Buying perfume or cologne seems simple on the surface. You might select a fragrance because you liked how it smelled on someone else or followed a trend. However, when you apply it to your skin, the outcome is nothing like what you imagined. Everyone has likely had an experience where they brought a perfume or cologne that was strong and overbearing or subtle and short-lived. So, the bottle sits on your dresser, collecting dust as you reflect on how much money you wasted.

The Beginner’s Guide to Fragrance Wheels - tips, parfume, Fragrance Wheels

“There has to be a better way.” The good news is there are more effective ways to buy fragrances. Using tools like wheels and scent profiles can help you make better choices. If you’re new to fragrance shopping, this guide will help make things easier.

Fragrance Wheels

A fragrance wheel is a round diagram used by salespeople to help consumers find the best perfumes and colognes. It categorizes scents into groups and sub-categories based on their similar characteristics and profiles. The closer the scent families or notes are to each other, the better they complement each other. You can also use the fragrance wheel to layer or combine scents to create or identify unique scents.

Scent Families

Before you can understand how to use a fragrance wheel effectively, you must understand the scent families or groups. There are four scent families, including oriental, floral, woods, and fresh. The best online perfume stores will have fragrances in every scent family. These families are broken down into subcategories and scent notes. Below is a better explanation of each scent family.


As the name implies, the floral family is all about flowers. This scent family is among the most commonly used when creating perfumes for women. Fragrances that fall in the floral category can be fruity, sweet, spicy, or smell like a freshly cut bouquet. Typical floral notes include rose, jasmine, honeysuckle, and orange blossom.


The next fragrance family is oriental. These are scents that are vibrant and bold. They often emulate the smell of spices and herbs. Oriental subfamily examples include soft (a combination of sweet florals with rich spices), warm, and earth tones. Standard oriental notes include cinnamon, vanilla, and musk.


When you think of the woods fragrance family, think about warm and dry scents. This category is best defined as the smell of trees and forests. Wood subfamilies include aromatic, earthy, and dry. Popular notes in this family include sandalwood, patchouli, and vetiver.


The final fragrance family is fresh. These scents give off a clean, fresh, and bright smell and are very popular in colognes. Subfamilies include aromatic, like lavender, citrus, aquatic, and green (like fresh cut grass). Prevalent fresh notes include bergamot, sage, and grapefruit.

Putting It All Together

Okay. You’ve learned about the fragrance wheel, scent families, subfamilies, and popular notes, but how do you use this information to select the right perfume or cologne? Start by reviewing the product profile. Identify which fragrances were used to create the product. Do they complement each other well? Do they fall into the fragrance categories you like most? If so, add it to your list of options.

Next, experiment with the fragrance by requesting or purchasing samples. This method lets you see if you really like the scent and how it interacts with your body chemistry. Pay attention to how it smells once applied. Then check again in a few minutes to see if you still like the smell. After a few hours, smell the area you sprayed to determine whether the fragrance has faded.

Trying to purchase perfume or cologne without prior knowledge of how scents and combinations work could cause you to waste a lot of money. Reduce your chances of selecting the wrong scent by using valuable tools like fragrance wheels and scent profiles to narrow down your options. Then experiment with samples to ensure it produces the desired results. Lastly, shop around for deals on high-quality fragrances and purchase the perfumes and colognes that make you smell and feel your best.