A Guide to the Woody Fragrance Family

October 2023

The world of fragrance can appear vast and complex, and tricky to get your head around. To make things simpler, it is important to know that each perfume comes under a scent category or a ‘fragrance family’, of which there are four overarching olfactory families.

Knowing the characteristics of these will help you to recognise what perfumes you like, and what is suited to different times of year. One of the most diverse and dominant families is the woody fragrance family, which is popular all year round, but particularly suited to the colder months for its rich, earthy character.


What is woody fragrance?

As the name suggests, woody fragrances are characterised by notes derived from wood materials such trees, roots, resins, moss and some leaves and grasses that hold earthy qualities. Wood notes tend to be rich and warm, often forming the base of a scent due to their aromatic weight, typically paired with aromatic, citrus or floral top notes.


What is an earthy scent?

An earthy perfume comes under the woody fragrance family category but it is more specific, referring to material that comes from plantlife that has an earthy tone and aroma. Roots, moss and grass define earth scents with patchouli, oakmoss and vetiver as significant essential oils in this family. Earthy fragrances can be extremely grounding, with a smell that closely imitates nature.


What does a woody or earthy perfume smell like?

As well as smelling like the natural wood or earth material that generally makes up the core of the fragrance, woody scents can be given a twist with heart and top notes from other fragrance families, to create different versions or ‘sub families’ of woody perfume. Some examples include woody floral, woody ambery or oriental, woody fruity, woody citrus and sometimes complex formulations contain multiple accents from different families.


Woody fragrance in Autumn

Autumn is a season defined by change as our surrounding natural world decays to restart. The trees produce a remarkable colour palette of russets, ambers and golds, while the air is filled with their earthy aroma as well as smokey hints from distant wood burning fires. The woodland rules at this time of year, which makes it the perfect time to opt for woody fragrance.


Woody fragrance in Winter

Winter continues to chill and decay, with the trees stripped of leaves and smells of the earth dominate. We gravitate to the indoors, lighting spicy scented candles and warming fires as we crave comfort and small pleasures. Woody fragrances make a great winter warmer and add sensuality to an often dreary season.


Woody And Earthy perfume notes

If woody fragrance is a top choice for you, or maybe you’d like to learn more about this fragrance family, discover some of the most popular woody perfume notes:



Cedarwood is perhaps the most significant of the woods due to its ancient use in perfumery, and is one of the most commonly used notes in fragrance – it can be found in many of Czech & Speake’s formulas. Its scent comes from the extracted oil of coniferous trees which are native to the Mediterranean region as well as the Himalayan Mountains, the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and the Virginia in the US.

What does cedarwood smell like? Its character is dry, distinctively woody and resinous.

Its deep qualities lend itself best to being used as a base note, the soul of the fragrance, supporting and combining beautifully with fresher notes such as citrus. Its aroma is comforting, warm and long-lasting, meaning it works well as an evening scent and is suited to the cooler seasons.

Czech & Speake fragrances containing cedarwood: Spanish Cedar, Dark Rose, Cuba, Frankincense and Myrrh.



Vetiver is certainly unique with its rich, intensely earthy and smokey aroma. It is impossible to replicate synthetically, so you can be assured a vetiver scent is a true representation of the natural essence. The plant is a perennial grass with firm, linear leaves, but it is its dense, fibrous roots that grow in marshy areas and riverbanks that produce the distinctive, earthy vetiver scent.

Where does vetiver grow? Vetiver is native to India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia but is also cultivated in areas such as Japan, South America and the Philippines. The significant locations that produce the oil are Java, reunion and Haiti – Haitian Vetiver is the essential oil used in Czech & Speake’s Vétiver Vert.

Unlike Cedarwood, Vetiver is a cool fragrance due to its earthy, damp origins, but at the same time it is luscious, sweet and full. This makes it suited to the cooler seasons, where intensity is desired to survive in the cold, inhospitable climate.

Czech & Speake fragrances containing vetiver: Vétiver Vert, No.88, Cuba.



Sandalwood is a widely used scent due to its versatility and ability to blend extremely well with a variety of different notes. The mysterious scented oil is a valuable ingredient, extracted from trees in the genus Santalum. Its aroma is creamy, rich and sensual, which is perhaps why it is so addictive to inhale. In the past, sandalwood was significantly sourced from India due to the wood’s fine quality, but overtime it has been over-harvested; Australian sandalwood is now a preferred choice, where a quota system ensures that the trees are not.

What does sandalwood smell like? The fragrance is balsamic, rich and sweet with a delicate nod to wood. The smell is exotic, so it is often associated with oriental scents.

The aroma is subtler than cedarwood, but has a unique depth and ability to linger and last, acting as an excellent fixative for other notes. This staying power is useful in cool weather.

Czech & Speake fragrances containing sandalwood: No.88, Vétiver Vert, Cuba, Spanish Cedar, Perfecto Fino, Frankincense and Myrrh.



Officially named agarwood, Oud is one of the most expensive and recognised wood ingredients used in perfumery. It has an exotic, oriental quality lending to its use in Eastern inspired fragrances, where the wood itself is native. Countries include Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Philippians and Malaysia. Oud comes from the resin of evergreen trees Aquilaria and Gyrinops, which they produce in protection from fungus. The scent is distinctive, earthy with unique accents of incense.

What does Oud smell like? Oud is bittersweet, it is subtly smoky to give it warmth, it has hints of leather and musk, while incredibly earthy as well as sweet-spicy incense nuances.

A luxurious quality of Oud perfume is that it is incredibly long lasting and will stay on skin for hours.

Czech & Speake fragrances containing Agarwood (Oud): Dark Rose Eau de Parfum.


The best woody perfumes for men

Woody cologne is popular for men due to the heavy nature of the fragrance family and tendency to smell typically masculine. For men who like a very masculine scent, woody tobacco perfumes are rich and smoky, and highly long lasting. Perfecto Fino from the Czech & Speake fragrance collection combines earthy patchouli, elegant Sandalwood and smoky tobacco in its base. Floral woody perfumes are also a great option for men, as they capture the sweet freshness of flowers but are made richer or muskier with the element of wood. No.88 is our all time most popular fragrance, which is in fact a floral woody scent, combining geranium, rose, cassie and frangipani with vetiver and sandalwood, resulting in a perfume that is invigorating, woody and mossy.


Woodsy female perfumes

Woody perfume for women is becoming increasingly popular, along with a shift towards unisex perfume. Woody fragrance has personality and depth, with notes that unfold to tell a story. This romance and longevity is highly desired in perfume for him or her. For her, fresh and woody perfumes are a good option; Vétiver Vert opens with a fresh citrussy top note of mandarin, drying down to a warm and earthy base of sandalwood and Vetiver. For women that love rich, floral scents, woody florals are the perfect choice. Our floral woody No.88 is loved by women as well as men, or Dark Rose Eau de Parfum offers a floral oud perfume, which is sweet, exotic and mysterious.


Woody candle scents

A number of Czech & Speake’s iconic woody fragrances have been released as scented candles. Choose between Smoky Perfecto Fino and sweet resinous Spanish Cedar. Woody candle scents are brilliantly warming.

Czech & Speake candle in frosted glass with Spanish Cedar and Perfecto Fino packaging on marble surface.


Further Reading

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