Sophisticated man smelling perfume

The Short on Woody Scents

What is a woody scent?

Once upon a time, perfumes with a woody dominant scent were considered neither feminine or masculine. Prior to the industrial revolution, scents were considered gender neutral. Scent preferences were rather more cultural and individual preferences rather than having social gender labels.

However, with the advertising and marketing boom from the 1950s (post WWII), gender stereotyping and gender labels on consumer products took a rather unfortunate boom. 

While dominantly woody scents were considered masculine, modern pour homme perfumes still use a lot of woody dominant notes.  Although, in the last 30 years, fresh-aquatic scents have also made their way into the shopping list of men, especially younger men. 

Woody base notes have the longest lasting sillage, which makes them value for money. A typical woody scent would have at least one of these in its base notes - patchouli, sandlewood, cedarwood and/or vetiver.


Aromatic perfumes are part of the woody family. Aromatic-woody perfumes tend to be gender neutral. While dry-woody scents (smoky, leathery) scents are typically For Men.

It's unlikely for Western perfumes to be pure woody scents - incense-like. These tend to be favoured by middle-eastern consumers. Western perfumes are generally blended with oriental accords.

How To Extract Woody Scents

Dry distillation is a process that uses a high amount of heat to extract oils from harder woods. The process starts with a direct flame applied to a pot or vat of the wood material. When the oils in the wood begin to evaporate, they are collected in a vapor pipe and condensed to turn the vapor back into liquid form.

What Organic Material Can Be Extracted

What organic products can ‘essence’ be extracted from? :



  3. WOODS

What types of ‘essences’ can be extracted?



  3. RESIN



An absolute is a type of natural extract. Some natural ingredients need to be processed via solvent extraction to yield well. This is the case of many flowers such as Jasmine, Iris and Labdanum.

With solvent extraction, plants are first placed into a rotating drum before being coated with a type of solvent such as benzene or petroleum. The solvent then dissolves the plants, leaving behind a waxy substance containing the oils.

The substance is then dissolved in ethyl alcohol, which is burned off and results in perfume oil.


Enfleurage is a traditional method and one of the oldest of extracting oils from flowers with the use of fat. It’s no longer used today and has long been replaced by other extraction processes. Tiny Jasmine or Tuberose blooms would be pressed into glass sheets coated with fat, for days, to capture their scent. The oils were then captured by dissolving the fat in an alcoholic solvent. Enfleurage used to be the main extraction method when distillation wasn’t possible.


Essential Oil


Essential oils are the most commonly known perfumery oils. Essential oils are the natural extract of an ingredient by distillation. This is a key technique used to acquire aroma compounds from plants and flowers. Once botanical materials are heated, their essential oils evaporate with the steam. The compounds are then collected through the condensation of the distilled vapour. It is commonly used for extracting from Roses, Orange blossom, Geranium and many other ingredients.

It’s thought that the Persians were the first to invent distillation which gave rise to the use of alcohol as the perfume carrier instead of oil. Thanks to this new technology it’s likely a reason why the Persians went on to dominate the perfume industry.


Supercritical fluids are used as the solvent to extract an essential oil from a material. CO2 is mainly used in perfumery. When at its supercritical state (between liquid and gas), it penetrates through the material to extract the volatile oils from which is obtained an essential oil.

This process, while more expensive than traditional distillation renders a scent more ‘close to nature’. It also allows the extraction from ingredients which could not be extracted through traditional methods such as liquid solvent extraction or distillation.



Secreted by tree bark, resins are often sticky substances that are often burned as incense but are still commonly used in modern perfumery. Often smelling smoky, warm and ambery, they add depth to a scent – frankincense, myrrh and fir are all types of resin known as either gum resins or hard resins.

Resins can be extracted through a variety of methods such as tapping into the tree’s bark or burning the bark leaving behind the resin.

It’s also possible to obtain some resins such as frankincense through steam distillation mentioned earlier.




Molecule perfume ingredients are produced through synthetic organic chemistry. Used in combination with naturals, they are essential to the modern perfumer industry. More often than not they mimic natural ingredients very closely. Some synthetic molecules are directly extracted from the natural ingredients making them organically certified. Common synthetics are musk and animalic notes as well as the Iso E Super and Ambroxan molecules.

Note: Iso E Super is a single aroma molecule that has a faint cedarwood and sandalwood aroma to it. As a perfume, it is a very transparent and neutral scent. Ambroxan is a synthetic form of ambergris with a soft sweet and salty gray amber scent.


Most scented molecules are naturally present in nature. A natural ingredient may contain from a dozen to several dozens individual scent molecules. Some will be present in larger quantities and will therefore be responsible for its smell and taste.

It is possible to extract a specific molecule from a natural ingredient through fractional distillation. Therefore, that specific molecule, while not occurring in isolation in nature, may still be considered organic if the ingredient it was extracted from was organically certified.


Headspace is a remarkably cool way of capturing scent that uses a domed container to form an airtight seal around an object, before analysing its odour compounds at a lab. Once analysed, the scent can be recreated using synthetic molecules. It’s commonly used on flowers or material that are hard to extract using traditional methods but it could be used on just about anything.

Checkout some of our more popular perfumes with WOODY dominant accords
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