The power of fragrance.
Can you remember a time when you felt comforted by the warm, aromatic embrace of vanilla? Or were transported back to your grandmother’s kitchen by a bed of fresh blue hyacinths in spring? Both our associations with particular fragrances, and the chemical compounds within them, have the power to provoke powerful emotional responses within us.
Discover the science behind finding the perfect fragrance.
How does fragrance work?
When we inhale a beautiful fragrance, it’s the body’s olfactory system that enables us to ‘sense’ it. We have receptors in the upper part of our nose, and when these are activated by fragrant compounds, they send impulses to the olfactory bulb in our brain. This ‘bulb’ is part of our limbic system, a region of the brain that scientists attribute to mood, emotions and memory.
Everyone is attracted to different fragrances, and if you’re someone who loves using scented products and keeping fresh flowers and plants in their home, it can be fun to discover which fragrance families you tend to go for. It’s also helpful when you’re shopping online, or choosing gifts for other people. The fragrance wheel is the perfect place to start.
The fragrance wheel: explained.
The fragrance wheel is used to illustrate the relationships between the different olfactory categories, or smells, found in everything from soap to eau de toilette and even natural wines. It works like a traditional colour wheel, in that adjacent segments blend well together, and opposite segments are deemed to clash.
Australian perfume maker Paul Jellinek is credited with inventing the fragrance wheel in 1949, which was first published in his book The Practice of Modern Perfumery. The wheel has since been developed and adjusted by many perfumers to reflect modern preferences. The one we use today most closely resembles that of perfumer Michael Edwards, created in 1992.
According to Edwards’ wheel, there are fourteen expressions of fragrance that sit under four main olfactory categories – floral, woody, oriental and fresh. The fourteen expressions show the nuance of the main categories, and how neighbouring categories merge. Our Kew Gardens Bluebell and Jasmine fragrance is a beautiful example of the ‘soft floral’ expression, where meadow-fresh bluebell exhibits an oriental flourish thanks to jasmine flowers and vanilla.
Fragrance at The English Soap Company.
At The English Soap Company, fragrance is king. A new product may be inspired by a season or celebration, and the creative process involves pinning down the scents that embody these concepts. The fragrance itself is then blended for us by an expert perfume house, and this will go on to inform everything from the packaging to the story woven around the finished product. Our Kew Collection is a shining example of this process, with scents, packaging and descriptive language palpably inspired by the flora, the botanical history and the romance of the gardens themselves.
We group our products into seven main fragrance families. While our families closely reference Edwards’ guide, they also demonstrate more modern and approachable preferences for soap and home fragrancing. We aim to reflect the fragrance industry’s departure from outmoded and colonialist phrasing such as ‘oriental’, which was once a catchall phrase for exotic, musky and spicy scents. And we favour ‘herbal’ over previous incarnations of ‘fougere’ and ‘gourmand’, to ensure that the language we use is as clear and illustrative as possible for our customers.
Floral expressions range from posies of sweet iris to calm, classic lavender and heady osmanthus rose.
Fruity captures the tantalizing and tart with wild berry tones, vibrant green fig or peachy top notes.
Fresh is for those drawn to bright, clean scents like freshly cut grass, tropical botanics and sea breeze.
Citrus embodies the zesty and invigorating – think Sicilian lemon, exotic lime and pink grapefruit.
Herbal scents demonstrate the verdant and aromatic, from rosemary base notes and honeyed camomile to exotic green tea or gourmand olive oil.
Woody fragrances are earthy, warm and seductive. Distinctive notes include cedarwood, vetiver and pine.
Spicy can be vibrant, sensual or even musky – these are the fragrances that create an enveloping perfume and include blends of ginger, pink pepper and vintage cinnamon.
Have you identified your fragrance family yet?
Visit our Shop by Fragrance page as your starter guide to finding the perfect fragrance, and discover the products you’ll love most.