Commonly Used Aroma Descriptors

Learn the language of pros!


Agrestic – rustic, smell of the countryside (such as, hay, heather, forest depths, or meadows)

Aldehyde/aledydic – uplifting and sparkling citrusy and spicy top notes; refers to a specific set of synthetic fragrance compounds

Amber – resinous, gummy, warm and powdery

Animalic – faecal, leathery and fur-like scent

Aniseedy – reminding of the smell of aniseed

Astringent – penetrating, sharp, pungent

Balsamic – rich, bitter / sweet, warm, earthy and woody

Bitter - metallic green quality, without sweetness, sharp

Camphoraceous – smelling like/of camphor – fresh, sharp, medicinal, clean, purifying

Citrusy – citrus fruit-like, zesty, fresh, clean, sweet or bittersweet

Clean – uncomplicated, fresh

Cloying – sweet, heavy, clingy, almost suffocating

Coniferous – pine needles-like, woody

Cooling – usually peppermint-like, feeling cold when breathed in, refreshing

Earthy – mossy, mouldy, forest floor like, soil/dirt like

Exotic – intoxicating, heady, floral, evocative of tropics and tropical flowers

Floral – characteristic of a specific flower, e.g. rose-like or jasmine-like, could be gardenia, mimosa, narcissus, or tuberose, etc. or a blend of several flower notes

Fresh – light and airy notes found in green and citrusy essential oils, clean and crisp

Fruity - like sweet, fresh and ripe fruits the oil came from

Green – like green foliage, cut grass, moist leafy forest

Grassy – like cut grass

Harsh – pungent, chemical, rough

Heady – intoxicating, stimulating, sparkling or narcotic

Heavy – intense and often cloying, sweet and balsamic

Herbal/ Herbaceous - green, shrubby, camphoraceous, minty, medicinal

Honey/honeyed – very sweet, syrupy, heavy

Incense – sweat, powdery and resinous

Leathery – pungent, smoky and sweet

Lemony – zesty, lemon-like, crisp, clean, fresh

Medicinal – camphoraceous, herbal or spicy

Minty – cool, refreshing, peppermint-like

Mossy – typical of oak moss and anything reminiscent of the forest floor

Musty – dusty, old papers, attic

Narcotic – intense and intoxicating (usually floral)

Oriental – with ‘amber’ and spice notes, rich, heavy, tenacious

Peppery - smelling pepper effect

Persistent – oil with high tenacity, ‘stubborn’

Phenolic – strong disinfectant-like

Piney – needle or cone-like (from coniferous trees)

Powdery – soft, dry and velvety, sweet and woody with citrus or green notes, somewhat musty

Pungent – strong and sharp

Resinous – rich and deep

Rich – deep, penetrating, lingering, full

Sharp - opposite of soft/round

Smoky – like wood fire

Soft – soothing, gentle, calming

Spicy – hot, warm, exotic, peppery, pungent

Sweet – floral or sugary

Warm – comforting, creating a feeling of safety, a ‘safe hug’

Woody – tree bark, wood, scent of the freshly cut woods or roots


by Margaret Pawlaczyk-Karlinski MSc. (Hons.), Cert. Ed., M.I.F.A., NHS reg.