Françoise Rapp

Creating a perfume involves several crucial stages, one of which is evaluation. In this article, we will delve into the details of this procedure and explore the critical criteria for assessing the quality of a perfume.

Sensory Evaluations for Perfume Quality

After purely technical evaluation, perfumes are subjected to sensory assessment to determine their overall quality. Evaluators rely on their sense of smell to detect various components and note olfactory characteristics such as scent intensity, persistence, and complexity.

The Criteria for Evaluating a Perfume

When evaluating a perfume, several criteria come into play. Let’s explore some of the most important ones:


Diffusion refers to the ability of a fragrance to spread into the ambient air. This criterion can be further broken down into three characteristics: flight (or lift), wake, and volume.

  • Flight or Lift: The lift of a fragrance represents its rapid and powerful diffusion at the time of application. A perfume that needs more lift may seem flat. The use of ethyl alcohol as a solvent in commercial perfumes greatly facilitates lift, although the nature of the materials used also impacts this characteristic.
  • Sillage: The sillage, a French term borrowed from the vocabulary of sailors, refers to a perfume’s ability to diffuse around the person wearing it with power and persistence. A discreet fragrance, on the other hand, has weak sillage.
  • Volume: Volume indicates a perfume’s ability to fill a confined space, such as a room, from the person wearing it. A scent with good sillage will likely have good volume, but some fragrances demonstrate convincing volume without an intense trail.


Substantivity refers to the capacity of an aromatic composition to maintain a significant olfactory perception threshold over time after application. It is often equated with the staying power or tenacity of a perfume. The lasting effect of a fragrance is an essential criterion for consumers, as they expect the scent to remain noticeable for an extended period after application.

Traditional “Eaux de Cologne” products are known to have poor staying power due to their low concentration and the use of raw materials with low persistence, such as citrus essences. However, to meet the demand for longevity, contemporary Eaux de Cologne compositions incorporate persistent materials like white musk, hydroxycitronellal, and orange crystal, subtly modifying the traditional aesthetic of this fragrance category.


Linearity refers to a perfume’s ability to maintain its olfactory form over time once applied. This criterion is more subjective and aesthetic rather than purely technical. Some may perceive a linear fragrance dull, while others appreciate its consistent and faithful character. Fragrances that showcase dazzling notes and stylistic reversals in their evolution can be described as either disconcerting or virtuoso, depending on personal sensitivity.


Stability describes a composition’s ability to resist endogenous or exogenous alterations that could modify its olfactory form or compromise its safety.

There are two aspects of stability to consider:

  • “In vivo” stability refers to a perfume’s ability to maintain its original form when applied to the skin. Alterations can occur due to oxygen in the air (oxidation reaction), ultraviolet radiation from the sun, or the user’s individual epidermal properties. Manufacturers can enhance stability by incorporating preservatives, but accounting for each person’s unique chemistry is challenging.
  • “In vitro” stability pertains to a composition’s ability to resist alterations over time while stored in its bottle. Endogenous factors, such as chemical reactions between the materials used, can impact the olfactory form. External factors like oxidation, heat, or light can also contribute to alterations. Preservative ingredients help mitigate these issues, but perfumes remain perishable.


Safety is a crucial criterion for perfume compositions, ensuring they do not produce undesirable effects when applied to the user’s skin. These effects can range from skin sensitization and itching to phototoxic impacts and allergic reactions.

Perfume manufacturers prioritize the safety of their products, adhering to the directives set by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA). The IFRA’s regulations often lead to banning raw materials that are considered incompatible with safety standards. While some believe these preventive measures are excessive, they play a vital role in safeguarding consumers.

Implementing IFRA standards necessitates a periodic reformulation of classic perfume compositions, which can alter their original personality. This can be a point of contention among perfume enthusiasts who lament the potential distortion of the perfumed heritage. Consequently, a seemingly commonsensical technical criterion profoundly influences the aesthetics of perfumes.

In conclusion, perfume evaluation encompasses various essential criteria, including diffusion, substantivity, linearity, stability, and safety. Understanding these criteria provides a deeper appreciation for the art and science behind the creation of captivating fragrances.



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