perfumes differences scaled

Distinguishing Between Different Perfume Types

Unless you’re a seasoned pro at buying perfume, it can be difficult to understand the differences between different perfume types. Some of them say Eau de Parfum, others say Eau de Toilette, and other bottles say Eau de Cologne. Which probably has you wondering: what’s the difference between these different perfume types? And what’s even more perplexing to most people is all of these perfumes look alike, which doesn’t make it even easier to choose what’s appropriate for you.

All of this confusion has prompted us to write the guide that you are currently reading. We believe that every shopper should know exactly what they’re buying when they’re looking for their favorite perfume. We also believe that there shouldn’t be any ambiguity to the whole process. Hopefully, after you read this article, you’ll have a much better understanding on how to distinguish one type of perfume from a different type of perfume.

The Different Perfume Categories

Perfumes come in five basic types. These types include Perfume, Eau de Perfume, Eau de Toilette, Eau de Cologne, and Eau Fraiche. Each of these types of perfume are basically just an indication of the concentration level of the product found in the bottle and says nothing about the brand or the fragrance notes found in the perfume. Let’s take a closer look at these four designations and see how they differ from one another, shall we?

Perfume: Perfume contains the highest percent of perfume extract of any product available and generally tends to be a heavier, oilier product than other perfumes. On average, it contains anywhere from 15% all the way up to 40% perfume essential oils in it. Most of the time this product is easy to identify, even before reading the label, because it usually comes in heavier bottles that are equipped with ornate stoppers.

As you’ve probably realized, this product is not only the strongest of the perfume types but is also usually the most expensive type of product. It’s also generally a product that’s dabbed on certain pulse points and isn’t used all over the body. This product lasts approximately 8-hours.

Eau de Perfume: Commonly listed as either Eau de Perfume or sometimes Parfum, this product has the next highest concentration of essential perfume oils in it. Most of the time, it typically has anywhere from a 10% to 15% perfume essence concentration in its formulation. This means that it has slightly more alcohol and water in its formulation than perfume does, but still maintains a high level of essential perfume oils.

It also means that the scent is usually lighter and doesn’t have the longevity of most perfumes. Unlike perfume, this product is also hard to identify it only by its bottle because it can come with either a stopper or sold as a spray. Either way, this product is usually cheaper than perfume, but still remains among the higher end of the price spectrum. This product last anywhere from 4 to 6-hours.

Eau de Toilette: As you’d probably expect, this type of fragrance has a lower concentration of perfume essences in it than either perfume or Eau de Perfume contains. Usually, this product will contain anywhere from 4% to 15% concentration of essential oils in its formulation. This makes it an extremely light formula that is most often sold only in spray bottles.

Unfortunately, it also has a relatively low combination of essential oils and a relatively high percentage of alcohol. Its quick dissipation is why many people use it only for day-to-day use. By the end of the day, it usually has fully dissipated, and the wearer can then switch to a heavier perfume or Eau de Perfume for their nighttime activities. It will last anywhere from 2 to 3-hours at a time.

Eau de Cologne: Nowadays, most colognes are listed as male fragrances, but there are still plenty of female perfumes which still use this designation. Usually, when a product says that it’s a cologne, it’s an indication that it has a low concentration of fragrance elements in it. These products are the one of the most diluted perfume versions and contain anywhere from 2% to 5% fragrance oil concentrations in their formulations.

Which not only makes them an extremely light product, but also an extremely inexpensive product. You will almost never see a high end perfume listed as a cologne in most retail stores. Instead, these products are usually used as after shaves or simply as splash-on fragrances. Expect this product to last approximately 2-hours at a time.

Eau Fraiche: This perfume is not only one of the most inexpensive products available, but it also has one of the lowest concentrations of essential oils available. Most Eau Fraiche products contain anywhere from 1% to 3% of essential oils. Since they have such a small concentration of essential oils, they are usually extremely light and dissipate within an hour or two of being sprayed on.

Yes, that’s right. This product will only last about an hour. A fun fact about this product is that its name literally means fresh water, which is easy to see why after you buy it. After all, it’s basically scented water that you spray on to freshen up.


Shopping for your next fragrance can be a tricky business; after all, with so many to choose from, how do you decide? Let our guide to fragrance strengths and fragrance types help you figure out what perfume or aftershave you should go for next!

Fragrance Families

The first step to finding your favourite fragrance is to understand the different scent families that every perfume and aftershave is based on.

fragrance wheel

What Is the Fragrance Wheel?

