SCENT DESCRIPTORS

Below are scent descriptors culled from many sources. The largest group are in the “Semantic Quality” categories, which are semantic odor quality descriptors used for profiling (adapted from Dravnieks, 1985).

This is an informal labor of love, with no paid editors, please send an email if you find an error, omission of attribution or if you have word(s) to add. 

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Words to date..

Scent Descriptors


GENERAL


agrestic, adjective, Scent Descriptor. Relating to the country; rural or rustic.

alliaceous, adjective, Scent Descriptor. Relating to or denoting plants of a group that comprises the onions and other alliums. Key notes : garlic (ail is French for garlic), leek, white truffle (latter not alliacae family of plant but smell yes), more than onions.


ambrosial, Scent Descriptors, Perfume. Exceptionally pleasing to taste or smell; especially delicious or fragrant. worthy of the gods; divine


bibliosmia, noun, Scent of books. Bibliosmia or book-smell is caused by the chemical breakdown of compounds within the paper (2014, Dr. Oliver Tearle)

chypre, noun, Scent Descriptors. Perfume Style. Family (or concept) of perfumes that are characterised by an accord composed of citrus top notes, a middle centered on cistus labdanum, and a mossy-animalic set of basenotes derived from oakmoss


hawthorn, Medieval folk also asserted that the smell of hawthorn blossom was just like the smell of the Great Plague in London. Botanists later discovered the reason for this. The chemical trimethylamine present in hawthorn blossom is also formed in decaying animal tissue.


fougère, noun, Scent Descriptors. Perfume Style. Fougère perfumes are made with a blend of fragrances: top-notes are sweet, with the scent of lavender flowers; as the more volatile components evaporate, the scents of oakmoss, derived from a species of lichen and described as woody, sharp and slightly sweet, and coumarin, similar to the scent of new-mown hay, become.


vellichor, noun , Scent Descriptor, Books. The strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time—filled with thousands of old books you’ll never have time to read, each of which is itself locked in its own era, bound and dated and papered over like an old room the author abandoned years ago, a hidden annex littered with thoughts left just as they were on the day they were captured. - John Koenig (word contribution from Suze Nightengale


vamber, adjective, Scent Descriptor, Perfume. Vanilla + Amber - coined in 2020 as a reaction to Oriental terms traditionally found in the perfume landscape. - contributed by Ryan Day Castle


Each Category below titled “Semantic Quality” are semantic odor quality descriptors used for profiling (adapted from Dravnieks, 1985)



SEMANTIC QUALITY, HUMANALIC (BODY)


camphoraceous 

dirty linen

fecal, manure

seminal, like sperm

sewer

sour milk

urine


SEMANTIC QUALITY, CHEMICAL 


alcohol

ammonia

chemical

cleaning fluid

disinfectant, carbolic

ether, anaesthetic

gasoline, solvent

household gas

kerosene

medicinal

moth balls

nail polish remover

paint

sharp, pungent, acid

soapy

sour, acid, vinegar

sulphidic

turpentine, pine oil

varnish



SEMANTIC QUALITY, COMMON


aromatic

bitter

cologne

cool, cooling

floral 

fragrant

heavy 

incense

light 

musky

perfumery

stale  

sweaty

sweet

warm


SEMANTIC QUALITY, FOODS


bakery, fresh bread

beer

buttery, fresh

caramel

cheesy

choclate

coffee

eggs, fresh

fried chicken

honey 

molasses

peanut butter

popcorn

raisins

soupy 



SEMANTIC QUALITY, FOUL


dead animal

fermented, rotten fruit

mouse-like

putrid, foul, decayed

rancid

sickening 


SEMANTIC QUALITY, FRUITS


apple 

banana

cantaloupe

cherry, berry

coconut

fruity, citrus

fruity, other 

grape juice

grapefruit

lemon

orange

peach 

pear

pineapple

strawberry/red berries


SEMANTIC QUALITY, MATERIALS 


burnt candle

burnt milk

burnt paper

burnt rubber

burnt, smoky

cardboard

chalky

cork

creosote

dry, powdery

fresh tobacco smoke

leathery

metallic

rope

rubbery, new

sooty

stale tobacco smoke

tarragon

wet paper

wet wool, wet dog


SEMANTIC QUALITY, MEATS


animal 

blood, raw meat 

celery

cooked vegetable

fish 

kippery, smoked fish

meat seasoning 

meat, cooked good

oily, fatty

sauerkraut


SEMANTIC QUALITY, OUTDOORS


bark, birch

cedarwood

crushed grass

crushed weed

geranium leaves

grainy

hay

herbal, cut grass

laurel leaves

lavender

musty, earthy, moldy

oakwood, cognac

rose

violets

woody, resinous


SEMANTIC QUALITY, SPICES

almond nutty

anise, licorice

black pepper 

caraway

cinnamon

clove

dill

eucalyptus

malt

maple syrup

minty, peppermint

nut, walnut

spicy 

tea leaves

vanilla

yeast 



SEMANTIC QUALITY, VEGETABLES


bean 

fresh, vegetables

garlic, onion

green pepper

mushroom

raw cucumber

raw potato



PERFUMY/PERFUME THEORY


(oak)mossy

acidic-cheesy

aldehydic

ambergris

animalic, Typically ones that smell like skin, fur, body smells, etc. Classically, they are musk ( originally from beavers and deer), ambergris ( digestive byproduct of whales), and civet ( from a civet cat.)

aromatic-herbal, Bibliosmia or book-smell is caused by the chemical breakdown of compounds within the paper.  - 2014, Dr. Oliver Tearle

bleachy-chlorine

bulk group

carnation

cassis

citronella

citrus

cocunut-prune-milky-lactonic

coumarin

cucumber-vegetable

dried fruits/wine

fatty

fecal

fenugreek

fishy-ammoniacal

floral-balsamic

foliage

freesia

fruity

galbanum

green

green apple

green grassy

green metallis

guaiylic

hircine 

hydrogen-bond acceptor

hydrophone

indolic-naphtalinic

ivy leaves

jasmine

licorice

lilac

lily-of-the-valley

lime

maltoly

mandarin

marine

marzipan

melon

minty blue

minty green

moldy-earthy

mushroomy

musky-animalic

musty

osmophoric group

ozonic

patchouli

peach-apricot

peppery-terpenic

piney-conidferous-reinous

powdery sweet

rancid

rasberry

resinous-balsamic

santal

sulfury

thyme

urinous

vanillic

vetiver

violet leaves

waxy

woody

woody-ambery

ylang-ylang