What’s up with these Fragrance Families?

Let’s discuss the fragrance families for a moment. Now, everybody loves to smell nice. There’s a reason why the fragrance industry brings in tons of money year after year. Although most of us know a few brands here or there, many of us don’t know about the classifications of fragrances. Fragrances can be split into several families and below I will discuss each of those families and different brands of men’s fragrances that belong those families. However, it should be noted that the classification of fragrance families are not strict and new ones are invented now and then. Here is the list of the most basic families and the majority if not all of the fragrances in the world will belong to one of these.

fragrance families perfume mens cologne


Oriental fragrances are warm,sweet and spicy. The main notes of this fragrance family are Vanilla, Tonka bean and Sandalwood. This family is sometimes referred as ‘Amber’ because the amber note occurs so often in these fragrances. This family can further be subdivided as “Soft Oriental”, “Oriental” and “Woody Oriental”. Soft Oriental fragrances have less concentrations of musk, amber and spices and Woody Orientals have Sandalwood as the main note. Equipage by Hermes and Egoiste by Chanel are examples of the Oriental family of fragrances.


The name for this family is due to a feminine fragrance by Coty called ‘Chypre’ in 1917. The meaning of the french word ‘Chypre’ is Cyprus. This fragrance family contains mossy, woody and floral notes. Sandalwood, Oakmoss, Vetiver and Patchouli Bergamot are the main ingredients present. Febndi Uomo, Aramis and Vetiver by Guerlain are some of the examples of masculine fragrances of this family.


Floral is the largest category of fragrances and mostly focuses on feminine fragrances. Most of the feminine fragrances are floral and as the name implies these contains various kinds of flower ingredients. Jasmine, Lily, Peony, Tuberose and Rose are some popular floral ingredients. This family can be further subdivided as “Single Flora”, which only have one main floral ingredient and “Floral Bouquets”, which have a complementing combination of floral ingredients. Insense by Givenchy and Agua Lavanda by Puig are some examples of men’s fragrances that belong to the floral fragrance family.


Many popular colognes belong to this category. Lemons, Bergamot, Oranges and Grapefruit are the main notes in this family. These notes are also known as ‘hesperedic’ notes. These fragrances are fresh, zesty, long lasting on the skin and invigorating. Happy by Clinque, D&G Masculine by Dolce and Gabbana are some examples for this family of fragrances.


This is one of the most popular men’s fragrance family. Most of the fragrances in this family will contain notes of Lavender, Sage, Rosemary and Oakmoss. The meaning of the name is ‘fern’ in French and this family derives itself from the discontinued fragrance by Houbigant called Fougere Royale. These fragrances are characterized by their sharp, woody and herbaceous scents. Cool Water by Davidoff and Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren are some examples for this family.


This is a new family of fragrances identified more recently in 1991. Christian Dior’s Dune is considered as the first ever Marine fragrance. As the name implies, these fragrances evoke the sense of the sea breeze. An ingredient called calone (not cologne) is used to make these marine fragrances (also known as aquatics). New West for Him by Aramis and Kenzo Pour Homme are some masculine Marine Fragrances.


This family of fragrances features the scents of honey, tobacco, wood tars and wood as its base or middle notes. These fragrances can be velvety and soft or tangy and smoky. Yet always these will contain a leathery undertone. This category contains mainly men only fragrances, but some can still be used as unisex. Cuir de Russie by Chanel is an example for this family of fragrances.

So there you have it. Keep in mind that the classification of fragrances is a dynamic field and new categories and subcategories are commonly identified. Also, fragrance houses often claim their fragrance does not belong to any family and they end out creating a totally new family (let’s confuse us more!). Yet, if carefully analyzed, the fragrance will still belong to one of the above families. It’s good to have knowledge of the fragrance families as you can look up what your favorite men’s cologne falls under so you know which fragrance type you identify with best. Once you know that, you can explore more fragrances under the same family and find some new signature scents. You can also explore into the realm of the unknown and try on some that fall into families that you have not experimented with yet. I would also suggest reading about the Fragrance Wheel which is a classification chart introduced by Michael Edwards in 1983.