Understanding the fragrance wheel

With so many fragrances on the market, it can be daunting to find your signature scent, especially when you're not quite familiar with different fragrance notes. 

Understanding the fragrance wheel and scent families can help make this process smoother and make purchasing decisions easier. In fact, you may already be familiar with many of the scents that exist on the wheel.

The Fragrance Wheel

The fragrance wheel diagram developed by perfume expert Michael Edwards shows us the various scent families (or prominent scents) and their subfamilies which are blended variations of these fragrances. Scents are categorised based on their relationship to one another. Scent groups nearer to each other share common olfactory characteristics, while those that are further away from one another are less related.

Scent Families

The four main scent families are Floral, Oriental, Woody, and Fresh, each with its own subfamily. While selecting your fragrance you may find that you prefer one scent family over another because of its distinguishing qualities. Have a look at the perfume you are currently using for an indication of the family you are most drawn to. 


The oriental fragrance family consists of rich exotic scents with warm notes and an indulgent smell. Think herbs and spices or dry, powdery notes often softened with sweeter notes. 


  • Gentle oriental: A blend of warm spices and soft floral scents.
  • Oriental: Warm, sweet aromas like musk, vanilla, and cinnamon.
  • Woody oriental: Earthy notes like patchouli and sandalwood mixed with spicy and sweet notes.


Incense-like scents like sandalwood and patchouli are combined with drier notes like cedar for a typically warm and sumptuous fragrance. Some scents will add fresher elements, like citrus or floral, for balance. This family of notes includes bitter, woodsy, and coniferous notes.


  • Woods: Aromatic smells like vetiver, cedarwood, and sandalwood.
  • Mossy woods: Aromas of amber and oakmoss, which are smooth, sweet, and earthy.
  • Dry woods: Aromas of leather and smouldering fires.


Clean bright scents such as herbs, citrus and oceanic scents are part of this category. Fresh scents are paired with spicy notes for a fuller fragrance and are used mainly in fragrances for men. Aromatic, tart tones are often blended with citrusy or fruity aromas.


  • Aromatic: Crisp, clean herbs combined with lavender or earthy aromas.
  • Citrus: Tangy or sour notes, such as bergamot or mandarins.
  • Water: Aromas associated with the ocean, such as those that smell like rain or sea spray.
  • Green: Has a fresh-mowed-lawn and crushed-leaf scent.

Fragrance Pairing

Combine fragrance sub-families that are next to each other on the fragrance wheel as they will almost always blend well, or select any sub-family and the complementary note across from it on the wheel. Another option is to choose three sub-families that appear in a triangle as these will also complement each other. 

Always test fragrances on your skin before purchasing to ensure that you enjoy the smell of the scent as it mixes with the air around you and your body chemistry.

Have a look at our selection of home fragrances online to find your signature scent.