202-986-3640 | Washington, DC *

Shopping cart

Your cart is currently empty

Deciphering the Secrets to Scent

  • Posted on
  • By GoodWood D.C.
Deciphering the Secrets to Scent

Whether you’re curious about composition or want to unearth your own signature scent, we’ve put together a quick reference guide to help you decipher the world of fragrances.

At GoodWood, we love the scent of vintage furniture, freshly-printed stationery, and rejuvenating bath teas, which is why we take such joy in curating exquisite fragrances for customers to enjoy at our niche perfume counter. Boasting scents from the likes of Lubin and Jovoy, our counter is stocked with rare and unique fragrances that please newly minted and seasoned noses alike.  


Whether you’re curious about composition or want to unearth your own signature scent, we’ve put together a quick reference guide to help you decipher the world of fragrances. 


Triangulating Fragrance Notes Using the Fragrance Pyramid
Crafting fragrances is an art, as combining disparate scents to create a balanced blend is notoriously complex. For example, did you know that fragrances are constructed using a series of progressive notes that dissipate as part of a planned sequence over time? That means that your favorite scents undergo subtle shifts in potency and focus based on the length of time they’ve been in contact with your skin.

Similar to the way coffee connoisseurs and wine sommeliers discuss brew or vintage flavor notes, fragrances are also often described based on how certain aspects of their composition fall on the fragrance pyramid.

The fragrance pyramid consists of three parts: 

  • Base Note: A scent is grounded by its base note, which is ordinarily a gourmand, baked, or edible scent intended to balance the diversity of its upper notes.
  • Heart Note: The base note is followed by the heart note, which bolsters the scent, giving it character and intensity, and becomes the dominant fragrance when the peak note (or head note) fades.
  • Head Note: The head notes provide a light and fresh burst of scent when a fragrance first kisses the skin, and is designed to give way to the fervor and potency of the heart and base notes when it fades. 

Fragrance Families 

Each note within a fragrance belongs to a distinct fragrance family. Understanding these families and the scents within them makes finding your signature scent marginally less intimidating, and can contribute to a more conducive shopping experience when it’s time to put what you’ve learned to Good use. 


A fragrance’s notes can be traced back to one of the four fragrance families:


Oriental: Similar to their stylistic counterpart, oriental scents are warm, rich scents that are packed with sweetness and a contrasting bite of spice. These scents are known to be luxurious and sensual, and feature notes of cardamom, cinnamon, and vanilla with floral undertones that include jasmine, orchid, and orange blossom.


Woody: Woody scents are often intense and captivating with timbery undertones spanning sweet to smoky. While akin to oriental in their underlying warmth, these scents are commonly layered with concentrated earthy and wood-based notes, including cedarwood, sandalwood, vetiver, and amber. 


Fresh: Flourishing vibrant and rejuvenating scents of citrus and water with mellow earthy hues, fresh scents can encapsulate a meandering river through the use of salty, aquatic notes - just as they can encompass the scent of Spring through crisp citrus, eucalyptus, and complementary whispers of floral such as lavender.  


Floral: Floral scents bring the most range when compared to the other fragrance families, and include any scent with floral ties. Not to be underestimated, these scents can be light and airy or pack on the intensity with unexpected complexity. 


Cracking the Code on Concentration and Longevity

When shopping for fragrances, you may have noticed that different fragrances carry different classifications, such as eau de toilette, de parfum, or de cologne respectively. Unless you’re a native French speaker or proficient in the ways of perfumers (affectionately deemed: a nose), these terms may seem unfamiliar or even intimidating. 


  • Eau de Cologne: Containing the least concentration of raw material (3-5%), Eau de Cologne fragrances do not linger on the skin for more than 2 hours. 
  • Eau de Toilette: These fragrances have a modest concentration of raw material (12-15%) and are longer lasting than their less concentrated counterpart. You can expect Eau de Toilette fragrances to hold for 4-7 hours on average. 
  • Eau de Parfum: Packed with raw material (15-20%) and concentrated scents, Eau de Parfum fragrances can stay on the skin for up to 8 hours. 


However, the overall longevity of a fragrance is not solely limited to its classification. While a classification defines a fragrance’s overall wearing time, a scent has staggered wear segments that can be attributed to its notes. As you know, these notes (base note, heart note, and head note) give a fragrance depth and complexity and pare off the skin one by one. 


Head notes are fleeting and last minutes - and soon give way to the heart note, which has a wear time that ranges from 2-3 hours. The beefier base note has a wear time that can last hours on the skin and days on clothing - so it’s wise to be wary of where you spray if you’re keen on alternating between fragrances or have a household of sensitive noses. Overall, the more complex the fragrance, the more likely it is that you’ll notice a shift when notes come and go. 


Finding Your Signature Fragrance

At GoodWood, we have put significant emphasis on cultivating a perfume counter filled with niche, unique, and quality fragrances with great variety in scent and price alike. If you’ve been looking for your signature fragrance and don’t know where to start, we encourage you to stop by the store - we’re happy to answer any questions you may have and look forward to guiding you to your new scent. 


GoodWood is located in the Marden Building on the corner of U St NW & Waverly Place. We are located next to CityFirst Bank.

We look forward to seeing you!

Parking Info & Map

notice iconNOTE: Our marketing photos may show sold items. Shop ecommerce website for current inventory.