Woody Notes in Perfume

A key part of many amber fragrances, especially those marketed as masculine scents, woody notes are favourites of mine. One of my earliest scent memories is of my grandad’s shed – he loved carpentry and made some amazing things for us as kids. Although he tried to teach me, woodwork wasn’t really my forte as I was far too nervous of slicing my finger off with his lathe so I preferred to watch him instead and draw pictures. The smell of Virginian Cedar always reminds me of the smell of sawdust and pencil shavings – two things that always remind me of him.

Cedar at Blackwater Arboratum

Woody notes can be soft and creamy such as Sandalwood and Himalayan Cedar or cool and earthy such as Patchouli and Vetiver. Woody notes can be added to ambers, florals, chypres or used on their own with fresh citrus or spicy top notes.

Although Patchouli is a distillation of the leaves rather than a wood, I’ve chosen to include it here as it does have some woody aspects and reminds me of walking through an English forest with the damp mulchy leaves on the ground.

Vetiver is very rooty with rich caramel undertones as well as an earthy woodyness.  It blends extremely well with citrus (especially grapefruit) accords.  Cedarwood Virginian with its sharp dry pencil shavings aroma is actually part of the Juniper family and useful in perfumery as a woody top note. It’s featured alongside the violet of Methyl Ionone in Serge Lutens  – Feminite du Bois.

Iso E Super is a lovely transparent woody ingredient to add to a fragrance as a blender or even used alone as a fragrance in it’s own right. The version of Iso E Super in Eccentric Molecules – Molecule 01 is actually Iso Gamma Super which as far as I know is still an IFF “captive” (not available outside of the company) but a good alternative is the lovely Timbersilk which you can buy from quite a few online suppliers now including Chris at Pell Wall



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