Common Perfume Ingredients: A to Z List

If you’ve ever found yourself checking scent notes and asked yourself, “What the heck is patchouli?” then you're in for a treat.


One of the surest ways of leaving a lasting impression on someone is through your scent. While our diets play a major role in how we smell naturally, perfumes have the ability to tell a deeper story about who you are. Understanding commonly used notes and ingredients that go into your favorite scent can help you to better identify the scents you like and discover others that are better for you.

If you’ve ever found yourself checking scent notes and asked yourself, “What the heck is patchouli?” then you're in for a treat.

Keep scrolling to find out everything you need to know about these common perfume ingredients and what they smell like.


Used to give a sparkle to Chanel No.5, aldehyde is an organic compound found in natural materials that can be synthesized artificially. While aldehydes vary in fragrance, they usually contain very pleasant floral or fruity scents.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Floral, fruity


Produced from a fossilized sap of the Baltic amber tree, amber oil is a heavy, full-bodied, warm, powdery fragrance note. Amber provides sophistication and sensuality to a fragrance as it is a combination of synthetic and natural ingredients such as vanilla, patchouli, styrax and benzoin.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Rich, sweet


An ingredient used in perfumery for centuries, ambergris is one of a handful of animal-derived ingredients and comes from sperm whales who excrete the waxy substance when they have been eating cuttlefish. The longer its cured by nature's elements in the sea, the more pleasant its aroma. Due to its cost and restriction of animal-derived ingredients in many countries, modern perfumeries use synthetic alternatives.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Sweet, earthy


Found in hibiscus plants, ambrette seeds are commonly used as a substitute for true musk, due to its very similar warm, musk-like fragrance.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Musky, earthy


A genus flowering plant found in Haiti or South America, amyris has a sweet and woody fragrance. It is commonly used as a less-expensive alternative to sandalwood.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Sweet, woody


A balsamic-smelling resin, Benzoin is obtained from the bark of a Styrax tree found in Japan. Benzoin gives body to a perfume and usually has a sweetly seductive rich fragrance like vanilla or balsamic.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Rich, balsamic


A citrusy perfume ingredient, bergamot is obtained from a bergamot orange, primarily grown in Italy. It blends well with other aromatics, making it a popular addition to many fragrances.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Citrusy, tangy


An intense "sea breeze" note with slight floral undertones. Calone is very common ingredient in water perfumes and is 100 percent man-made.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Watery, fresh


A synthetic aldehyde with a spicy, ambery, musky, floral odor, cashmeran is a cozy and comforting scent, used to invoke the velvety smell or "feel" of cashmere.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Oriental, floral


An animalistic secretion from the Castor beaver, this ingredient is used to convey a sweet and leathery aroma to a fragrance. It is often reproduced synthetically.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Vanilla, leathery


The zest of the citron fruit — similar to a lemon, adds a dry citrus edge to the top notes of perfumes and colognes.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Citrusy, crisp


Musk produced by a gland at the base of the African civet cat's tail, this ingredient is said to have a strong, unpleasant odor. When used in small quantities, civet can add depth and warmth to a fragrance.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Musky, warm

Clary Sage

The oil of this herb smells sweet-to-bittersweet and is used in unisex perfumes and colognes. This earthy aroma also contains notes of amber and tobacco.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Earthy, floral


A commonly used perfume compound that smells similar to vanilla and freshly cut hay, coumarin is usually derived from the tonka bean but aldo found in other plants like lavender and sweetgrass.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Vanilla, hay


Also known as the West Indian Jasmine, frangipani is a fragrant tropical flower with a very rich and sophisticated fragrance. These flowers have been described to have various scent notes from roses and gardenias to pineapple and coconuts.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Floral, fruity


A gum resin from a tree found in Arabia and Eastern Africa, frankincense, also called olibanum, is an earth, spicy and slightly sweet fragrance giving perfumes a boost in natural opulence.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Earthy, spicy


Another gum resin, galbanum is on of the rare green notes extracted from nature. It’s described to have a green, plant-like aroma that brings sophistication to a perfume because it is very fresh and clean — perfect for a casual everyday fragrance.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Green, fresh

Guaiac Wood

This ingredient in perfume is derived from the resin of the guayacan which is a small tree in South America. It has a woody scent that is often used in tobacco and leather scents found mostly in colognes and unisex fragrances.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Woody, leathery


An aroma compound that has a soft, radiant jasmine aroma, hedoine has a delicate, elegant, radiant and floral character and blends well with various perfumes.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Fresh, floral


Flowers of the family heliotropium are native to Bolivia, Columbia and Peru. Its scent pairs nicely with other floral notes like jasmine and rose, and have a strong, sweet vanilla-like fragrance with undertones of almond.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Vanilla, sweet


Indole is a widely used perfume ingredient that is used to strengthen a floral aroma. It’s a chemical compound that gives off floral notes when used in small concentrations, but can smell rancid at high concentrations.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Strong, floral

Iso E Super

A synthetic chemical aroma that is used to create fullness to a fragrance, Iso E Super has a woody and velvety aroma with amber notes which is both smooth and warm. It’s the perfect ingredient to accomplish a cozy and inviting oriental perfume.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Woody, amber


