What are accords in perfumery?

If you've just entered the world of perfumery, a term you've probably heard frequently thrown around is that of an "accord". In this post I explain exactly what an accord is and why it's important in perfumery.

Accords & Chords

The simplest way to understand what an accord is in perfumery is by analogy with music. When playing the notes on the piano (or any other instrument), certain combinations of notes can have a certain harmony between them, and when played together, the harmonious sound is called a "chord". Fundamentally, "accords" in perfumery are the same.

Perfumes are composed from olfactory notes, or raw materials instead of musical notes. However, when smelled together, the notes in perfumery can still provide a harmonious effect. This is an accord in perfumery; when the smell of a combination of raw materials is perceived as more than the sum of its parts.


Accords in perfumery

One of the simplest and most famous accords in perfumery is the amber accord. Not related to fossilised amber resin, the amber accord is a fantasy accord, meaning it's not emulating a real smell from nature. But it's now a well known smell due to its extensive use in perfumery; most people will recognise amber as a sweet, resinous, honey-like note.

The classic amber accord is really quite simple since it's composed of only two notes. Those are Labdanum (usually the Absolute), a natural raw material, and Vanillin, a synthetic raw material. Together, these raw materials combine to make a new olfactory fingerprint, and that is the amber accord. When that olfactory fingerprint is present in a perfume, the perfume can be said to feature an amber accord.

Accords vs Perfumes (vs Bases)

So then, an accord is a mixture of raw materials, just like a perfume - what's the difference between the two then!?

In the video below, I explain where perfumes go beyond accords and how they are different. I also explain the term bases, a very similar concept to accords but with important differences.
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