggestions—or even one very honed suggestion—and be on the way to finding your new signature scent.
You can also try out Edwards’ interactive Fragrance Wheel for yourself, or try the “Match My Fragrance” feature on that same page. Type in one fragrance, and the database will recommend numerous others, which are each similar in some way.
Or, if you want a shortcut for your fragrance shopping, and if you trust Edwards’ well-trained nose, here is one recommendation from each of the 14 fragrance families from the man himself, along with some thoughts on qualities and key notes of each family.
“Zesty, tangy, and juicy. Lemons and mandarins.”
“Think fresh sea sprays, or wet air after a thunderstorm."
“Nothing beats the smell of freshly mown lawns, and crushed green leaves, right?”
“Sweet, juicy, and edible. Tropical fruits, peaches, pears, and fresh summer apples.”
“Walk past a florist, close your eyes, and take a deep breath.”
“Soft, powdery, sweet, musky and creamy.”
“Florals like orange blossom, made smooth, sweet and subtly spicy with incense and amber.”
“Smooth carnation, incense, and warm spices. Soft, yet sensual.”
“Vanilla and musk, cinnamon, and cardamom. Opulent, sweet, and warm.”
“Patchouli and sandalwood, with a splash of spice, plus maybe something sweet enough to eat.”
“Cedar, sandalwood, and vetiver, raw and simple. Freshly sanded floors and sawdust.”
“Sweet, smooth, earthy. Woody and mossy notes.”
$250.00, Blue Mercury
“Smoldering embers and the unmistakable leathery smell of new shoes.”
“Lavender and other herbs, like rosemary or basil, teamed with the warmth of wood.”
Originally Appeared on GQ