Jasmine is a flower that is widely used in perfumery. With a very refreshing and light floral fragrance, reminiscent of honeysuckle, it’s also one of the most expensive perfumes ingredients in the world so is sometimes replaced with cheaper alternatives like hedione.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Floral, fresh


This perfume ingredient comes from the resin of the Rockrose bush, a Mediterranean shrub widely found in the south of France, Spain and North Africa. Labdanum is said to mimic the smell of ambergris because of its sophisticated warm fragrance. It can be described as leathery, woody, ambery, warm, balsamic, fruity and leathery.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Sweet, earthy


An infused perfume oil made by soaking Tahitian gardenia petals in coconut oil, Monoi is sometimes called Monot de Tahiti.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Floral, sweet


French for Lily of the Valley, muguet has a sweet and green scent that is one of three most used florals in perfumery. This usually synthetically produced scent is a wildflower growing in the undergrowth.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Green, sweet


An expensive ingredient that is in high demand in men's fragrance, most musk perfume ingredients are synthetic. Natural musk is derived from the glands of the now endangered musk deer and is an aromatic base note that is alluring, smooth and powdery.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Animalistic, sweet


An ancient gum resin found in Arabia and Eastern Africa, musk has a dark and rich fruit fragrance that adds an addictive warm, earthy, licorice-like woody elegance to both men's and women's perfumes.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Earthy, woody


Popularly used in French perfume production, narcissus is a white flower that has a strong and rich "végétal" scent that is reminiscent of hay and brings a musky sensuality to perfume.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Floral, rich


Neroli is an extensively used perfume ingredient derived from distilled blossoms of either sweet or bitter orange trees. The Italian term for neroli is zagara and its scent is sweet and somewhat metallic with green and spicy notes.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Citrusy, green


Derived from a lichen that grows on oak trees, oakmoss is a high value perfume ingredient due to its scent complexity. At first, oakmoss is warm and oriental then dries down and becomes earthy, reminiscent of bark, seashore and foliage.

Oakmoss comes from a lichen that grows on oak trees and is a valued perfume ingredient due to its complex scent profile. At first, its scent is warm and oriental and then dries down into an earthy aroma that is reminiscent of bark and foliage.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Oriental, earthy


Derived from the iris plant, the rare orris has a flowery, heavy, and woody aroma hat is described to be clean and refreshing.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Floral, woody


This perfume ingredient is native to a flowering tree found in China, valued for its fruity apricot-like aroma.  Osmanthus is known for having honey and apricot notes and lending a velvety touch to a composition,.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Fruity, sweet

Oud (Oudh)

Oud or agarwood is an expensive fragrance ingredient from the wood of the Agar tree found mostly in Southeast Asia. Due to its cost and supply, natural oud oil is used sparingly and generally reserved for niche or luxury fragrances.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Woody, earthy, spicy


A strong, musty-sweet smell, derived from a bush shrub found in Malaysia and India. Patchouli is commonly found in various scented products like, fragrances, paper towels, lotions and laundry detergent.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Earthy, sweet


One of the main flower notes found in perfumery, rose is one of the more expensive perfume ingredients. As a universal childhood memory, that almost anyone has smelled in a garden; it also provides endless reinterpretations.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Floral, fresh

Rose de Mai

Also known as rose absolute (rose essential oil), Rose de mai is produced by solvent and then alcohol extraction. It is an extremely rich, warm and voluptuous rose scent with a hit of honey used in classical fragrances and also experienced on modern fragrances.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Floral, green


A creamy and warm woody fragrance, sandalwood is derived from the East Indian sandal tree. It is commonly found in the base notes of unisex perfumes and brings extra-soul to perfumes, with sensuous tonalities of sun-kissed skin.

Sandalwood is a creamy and warm woody fragrance that is commonly found in the base notes of men’s cologne and unisex perfumes. It originates from the East Indian sandalwood tree, which is one of the most valuable trees in the world.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Woody, sweet

Tonka Bean

Originally used as an alternative to vanilla, tonka bean is derived from a plant native to Brazil that has a vanilla-sweet fragrance with hints of spices like cinnamon and clove.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Vanilla, spicy


A plant with highly perfumed white flowers, tuberose has slight milky and fruity notes, resembling those of a lily. In the Aztec language, tuberose is called 'the flower made of little bones'.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Floral, creamy


The Spanish considered vanilla the ultimate aphrodisiac, the Totonac Indians called it the fruit of gods and today, these aged and extracted vanilla beans that have been around for over 800 years are now found in our coffee, tea, lotions and perfumes.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Sweet, creamy


Derived from a grass with heavy, fibrous roots, which are used to distill an oil that smells of damp earth with woody, earth, leather and smoky undertones. Its woody and mystical smoky side adds a lot of strength and complexity to a perfume.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Earthy, woody

Ylang Ylang

Ylang Ylang is derived from an Asian evergreen tree with fragrant flowers. The oil is used in expensive perfumes and offers a sweet and floral scent that gives sensuality and elegant softness to both feminine and masculine fragrances.

Perfume Ingredient Scent: Sweet, floral


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