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How to Use the Fragrance Wheel

The fragrance wheel was created to explore the intricacies of fragrance families. Find out how to use it when choosing a CRANBOURN® Scent.

4 min read

Fragrance is part tangible science, part elusive magic. Scents contain many complex ingredients and elements working together to chemically create something beautiful and luxurious.

When you begin to unlock some of the wonderful hidden intricacies of scent, you can use fragrances to enhance your daily life. Your personal fragrances, room diffusers and room sprays can work together to enrich your experiences and improve your mood.

But how do you begin tapping into the power of scent?

Firstly, get to know which family you favour. Fragrances are divided into four main olfactory families – Oriental, Woody, Fresh and Floral. These families group scents together based on their similar characteristics. (If you would like to know more about each fragrance family, you can read our in-depth piece which focuses on each subcategory and its key ingredients.)

The olfactory families do not exist in a vacuum. They have a relationship with each other, and each complements the other families in unique ways. The fragrances can also be mixed, or used as a helpful indicator when purchasing a new fragrance product.

To help explore the intricacies of these families, the fragrance wheel was created.

A brief history of the fragrance wheel

The first wheel was created around 1949 – but one of the most widely referenced fragrance wheels was originally conceived by perfume expert Michael Edwards in 1992. The wheel features all the fragrance families and subcategories in a circular formation, showing how they transition from one into the next, and how opposite scents can work beautifully together (much like complementary colours). Today, there are many variations of the fragrance wheel each with its own emphasis.

Edwards’ 1992 wheel was created to help both retailers and consumers understand fragrance on a deeper level, and make informed decisions when perfume shopping. If you are thinking of experimenting with your fragrance choices, the wheel is a perfect point to start.

How to use the wheel when choosing a fragrance

Whether you are looking for a new scented candle to burn, perfume for an evening event, or a thoughtfully chosen gift for a loved one, the fragrance wheel is your new best friend.

To get started, look at where your current products would fall on the wheel. Have a look at the key ingredients and notes listed, and use our fragrance family guide to categorise it.

Finding this a tricky task?

Frustratingly, most big household names in luxury perfume are not open or forthcoming when it comes to product information. A lot of fragrance is shrouded in secrecy, and often brands don’t delve into the scientific side of their product line. That is where we come in. One of our key missions is to create a refreshingly transparent approach to scent, being informative about olfaction and helping our customers gather all the knowledge they need to truly understand our fragrances.

If you need any help categorising a fragrance or selecting a new scent, do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Once you have established which fragrance family you frequently opt for, you can use the wheel to your advantage. The neighbouring family is always a safe choice – scents close by on the wheel will blend harmoniously.

If you want to integrate something a little different, head for the opposite subcategory – much like complementary colours, the opposite scent will bring a fresh, different note to your fragrance.

To add even more depth, opt for subcategories that form a triangle on the wheel. These scents will often create a pleasant top, middle and base notes with a richly complex result.

Next time you are shopping for a new personal or home fragrance product, use the fragrance wheel to make informed choices on a scent. Here at CRANBOURN®, we will do that hard work for you by sharing our olfactory knowledge and consistently ensuring we are open about our processes and ingredients.

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