Types of Perfumery

backlit silhouette of woman spraying fragrance on neck

In the fragrance industry, the universe is clearly divided into two distinct worlds - fine fragrance and functional fragrance.  While both revolve around the creativity and talent of perfumers to create scents, the two are quite different in terms of purpose and approach.

  • FINE FRAGRANCE - When most people think of perfumery, they think of fine fragrance.  Fine fragrance is the classic form of perfumery where the fragrance IS the product, not part of the product.  
    • Products: In fine fragrance, the raison d'être of the product or brand is the fragrance itself, so the product list includes anything that is made expressly for doing so.  The quintessential fine fragrance is blended with alcohol and sprayed directly on the skin (such as eau de parfum, etc).  The alcohol serves as a carrier that literally lifts the fragrance into the air and the percentage of fragrance oil in the product (called concentration).  
    • Purpose:  The primary function of fine fragrance is to create a fragrance for decor, so evaluation is purely subjective.
  • FUNCTIONAL FRAGRANCE - Functional perfumery is primarily focused on fragrance for consumer goods and the role of scent is to support what the product is/does.
    • Products:  Basically all consumer goods, ranging from candles to laundry to dish soap and household cleaners. 
    • Purpose:  The primary purpose of functional perfumery twofold: to support the product's function and obscure/cover any base odor (if any).  Fragrance supports a product by giving the olfcative cues that it works.  As an example, hair products are fruity, household cleaners are citrusy and laundry smells like aldehydes. (learn more on this in our 'Smell of Clean' series).   Base odor comes from the materials used in the actual product (think unscented version of a product) and can range from imperceptible to outright stinky. 

A good analogy of the difference might be comparing a live music concert (fine fragrance) to the soundtrack of a movie (functional fragrance).  In the controlled environment of a concert, the entire focus is on the music and every detail of both the music and performance are fully exposed.  In a movie, the music is supporting what is happening on screen without being IN the show.  Both are necessary and important, but viewed differently by the audience. 

Recently, there has been an increased connection between these two worlds as fine fragrance trends have extend into consumer products.  This is part of why Cecile, having spent over 15 years developing fine fragrances in Paris and New York, decided to bring her talent and ideas to consumer goods as well!

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