What Do Woody Fragrances Actually Smell Like?

What Do Woody Fragrances Actually Smell Like?

Woody fragrances are exactly what you expect them to be: perfumes created using and inspired by woods. There are many types of wood used in perfumery but, perhaps two of the most prevalent, and famous, are sandalwood and cedar wood, with each having many natural and synthetic variants that form part of the perfumer’s palette.

This style of perfumery can be many things and is awash with contrasts. Woody fragrances can be both cool and warm, hard and soft, rough and smooth, rich and sparse, spicy and mineral, and also much, much more. They can evoke warm skin, hot days and finely milled powders, overlapping with the other fragrance families and blurring all gender lines.

Woody fragrances are simply some of the most intriguing, evocative and beautiful. Here are five you need to know about.


1. The Soft Wood

Woody Fragrances: Miller Harris Perfumer's Library La Cedre Eau de Parfum

Le Cedre is a good example of the sensual softness of woods. Boasting a delightfully delicate and powdery note of cedar wood, which is spicy and human but also reminiscent of pencil shavings, with pepper and orchid for contrast, Le Cedre is an introverted skin scent that feels introspective and quiet. I genuinely think it is one of the most handsome fragrances out there, evoking the image of a handsome, foppish man with great hair and excellent taste in books.

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2. The Spicy Wood

Woody Fragrances: Guerlain Santal Royal Eau de Parfum

If Le Cedre is the quiet guy in the corner, Santal Royal is the extroverted dude taking centre stage; this is an example of how loud and boisterous woods can be, but also how they can transport us to exotic places. Santal Royal is spiced sandalwood that uses a good slug of woody amber notes to create an impressive presence. Fruity notes of peach and spicy cinnamon take us right into the middle of a bustling bazaar, leafing through rich fabrics, golden trinkets and irresistible delicacies. Believe me when I say this: every time I have worn this someone has chased me down demanding to know what it is. I think that tells you all you need to know about Santal Royal.

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3. The Feminine Wood

Woody Fragrances: Serge Lutens Feminite du Bois Eau de Parfum

Woody fragrances are often seen as masculine, and much of mainstream masculine perfumery indeed uses wood notes; however, to say they are exclusively masculine isn’t 100% true. Take Feminite du Bois by Serge Lutens, which was one of the first fragrances to explore the theme of woods from a feminine point of view, for example. In this iconic Lutens scent, spicy, skin-like cedar is contrasted by plum, creating a striking juxtaposition between the stark, angular quality of woods and the soft, juiciness of fruit. The result is a singular and bold fragrance that showcases the feminine elegance of woods.

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4. The Tactile Wood

Woody Fragrance: Miller Hariis Peau Santal Eau de Parfum

If you’re into perfume, you’ll know that sandalwood is very much having a moment right now, thanks mostly to Le Labo. Their cult Santal 33, approaches this usually rich, woody note from a new angle that is both fresh and expansive. Peau Santal explores a similar theme, but I think it does so in a more interesting manner – one that is more textural and tactile. Sandalwood here is clean and crisp, but also creamy and warm. It undulates, moving seamlessly from cool to warm, with freshness extended by the mineral greenery of violet leaf. It is quite something, and I’ll leave you with one crucial piece of info: Peau Santal is my most worn woody fragrance. Enough said.

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5. The Warm Wood

Woody Fragrance: Juliette Has a Gun Sunny Side Up Eau de Parfum

Juliette Has a Gun is a brand that knows how to have fun, so it’s no surprise that Sunny Side Up comes in a bottle that, when viewed from above, looks like an egg. The theme here is hot sunny days spent on beaches where the sand is so hot you could fry an egg on it. The scent evokes sun lotion, using the creamy aspects of sandalwood to recreate hot, sun-kissed skin coated in coconutty sun cream. It’s as enjoyable as a hot summer’s day spent at the beach (which is to say, very enjoyable).

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Discover More:

There’s more! Read the previous instalments of the series below…

• What is a Citrus Perfume?

• What is a Chypre Perfume?

•  What is a Floral Perfume?

•  What is a Fougere Fragrance?

• What is a Fruity Perfume?

• What is a Solar Perfume?

• What is a Gourmand Perfume?

•  What is a Amber Fragrance?

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