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How a perfume gets its name

March 15, 2017 0 Comments

How a perfume gets its name

Ever been curious about where perfume names actually come from?

There's a few classic stories floating around of course, like how Chanel No 5 got its iconic name when Coco Chanel was presented with ten samples, and selected the one labelled "No. 5". (You can read more about that story here).

 chanel no 5


The obvious names, of course, such as Jo Malone's Lime, Ginger & Mandarin, or Tom Ford's Oud Wood, which it can be assumed are inspired by the actual scent itself.  

Then there's the more commercial emotive names, like Passion, Obsession, Eternity, Guilty (words used by many perfume brands). These words that have become synonymous with the sex-obsessed narcissistic world of commercial perfumery (one that we intentionally steer away from).

Personally, we prefer the more unconventional names like Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb, or Byredo Gypsy Water which give a prediction of what the scent experience might be, without being too familiar or conventional.

byredo gypsy water 

And then there's the downright crazy or intriguing names, such as Demeter (known for their unusual names) Funeral Home (really??!) or Stilton Cheese Perfume (crackers anyone?).


Of course, French perfume names are common (side note: I've never understood why so many non-French perfumers felt the need to use French words) like Prada'd Infusion D'Iris or Annick Goutal Ambre Savage, some of which are more apparent in their inspiration (derived from Iris, or the scent of a certain city), and some which I won't understand unless I have Google Translator with me. (Insert smiley face here).


For the perfumer, the starting point for any fragrance creation is the brief. This usually consists of ideas of what the fragrance should smell like, the feelings it might invoke, perhaps the events, emotions or location it is inspired by, and some fragrance notes that should be included (for example, orange blossom, or labdanum).

From there the perfumer usually makes an initial list of extracts that might be included in the formula, and then begins testing each essence on its own (using a dry-down study), as well as in combination with other ingredients.

 one seed organic perfume australian perfumer

For us as ONE SEED, the name of a fragrance usually comes way before the formula begins to unfold. As a perfumer, I am moved and inspired by words and images as well as beautiful moments. I keep a log-book in my handbag at all times in case a sudden bolt of inspiration hits! For me, the process of naming and creating a fragrance works like this:

Inspiration strikes: perfume name appears (for example, on a broody, overcast summer day, I used the name "Rain" to start fleshing out the scent of rain on such a day and the feelings it invokes in me. The name "Freedom" was born of one day on vacation when everything felt just perfect, and an overwhelming sense of freedom came over me. I started to think about what freedom smelt like).


Next: from the library of scent that exists in my brain (yes, it's a thing - most perfumers are able to think in fragrance!), I begin to jot down notes that might appear in the fragrance, and associated memories, colours or emotions.

Then the actual work begins: dry-down studies of the chosen notes, testing various accords (combinations of single fragrances) and finally coming up with a formula (100% natural, of course!) with a few different variations. All the while, the perfume name is in my head. This for me is the solid rock of perfume creation - the word that evokes the emotion that creates the finished product.


 one seed organic perfume 


Liz Cook