The fragrance wheel is a round diagram that displays the different scent families and subfamilies. The scents are grouped based on their similarities and differences to show their relationship to one another. The scent groups that border each other share common olfactory characteristics, while those that are further away from one another are less related.

This fragrance classification system was developed by fragrance expert Michael Edwards in order to help retailers suggest perfumes to consumers more efficiently. Each family consists of a prominent scent, while the subfamilies are blended versions of these fragrances.

Types of Scent Families

Scent familes are broken up into four main categories: Floral, Oriental, Woody, and Fresh, each with their own subfamilies. A scent family has distinctive characteristics and often individuals will gravitate towards one scent family over another when choosing personal fragrances.

For this reason, it can be helpful to know which family you are attracted to before you go shopping for a new scent. While most products aren’t labeled with the scent family, you should be able to find out which components make up the fragrance.

Experts who have been working with perfumes for years can tell which family or sub-family a fragrance belongs to with one sniff. While there is some discourse in the fragrance community over the organization and description of each family, most agree to the following families and subfamilies.

floral notes


The floral scent family is one of the most common families and are used in many well-known perfumes. Floral scents are most often used in women’s fragrances, although they are occasionally used in men’s as well. They usually smell like fresh-cut flowers or have a powdery note to them.


  • Fruity: Sweet, edible and tropical like peach, pear and apple.
  • Floral: Smells like fresh-cut flowers — imagine rose and lily.
  • Soft floral: Soft, powdery and sweet with a hint of creamy.
  • Floral oriental: Florals with subtle spice notes.

Common Floral Family Notes:

  • Rose
  • Jasmine
  • Orange blossom

Fragrance Examples:

oriental notes


The oriental fragrance family consists of rich exotic scents. When you think of oriental scents think herbs and spices or dry, powdery, resin notes. Opulent and heady, these notes are often times softened with amber or sweet notes. It’s common to describe this family as exotic and seductive.


  • Soft oriental: Soft, floral notes mix with incense and warm spices.
  • Oriental: Sweet, warm notes like cinnamon, vanilla and musk.
  • Woody oriental: Earthy notes like patchouli and sandalwood mixed with spicy and sweet notes.

Common Oriental Family Notes:

  • Vanilla
  • Myrrh
  • Anise

Fragrance Examples:

woody notes


Woody perfumes are usually warm and opulent, mixing incense-like fragrances like sandalwood and patchouli with drier notes like cedar. To tone down the warmth of these notes, fragrances will sometimes incorporate some fresh notes like citrus or floral. Notes in this family can be described as coniferous or woody and bitter.


  • Woods: Aromatic scents like cedarwood, sandalwood and vetiver.
  • Mossy woods: Sweet, smooth and earthy scents like oakmoss and amber.
  • Dry woods: Smouldering and smoky mixed with leather aromas.

Common Woody Family Notes:

  • Patchouli
  • Vetiver
  • Sandalwood

Fragrance Examples:

fresh notes


The fresh scent family encompasses clean bright scents. Herby, citrusy and oceanic scents all fall into this category. More often used in men’s fragrances than women’s fragrances, fresh scents are paired with spicy notes to create a more robust fragrance. Aromatic, tart notes can also be found mixed with zesty or fruity scents.


  • Aromatic: Clean and fresh herbs mixed with lavender or woody scents.
  • Citrus: Zesty or tangy notes like mandarins or bergamot.
  • Water: Aquatic scents that smell of sea spray or rain mixed with or oceanic notes.
  • Green: Smells of freshly mowed lawns and crushed green leaves.

Common Fresh Family Notes:

  • Sage
  • Bergamot
  • Grapefruit

Fragrance Examples:

triangle 1

How to Combine Scents

Much like color, certain fragrance families go together well. The scent wheel makes it easy to see this. Fragrance sub-families that are side by side on the fragrance wheel will almost always blend well.

You can also pick a sub-family to start with and see which note appears across from it on the fragrance wheel. This means that those notes are complementary to one another. For example, soft oriental will complement citrus, and oriental will complement water.


Finally, you can select three fragrance sub-families that create a triangle on the fragrance wheel. You’ll find that these will complement each other nicely. For example, if you know you like floral oriental notes, look for a scent that contains mossy and water notes as well.

After you’ve decided which families you like best and what secondary notes you’ll be looking for, it’s time to start researching the perfect perfume for you. You can either head down to the beauty counter at your local department store or order fragrance samples online. Be sure to test them on your skin so that you know you enjoy the scent once it’s mixed with your skin.

If you’re still not sure where to start – try browsing our women’s perfume and men’s fragrance sections of the website. You can filter by scent family to figure out your perfect signature scent!