Families, subfamilies, facets, what do these words really mean?
The boundaries which divide the various terms gradually vanish and fuse in a way that reflects the evolution of olfactory creations, increasingly more subtle and more sophisticated. However, from a “purist” standpoint, it remains important to precisely define the differences and highlight the values of using correct terminology.
Facets, or sometimes also called Subfamilies, define the classes or groups to which the Raw Materials (or components) belong to and which are used to compose a fragrance (or perfumed composition). These classes are formed on the basis of the affinity of origin or the olfactive properties of the substances. The classification which was introduced at the end of the nineteenth century by Eugène Rimmel allows and facilitates the choice, the confrontation and the communication regarding odorous substances. According to the subjectivity of olfactory perception, the number of facets can vary between companies and professionals, but the industry generally agrees on the following classes:
- citrus (sometimes called hesperidia as a poetic interpretation of citrus fruits)
- gourmand (or sweet)
In the same way as a writer or a musician, a perfumer-creator composes a fragrance around a central theme: it is a complex blend of components and it is the proportion of these components which determines the dominant note of the fragrance and defines which olfactive family it belongs to.
To talk of olfactive families therefore signifies referring to the classification of perfumed compositions. The facets which complete it contribute to defining its originality.
For example we can cite a fragrance composed of woods and citrus fruits, therefore with woody and citrus facets. If the perception of the woods is predominant it will be associated with the woody family, with a citrus facet, giving life to a fragrance which has a very decisive, refined and simple character, animated with sparkling flashes which give it a very lively top note. On the other hand if the effervescence of the citrus fruits dominates over time, it can in that case be defined as a citrus fragrance with a woody facet, characterised by totally Mediterranean light-heartedness, and much less persistent.
Knowing the ingredients contained in a fragrance is certainly very captivating, but just the list on its own doesn’t allow us to understand its real nature. Classifying and recognising the dominant character in a fragrance is one of the key elements to understanding and defining the inspiration and interpreting the emotional message.