What is the difference between an eau de parfum, eau de toilette & a cologne?

Finding the right perfume for yourself can be an overwhelming experience and knowing whether to opt for an Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette or Eau de Cologne can make the perfume buying process even more complex.

The fragrance industry, as we know it today, is made up of different fragrance categories. With the vast array of traditional and new fragrances to choose from, these categories help to define the different perfume types. Which category a perfume sits in is often based on the concentration of pure perfume oil that the perfumer has used in the formula. However, it’s important to note that there’s no real way of defining a fragrance – perfume is a creative art and that’s the beauty of it. It’s very much open to the interpretation of the master perfumer and there are many times they will look to “break the rules” when it comes to fragrance types, in order to create a true masterpiece.

What is an Eau de Parfum?

Eau de Parfums were born out of the late 1970’s, originating from a pure parfum that were classically produced for the wealthiest in society. It is the youngest of the perfume families that quickly became most popular amongst French fashion houses to describe a perfume that was more prestigious than an Eau de Toilette or Cologne yet had a more accessible price point than a traditional parfum (or extrait). An Eau de Parfum alludes to a richer formula and often has the highest concentration of the three fragrance families, after a pure Parfum, of course. Today, Eau de Parfum’s are considered one of the most luxurious fragrance types and The House of Creed tends to only create fragrances of an Eau de Parfum concentration. Often, an Eau de Parfum will have a much deeper base with more emphasis placed by the master perfumer on the heart and base notes to give a more lavish and sumptuous effect. The percentage traditionally sat around 15% but now we expect it to be much higher and closer to 18-20% due to fragrance trends. There’s often a misconception that an Eau de Parfum is a very heavy scent, whereas something like an Eau de Toilette or an Eau de Cologne is a much fresher scent. This isn’t strictly true. The perception of the fragrance is based on the story the perfumer is trying to tell. If the story is one of freshness, the perfumer will manipulate the concentrations they use, opting for luxurious quantities and ingredients that are not so heavy in nature. It is this careful selection by the master perfumer that will allow the freshness to continue until the end of the perfume story, never allowing the formula to turn heavy, thus creating an uplifting Eau de Parfum.

What is an Eau de Toilette?

An Eau de Toilette refers to the French culture of morning grooming rituals - ‘faire sa toilette’ - immediately alluding to freshness, cleanliness, and everyday usage with a generous application. Eau de Toilette's tends to have a lower concentration of aroma ingredients than an Eau de Parfum – traditionally 8-12% with a very generous head note that can often be perceive as very powerful to begin with. However, it holds more volatile notes than an Eau de Parfum or extrait, meaning it tends to be less long-lasting on the skin and notes that may seem initially too overpowering will quickly settle down on the skin to leave a subtle feeling of freshness. Eau de Toilettes are very energetic, thanks to the abundance of hespederic (or citrus) notes, lending itself perfectly to a daytime scent.

What is an Eau de Cologne?

This is the oldest kind of perfume in the Western hemisphere, dating back perhaps as far as the 14th century. The classic percentage of a cologne tends to be the lowest concentration in the perfume world, sitting at around 4-6%. The term “cologne” is often widely misused as a general term to describe a men’s fragrance of any concentration, however, the true meaning of an Eau de Cologne (or Cologne) is a fragrance with huge head notes (largely made up of citrus ingredients) and a tiny base of herbal notes. This is due to the origin of an Eau de Cologne; historically formulated as medicinal waters that were ingested for their health benefits. In the 19th century, the introduction of synthetic ingredients saw the use of an Eau de Cologne move away from ingesting and towards perfuming the skin instead. The use of synthetic ingredients in this instance gave more body and tenacity to cologne formulas. Today, you can find colognes at many different strengths, and the name is often used across fragrance families to allude to the spirit of the creation – refreshing, revitalising and largely citrus. Like many others, Olivier Creed looked to the history of an Eau de Cologne for inspiration with his latest creation, Aventus Cologne. Inspired by a fresh and invigorating spirit of the historical citrus waters, Aventus Cologne blends zesty mandarin with ginger and peppercorn in the powerful top notes, however, unlike a cologne, Aventus Cologne is classified as an Eau de Parfum in strength due to its long-lasting base of styrax, birch, musk and tonka bean (at far greater concentration than you would see in a classic cologne).

The Fragrance Pyramid

To be able to translate a perfumer’s creative storytelling via different fragrant ingredients, many perfume houses refer to a pyramid, separated into head or top notes, heart and then base notes. Each ingredient will find its correct area in the pyramid, according to its natural “volatility” (how quickly it evaporates on the skin). Typically, the first notes you smell in a fragrance are those that sit at the top of the pyramid (for example your citrus notes) and these are the most volatile, evaporating very quickly after applying. The heart or middle notes comprise of mainly fruity, floral and spicy ingredients and last much longer than your top notes. Finally, base notes (made up typically of woody and balsamic ingredients) are the heaviest and have the greatest longevity in the fragrance. The art of a master perfumer is to know - and experiment with - many variations of ingredients. Each area of the fragrance pyramid can be minimised or maximised according to the creators wish, and this tends to influence the concentration of the raw fragrant material in a formula. Only the perfumer truly understands the percentage of raw materials given to their creation - depending on the volume of each ingredient, the final scent of fragrance will differ greatly. That optimum final percentage given to the formula can take many, many months of experimentation to finalise.