How the fragrance wheel can help you find the best men’s cologne!

cologne fragrance wheel photoDo you ever agonize over different scents as you try to find the best men’s cologne? I’ve been known to stand in a store for over an hour as I test, spray, whiff, wait, compare and contrast different fragrances. That is, until I learned to distinguish different categories of scents, and then it got much easier. What did I discover? The Fragrance Wheel, of course!

A little background: The Fragrance Wheel was first created by Michael Edwards in 1983, who was a well-known consultant in the fragrance industry. The purpose of the wheel was to help retailers find the perfect fragrance match for their customers. Because smell and emotion are so closely intertwined, rarely do two people have the same exact preference when it comes to fragrances. The wheel can help individuals find the ideal fragrance for their own personal taste using a unique classification system that is easy to understand. Today, the Fragrance Wheel is used by every major fragrance retailer to help men find the best cologne.

How the Wheel Works

There are five main fragrance categories, which include: Oriental, Floral, Fresh, Aromatic and Woody. From here, each main category is then broken down into sub-categories. The Aromatic category is the only one without any sub-categories as the family stands on its own.

First, let’s take a look at what each of the five main categories consists of.

  1. Oriental: Exotic blends of resins, musks, citrus and fruity notes. Great for Marco Polo types!
  2. Floral: The most popular fragrance family. Fragrances may include scents from a single flower or a mixed bouquet.  Good for summer days!
  3. Fresh: Fresh fragrances include greens, water notes, citrus and fruity notes. Perfect choice for projecting a bit of a cheeky vibe!
  4. Woody: As its name suggest, woody fragrances include notes of mosses and woods, including pine, sandalwood and patchouli. Rich and complex!
  5. Aromatic:  A combination of woody, oriental, fresh and floral. The ultimate for those who like an herbal cologne.

Fragrance Sub-Categories

Each of these five main fragrance families have their own sub-categories to make fragrance selection even easier. Below are the sub-categories and some examples from each.


  • Floral – Freshly cut flowers
  • Soft Floral – Powdery and aldehydes
  • Floral Oriental – Sweet spicy notes and orange blossom


  • Soft Oriental – Amber, incense, etc.
  • Oriental – Resins, exotic floral notes
  • Woody Oriental – Patchouli and Sandalwood


  • Woods – Aromatic woods and vetiver
  • Mossy Woods – Amber and oakmoss
  • Dry Woods – Leather and other dry woods
  • Aromatic – Lavender, herbs, etc.


  • Citrus – Citrus oils, bergamot, orange, etc.
  • Fruity – Berries and fruits
  • Green – Green notes and galbanum
  • Water – Aquatic notes and marine

As you can see, the sub-categories flow into one another. For example, a Woody Oriental fragrance may contain elements of both main categories.

The Fragrance Wheel can be used to help you find your signature scent by finding the best men’s fragrances that incorporate notes you find most appealing. It helps to make the world of fragrance just a little bit easier to understand by taking the mystery out industry terms that confuse the everyday consumer.

For more guidance, check out our article on matching cologne to your skin type.

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