The traditional classification which emerged around 1900 comprised the following categories:
- Single Floral: Fragrances that are dominated by a scent from one particular flower; in French called a soliflore.
- Floral Bouquet: Is a combination of fragrance of several flowers in a perfume compound.
- Amber or ‘Oriental’: A large fragrance class featuring the sweet slightly animalic scents of ambergris or labdanum, often combined with vanilla, tonka bean, flowers and woods. Can be enhanced by camphorous oils and incense resins, which bring to mind Victorian era imagery of the Middle East and Far East.
- Woody: Fragrances that are dominated by woody scents, typically of agarwood, sandalwood, cedarwood, and vetiver. Patchouli, with its camphoraceous smell, is commonly found in these perfumes.
- Leather: A family of fragrances which features the scents of honey, tobacco, wood and wood tars in its middle or base notes and a scent that alludes to leather.
- Chypre: Meaning Cyprus in French, this includes fragrances built on a similar accord consisting of bergamot, oakmoss, and labdanum.
- Fougère: Meaning Fern in French, built on a base of lavender, coumarin and oakmoss. Many men's fragrances belong to this family of fragrances, which is characterized by its sharp herbaceous and woody scent.
Since 1945, due to great advances in the technology of perfume creation (i.e., compound design and synthesis) as well as the natural development of styles and tastes, new categories have emerged to describe modern scents:
- Bright Floral: combining the traditional Single Floral & Floral Bouquet categories.
- Green: a lighter and more modern interpretation of the Chypre type, with pronounced cut grass, crushed green leaf and cucumber-like scents.
- Aquatic, Oceanic, or Ozonic: the newest category in perfume history, first appearing in 1988. A clean smell reminiscent of the ocean, leading to many of the modern androgynous perfumes. Generally contains calone, a synthetic scent discovered in 1966, or other more recent synthetics. Also used to accent floral, oriental, and woody fragrances.
- Citrus: An old fragrance family that until recently consisted mainly of ‘freshening’ eau de colognes, due to the low tenacity of citrus scents. Development of newer fragrance compounds has allowed for the creation of primarily citrus fragrances.
- Fruity: featuring the aromas of fruits other than citrus, such as peach, cassis (blackcurrant), mango, passion fruit, and others.
- Gourmand: scents with ‘edible’ or ‘dessert’-like qualities. These often contain notes like vanilla, tonka bean and coumarin, as well as synthetic components designed to resemble food flavours.