A Guide to Understanding the Fragrance Wheel

If you’re on the hunt for your next signature scent and don’t know where to start, you’re in the right place. It can be overwhelming with thousands of potential fragrance options, especially if you’re new to the cologne and perfume scene. You may be able to identify scents you enjoy when you smell them, but not necessarily nail down what exactly you like about them. That’s where the fragrance wheel comes in. Using the fragrance wheel allows you to narrow down the scents that work best for you and choose the perfect cologne or perfume.

What is the fragrance wheel?

The fragrance wheel is a diagram showcasing all the scent families, along with their subfamilies. Each scent is grouped by how they are similar to one another and how they vary. Opposing scents will be opposite on the wheel, with similar scents falling next to each other. You can use this wheel to help you identify which scents you like and what others you may like as a result. It’s also a good idea to test out various fragrances to see what notes you like. Using a fragrance subscription like scentmagic.com allows you to try a different one each month to determine what you enjoy most.

The primary families

There are four primary families of scents: Fresh, Woody, Oriental, and Floral. All scents will fall into one of these categories. Everyone is instinctively attracted to one of the primary scent families when it comes to choosing a fragrance. What smells good to one person may smell off-putting to another.

By identifying which primary family attracts you, you can massively narrow down your search for your signature cologne or perfume. If you can narrow it down to a subfamily, you’ll have an easier time finding the best option. Although you won’t see the scent family listed on the fragrance bottles, you will learn to identify which components are most common in each.

Below, you will find the four primary families and their subfamilies and the components to look for when choosing your signature scent.

1. Fresh

The fresh family includes zesty and tangy notes and bright, natural scents like rain, fresh grass, or sea spray.


  • Citrus
  • Water
  • Green
  • Aromatic

Common components:

  • Bergamot
  • Orange
  • Sage
  • Lemon

Popular fresh fragrances:

  • Acqua Di Gio Pour Homme, Armani Beauty
  • Wood Sage & Sea Salt Cologne, Jo Malone London
  • Light Blue Eau Intense, Dolce & Gabbana

2. Woody

The woody family features warm and rich notes and earthy aromas. Smoky scents like leather and incense-like notes are also in this family.


  • Woods
  • Mossy woods
  • Dry woods

Common components:

  • Cedar
  • Patchouli
  • Sandalwood

Popular woody fragrances:

  • Oud Wood, Tom Ford
  • Splendid Wood, Yves Saint Laurent
  • Givenchy Gentlemen Only, Casual Chic

3. Oriental

The oriental scent family features herbal and spicy aromas that are exotic.


  • Oriental
  • Soft oriental
  • Woody oriental

Common components:

  • Cinnamon
  • Patchouli
  • Musk
  • Vanilla

Popular oriental fragrances:

  • Knot Absolue, Bottega Veneta
  • Olympea Legend, Paco Rabanne
  • Fever, Jimmy Choo

4. Floral

The floral family is the most popular, especially when it comes to women’s perfumes. The family features scents from all types of flowers and includes fruity fragrances.


  • Fruity
  • Soft floral
  • Floral
  • Floral oriental

Common components

  • Rose
  • Apple
  • Lily
  • Orange blossom

Popular floral fragrances:

  • J’adore, Dior
  • Flowerbomb, Viktor & Rolf
  • Flora, Gucci