How to Select a Signature Fragrance

Know Your Fragrance Family

Most people have no problem nixing many of the 14 fragrance families based on personal preference alone. To narrow it down even further, consider that all of these families are grouped into four main categories: floral, fresh, oriental and woody. Many scents are unisex, including some citrus, oriental and woody fragrances, but make sure to check the bottle, as some are specifically designed for men or women.

Fragrance expert Michael Edwards developed a helpful wheel that classifies the more than 4,700 scents available for purchase. Here's your cheat sheet:


  • Floral family: Certainly the largest and most popular category, florals are lovely blends of -- you guessed it -- flowers. Example: 1876 by Histoires de Parfums.
  • Soft floral: This is a combination of florals and aldehydes, which are a component of rose and citrus oils. Example: 212 by Carolina Herrera.
  • Floral oriental: Also part of the oriental group, this family is spicier and fruitier than other florals. Example: 273 Rodeo Drive by Fred Hayman.


  • Oriental: The heaviest family in this category, oriental fragrances combine musks, resins, vanilla and florals to create a rich scent. Example: World of Your Own by Grassroots.
  • Floral oriental: These are flower-heavy oriental scents. Example: ZAHRA by Fashion Fair.
  • Soft oriental: They incorporate incense, amber and spices to create a lighter version of the traditional oriental fragrance. Example: Youth-dew by Estée Lauder.
  • Woody oriental: Patchouli and sandalwood are added to the mix, giving this type of scent a more outdoorsy feel than your standard oriental. Example: 1 Million by Paco Rabanne.


  • Woods: Smells that generally mix the scents of pine, cedar, sandalwood and other common woods found in nature. Example: 1681 by Carthusia.
  • Mossy woods: Also known as citrus chypre, this family incorporates mossy tones. Example: 1000 by Jean Patou.
  • Dry woods: These smells are different from mossy-woody fragrances because they also include a hint of tobacco, cedar or burnt wood. Example: 154 by Jo Malone.
  • Aromatic Fougère: Beloved by men and women, this family is a combination of the fresh, woody, floral and oriental groups. Example: ZIRH by Zirh.


  • Citrus: Scents that are derived from a blend of oils found in grapefruit, oranges, lemons and other citrus fruits. Example: 10:10 AM in Sicilia 2011 by Kenzo.
  • Water: A newer family that evokes the scent of the sea. Example: Z ZEGNA by Ermenegildo Zegna.
  • Green: Scents that are akin to freshly cut grass or hand-picked flowers. Example: Yerbamate by Lorenzo Villoresi.
  • Fruity: Combinations of aromas found in peaches, plums, apples and tropical fruits. Example: Wrapped With Love by Hilary Duff.

Once you've selected your signature fragrance you'll probably be able to use a single bottle for quite some time. If you're concerned that the manufacturer will nix the scent, however, consider stocking up.

Related Articles


  • Averill, Farah. "Choose Your Signature Fragrance." 2012. (May 15, 2012).
  • Bellasugar. "Own it: How to Shop for Your Signature Scent." April 27, 2012. (May 15, 2012).
  • Fragrances of the World. "Top 100 Perfume Questions." 2012. (May 15, 2012).
  • Fragrances of the World. "Wheel Index." 2012. (May 15, 2012).
  • Parfums Raffey. "Fragrance Guide." 2012. (May 15, 2012).

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