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3 min read

You might not be familiar with the fragrance wheel – yet it’s a device that’s been used for classifying perfumes for decades.

It’s also useful for helping you to decide which scent is right for you. Here’s more information.


Paul Jellinek, an Austrian perfume-maker, is widely credited with inventing the first fragrance wheel in 1949. His diagram, published in his book, The Practice of Modern Perfumery, detailed how various scents related to one another, in terms of their olfactory personality (that’s their smell, to you and me). This, in a historical context, was an important moment indeed.

Since then, other perfume experts have taken Jellinek’s concept and developed it. The fragrance circle was developed by U. Harder in 1979, and the fragrance wheel we use today was created by Michael Edwards.


Cast your mind back to art lessons at school. At some point, you probably learnt about the ‘colour wheel’ – that handy diagram that showed which colours complemented each other, and which clashed.

A fragrance wheel basically works in exactly the same way. It places perfumes into categories (based on their ingredients and overall scent), then details which work well together, and which don’t. This is useful if you’re not sure which fragrances to choose.

The wheel is split into four sections. These are:

  • Floral
  • Oriental
  • Fresh
  • Woody

Then, there are the sub-sections, which are:

  • Aromatic. Lavender and other aromatic herbs
  • Citrus. Lime, lemon and bergamot
  • Fruity. This means non-citrus fruits and berries
  • Green. ‘Green’ notes like galbanum
  • Water. Aquatic and marine notes – reminiscent of the sea
  • Woods main. Aromatic woods and vetiver
  • Mossy woods – amber and oak moss
  • Dry woods. leather and dry woods
  • Floral. Freshly cut flowers
  • Soft floral. Powdery notes and aldehydes
  • Floral oriental. Sweeter spices and orange blossom
  • Soft oriental. Amber and incense
  • Oriental. Oriental resins
  • Woody oriental. Patchouli and sandalwood


As you’re reading through the sub-categories, there are probably some descriptions you’re naturally drawn to. It could be that you’re a long-term fan of floral scents, and love the scent of dry wood and leather, for example. The opposite is also likely to be true – you might hate the idea of wearing a fruity, berry-dominant scent, for example!

A good way to discover what fragrance-wheel categories are best for you is to select some perfumes that you know you already love. Look at their main ingredients, then see if you can work out where they’d be on the wheel. Then, search for other perfumes that feature the same sort of notes.


Let’s use a classic of the Swiss Arabian’s best-loved fragrance as examples.

Oud Maknoon Eau de Parfum is one of our bestselling unisex perfumes. It’s sensual and sultry, making it ideal for an evening out. The initial notes are peppery and rose, followed by heart notes of light florals and deep woody base. A perfume expert might classify this as a ‘semi-floral oriental and/or oriental’, as it features sweet, spicy notes, with more than a hint of headiness and depth.

If you love Oud Maknoon, then you now know to seek out other scents that feature similar ingredients, as these are likely to fall into the same sub-category.


Of course, in order to find out what category a perfume might fall under, you’ll need to actually smell them first, not to mention see a list of their ingredients. This is sometimes easier said than done.

Department stores are generally happy to provide information about their perfumes and colognes. They’ll also give you a spray of their fragrances; usually on a piece of cardboard. However, this is problematic, as the scent has often shifted and changed by the time you get home.

Sample bottles are the ideal way to test out a perfume properly. They usually come with a few applications inside, so you’ve got the ability to spray them, have a good sniff, then work out which category they might fall into.

Swiss Arabian Fragrances offer sample sized bottles of every best seller scent on the site. This means you can order a samples kit, then put them all to the test, and discover what fragrance wheel categories you like the best.

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