Spectrums of Color and Aromatics


“Some perfumers are as fragrant an an infant’s flesh,
sweet as an oboe’s cry, and greener than the spring.” ~ Baudelaire

In the art forms of visual, musical and aromatic art there are many parallel universes. Today lets look at the relationship of color to aromatic materials. In 1992 Jeanne Rose devised the “Basic Seven Vocabulary of Odors”™ to help her students formulate a language for describing scent combined with a visual tool. This is not a fragrance wheel used to define fragrance families in perfume. The Vocabulary of Odors”™ is a system, adopted from the Perfumers Guide specific to Natural/Botanical perfume, to describe notes that exist in any object containing a fragrance. For example when we inhale the scent of a collection of fresh fruits the note we primarily experience is fruity. Complex aromas contain dominant notes with subsidiary and back notes. The dominant note in a stargazer lily flower is floral with a subsidiary note of spice. The world of wine uses a similar classification system.


Jeanne Rose organized it as follows:

Red = Floral
Orange = Fruity
Yellow = Citrus
Green = Green/Vegetative
Blue = Woody
Indigo = Herbaceous/Camphoraceous
Violet = Spice

Once learned then you can describe a scent using the correct terminology, the universal language of perfume. This vocabulary can be further expanded, eventually including a list of twenty eight descriptive words.
Floral, Powder, Honey, Oily/Fatty, Musk/Amber, Waxy, Fruity, Aldehyde, Hay, Citrus, Green, Vegetative, Conifer, Mint, Almond-like, Fungal, Marine, Moss, Wood, Smoke, Leather, Earth, Civet, Herbal, Camphor, Balsamic, Carmel and Spicy. Can you think of more? Here are some: Resinous, Rich, Edible or Gourmand, Agrestic (referring to rich hay-like notes), Animalic and Balsamic.

Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) essential oil (EO) has dominant notes of Wood and Herbaceous/Camphoraceous with a back note of Green/Vegetal and a subsidiary note of Spice. Patchouli does not have a Fruity note, thus we would term Fruity as being absent. If we were using the twenty eight word vocabulary we would lead with the word Earthy and add Musk/Amber to our back or subsidiary note. It all depends “which” patchouli you are experiencing. Each patchouli will be different depending where it comes from (Indonesia, Madagascar or India) how it is produced (EO, C02 or absolute) and how old it is. An aged patchouli may have a dominant note of Floral compared to a really fresh, newly distilled patchouli that can be very Green/Vegetative.

Jeanne Rose

Basic Seven Vocabulary of Odors™

Wine 101

The Wine Aroma Wheel

The first image above is titled “Rainbow Man”, an original painting created with acrylic veils on prepared board, the second image, a horizontal bar of seven colored squares, was created using several of Roxana’s existing paintings. Both images are ©Roxana Villa.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *