There has been talk of a possible change in the name of what is known as the oriental family among professionals and institutions in the perfumery sector.
The proposal is use: ambered, a neutral term far removed from controversy or second interpretations.
Discussions around this change started in the spring of 2021, and some of the most important institutions in the sector, such as the Fragrance Foundation in the United States and the British Society of Perfumers in the United Kingdom, have been the first to support this initiative, pointing out that the term may be offensive to some people and should be reviewed.
But what does the term oriental mean in perfumery?
The term "oriental" was already used in relation to cosmetics and perfumery in the mid-19th century and referred to products coming from remote regions. This fascination with the exoticism of the unknown and with countries of such diverse cultures inspired the Orientalist art movement.

Painting, fashion, dance, and all kinds of artistic expressions were impregnated with iconography from other regions and everything that was different, atypical.

Therefore, to speak of oriental perfumes is also to speak of the taste for the unknown, the Paris opera, the designs of Paul Poiret, the eccentricities of the Marquise Casati and the belle epoque.
The Chess Game by Ludwig Deutsch
It was not until the early 20th century that brands began to use it in their advertisements, and by the 1930s that an oriental fragrance began to be described as one with woody notes, sandalwood, vanilla, incense, tonka bean, patchouli, musk, or cinnamon. Intense, sensual, and warm aromas.
But the oriental concept also refers to ingredients from these faraway countries, which gradually found their way into the palette of perfumers, giving rise to new fragrances: incense from the Middle East, cedar from North Africa, sandalwood from India, oud from Southeast Asia and ginger from China.

It was not until the early 20th century that brands began to use it in their advertisements, and by the 1930s that an oriental fragrance began to be described as one with woody notes of vanilla, incense, tonka bean, patchouli, sandalwood, musk, or cinnamon. Intense, sensual, and warm aromas.

From here, the rest is history, and numerous perfumes were inspired by this exotic olfactory dream of Orient: Guerlain's Shalimar, Yves Saint Laurent's Opium and Christian Dior's Poison are some of the best-known oriental fragrances.
Why Ambery?
If we are talking purely about olfactory families, in perfumery, fragrances are classified according to their olfactory profile, but also by what they inspire. The first form of classification is used by professionals and has a scientific basis in terms of where the ingredients come from or what they replicate. The second classification relates directly to that of perception, interpretation, and metaphor. This is where we talk about oriental or feminine perfumes, something linked to culture rather than facts.

Oriental perfumes are also known as ambery, not only because of the use of ambergris as an ingredient, but also because of the vanilla-like accord of some resins present in what are known as oriental fragrances, such as the popular Ambre 83 by De Laire.

For the moment, the debate is still open, and brands and professionals are positioning themselves and revisiting their lexicon. This, like so many other discussions, has several readings and the community is in a moment of reflection, working for diversity and equality, as well as to support local communities and more sustainable ingredients.
At Wikiparfum we have chosen to adapt to these new times, adopting the term ambered without losing the traditional nomenclature for the moment, in order to not confuse consumers who have long been accustomed to using the term oriental to define all these mysterious and sensual aromas.

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