Perfume Lexicon & Fragrance Language : Character
Perfume is a blend of different materials that is more than just a sum of its parts; it is a composition with its own unique character. Character in a fragrance means the impression that the fragrance creates: vibrant and uplifting like citrus colognes or opulent and seductive like oriental fragrances with rich notes of vanilla, musk and spices. Each perfume is like a person-- the character it possesses is created by its specific traits, which in the case of a scented blend is determined by materials and their proportions. In the same vein, just like some people have stronger characters than others, fragrances differ in terms of their distinction and individuality.
In judging the uniqueness of a perfume, character tends to be the first parameter a professional evaluator considers. A strong character does not necessarily mean that a fragrance is rich and heavy. Compositions like ethereal Christian Dior Eau Sauvage and sumptuous Thierry Mugler Angel have equally strong characters--they are easy to remember and tell apart from other perfumes.
While a distinctive character is a necessary trait for a memorable perfume, it is not always a given that fragrance companies want to launch a product with a lot of character, or with a character that is unusual and surprising. Presenting a fragrance that explores more familiar territory or is similar to a current best-seller is a safe short-term technique of generating sales. These tactics do not generate classics and are the reason consumers complain that all fragrances on the market smell the same--many new launches simply lack character.
From the perspective of a perfume wearer, understanding the concept of fragrance character helps when you want to find a blend that is distinctive. Do you remember a perfume after smelling it on a blotter or your skin? Does it evoke a particular image or an association in your mind? Does the perfume seem interesting for the first 15 to 30 minutes before becoming bland and nondescript? Also, in order to get an idea of perfumes with plenty of character, it is often useful to smell the celebrated classics. Time has a great capacity to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Photography by VeraKL