What is a Perfume Accord?


In this article, we explain what a perfume accord is and introduce the four main perfume accords known in perfumery and the key features of their formulas.

An Analogy

When speaking about a Perfume Accord, it is important to distinguish it from a single ingredient.

The best analogy to explain this is Music:

  • an ingredient is like an individual musical note
  • a perfume accord is like the signature section of a melody, or the chorus or refrain of the music.
  • olfactive classification is like grouping music by genre: Jazz, Blues, Classical, Hip Hop, ...

We all instantly recognise certain songs when we hear the signature section of a melody. It is not the individual note but the unique combination of notes which we instantly recognise as familiar because of its distinctiveness: it becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Think of your National Anthem, a famous song by the Beatles or your favourite musician, you don't need to hear much to instantly know what is playing.

Another analogy would be signature recipes in food:

  • pizza: must have a base, tomato sauce, some toppings and cheese
  • pasta: you need noodles, a sauce and parmesan cheese

You instantly recognise a pizza or pasta. Once you have the backbone of a recipe, you can vary it to become innovative and creative.

It is similar in perfumery: A perfume accord is a signature combination of several ingredients that is recognisable, distinctive and becomes more than its parts.

Below we introduce the four main perfume accords used in perfumery:

  • Chypre
  • Cologne
  • Fougere
  • Amber

It becomes a little confusing because these accords are also used as classes within olfactive classification. The explanation is, however, is quite simple: it is historical.

In other words, these accords become so popular that they created effectively created their own olfactive class or category.

Olfactory or Fragrance Pyramid

Pairfum Natural Niche Perfume Home Fragrance Olfactory Triangle 16 9
Pairfum Natural Niche Perfume Home Fragrance Olfactory Triangle 1 1
Pairfum Natural Niche Perfume Home Fragrance Olfactory Triangle 9 16

Perfume Accord: Chypre

The chypre accord is a rich but fresh and yet sophisticated, refined accord reminiscent of moss and wood, i.e. a woodland smell. The main building blocks of this timeless accord are:

  • Bergamot in the top note,
  • Rose in the heart, and
  • in the base Patchouli and Oak Moss.

Some perfumers simply it further by saying it is the combination of Citrus with Oakmoss, the citrus freshness with the typical warmth of oakmoss.

A unique feature of the chypre accord is its substantivity or long-lastingness due to the Oakmoss.
This classic construction combines well with the following notes: green, fruity, leather, animalic. In recent history, modern chypres include floral notes, fruit and musk.

The most famous Chypre perfume is "Chypre" by Coty (1917 by Fracois Coty) which defined the chypre accord.

We have a more complete and detailed introduction to the Chypre fragrance accord in our Encyclopedia.

Parfum Chypre De Coty Fragrance perfume accord formula

Oakmoss in Perfumery, a Magical Partnership

Pairfum Chypre Aromatic Woody Oak Moss Lichen Niche Perfume

Perfume Accord: Cologne

The word Cologne has several meanings in perfumery:

  • Eau de Cologne refers to a perfume spray with a lower perfume oil concentration than an 'Eau de Toilette', 'Eau de Parfum' or 'Parfum'.
  • In the USA, Cologne is synonymously with 'After Shave'
  • its 3rd meaning is an accord, i.e. the Cologne Accord.

The Cologne accord is a typical combination of citrus, aromatic and orange blossom notes. It has a very natural, soft and fresh character and was historically used for freshening up and in personal hygiene.

The accord has maintained its popularity to this day in Southern Europe and more recently because of its 'natural' character.

The first cologne is credited to Giovanni Paolo Feminis in 1695, with his perfume "Aqua Mirabilis".

In time, we will add a more complete and detailed introduction to the Cologne accord to our Encyclopedia.

The freshness of Bergamot, not just for Connoisseurs

Citrus Fruit Bergamot Essential Oil Fragrance 1

Fragrance Accord: Fougère

Fougere is translated as 'fern' in English but we don't like this translation, as it implies a single ingredient or smell.

Instead, it is a classically masculine combination of aromatic notes: lavender, geranium, oakmoss, coumarin and tobacco. Many perfumers describe the sweet warmth of coumarin in combination with the freshness typical of lavender and geranium, as the signature of Fougère. A modern Fougère can also contain spices, ambers, powdery notes, orange flower.

This is the archetypical masculine grooming fragrance that is also sometimes referred to as the 'barbershop accord'. "Brut" by Faberge is an example.

The first fragrance in this olfactive family was "Fougère Royale" by Houbigant, introduced by Paul Parquet in 1882.

We have a more complete and detailed introduction to the Fougère fragrance accord in our Encyclopedia.

Fougere Royal By Houbigant Fragrance perfume accord formula

Lavender, a key component of multiple Accords

Lavender Perfume Light

Perfume Accord: Amber or Oriental

The Amber Accord is typified by its combination of warmth and sensuality. It is constructed around the intensity and softness of ingredients such as vanilla, amber, balms and resins.

The following ingredients are frequently added to this accord to modernise and change its character: refreshing citruses, fruity and floral notes, warm spices and resins, animalic accents, musks, wonderful woods and more recently gourmand notes,

"Ambre Antique", by Coty in 1908, is the most famous early perfume in this family.

This accord used be to called the 'Oriental' Accord but the Perfume Industry believes the term is out of date, as it stems from Eurocentric view of perfume.

Instead, the term 'Amber' is being adopted and fragrance classifications are changing:

  • Soft Oriental becomes Soft Amber,
  • Floral Oriental or Floriental changes to Floral Amber,
  • Woody Oriental morphs into Woody Amber,
  • ... you get the gist.

In time, we will add a more complete and detailed introduction to the Amber accord to our Encyclopedia.

Amber, the new Oriental

Amber Perfume Resin Tree

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Vanilla, a Vital Ingredient of the Amber Accord

Vanilla Bean Pod Wood Liquid Oriental

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