What is the difference between cologne and perfume

What is the difference between cologne and perfume?

Scenting the body has been practiced for centuries in the development of human civilization, not only to cleanse the skin, but also for ceremonial purposes and to signify regal nobility. Fast forward to today and we witness a more ubiquitous and secular use. 

Hefty price tags are often associated with and designed to uphold traditional fragrance nobility practices; however, with the rise of technology, personal knowledge, and general demand for premium scents, fragrances have a firm spellbinding hold on us.

Despite our natural gravitation towards something so magnifying, it should not come as a surprise that most of us are hardly knowledgeable about the history or the distinguishing factors between fragrances.  

At Dossier, we have the pleasure of sharing with you a brief historical timeline of fragrances, as well as a glossary to guide you in understanding the subtle, yet poignant differences in fragrances.  

Fragrance: a Brief Historical Overview

As humans, we’re all drawn to our past, so it’s not surprising that fragrances have been extensively documented over the course of history. Its earliest origins trace back to ancient Egypt, arguably the birthplace of manufactured scents where Egyptians made perfume by distilling natural ingredients with non-scented oils. It didn’t take long for these confections to gain notoriety as they played a pivotal role in Egyptian international trade relations and increased global wealth.

Time warping to the 16th century, Catherine de Medici is frequently credited with influencing perfume’s notoriety throughout Europe. Her Italian perfumer, Rene le Florentin, created a signature scent for her out of orange blossom and bergamot (ingredients that remain highly sought after in modern times). Other European nobility soon followed suit popularizing perfume in Europe among the noble class.

As fragrances became synonymous with opulence, they also gained recognition as penultimate fashion accessories. European men and women would wear perfume on their bodies, clothing and wigs. Since bathing regularly was still a rare practice, these scents were used to “cover up” the scent of body odors.

The smell of perfume was in vogue because it helped distinguish the upper classes.

Currently, perfume breaks from older traditions that were originally designed to distinguish social classes. It’s now a clear course to bridge olfactory senses with inner beauty. That being said, you need to master your fragrance without offending the people in your vicinity. 

Get it wrong and you’ll notice that those around you will find any excuse to avoid your presence.

Fragrance basics: your quick and essential glossary

Here at Dossier, we take the guesswork out of terms by providing you with a glossary to guide you with distinguishing key fragrance terms.


A scent is any general smell that is perceived by the nose. It may be positive or unpleasant, depending on the context of its occurrence and the preferences of the one smelling it. However, stench is the term generally reserved for a malodorous smell.


A fragrance is any scent regarded as affecting pleasant sensations, and these vary according to one’s personal tastes.


Essence is the fundamental base for all scents, fragrances, perfumes, and colognes. It is the natural material from which all scented elements are synthesized. Thus, essence is the base scent of an essential oil. It’s chemically extracted from flowers, plants, herbs, and other odorous or therapeutic flora before being combined with other essences to produce unique fragrances that ultimately become colognes and perfumes. 

Essential oil, however, is the organic substrate that embodies the essence. Essential oils are always in liquid form and are extracted from fragrant plants such as lilies, lavender, or lilac. While the essence is merely its aromatic base, the essential oil is its perceived scent and the element it derives from.


Directly related to the positive connotations attributed to fragrances, perfume is a blend of essential oils specifically combined to produce a particular and positive scent that is applied to the body. 


A cologne (or colony) is a type of perfume with a significantly lower concentration of essential oil, or essence. Perfumes generally have about 30% of essence or essential oil in their composition while cologne typically contains about 8%. This fractional difference explains why the scent of colognes have a substantially shorter duration and intensity than perfumes.

Fragrance: your essential companion

Viewed as an extension of your identity and personality, perfume has the power to add a scented layer of elegance as you stroll through the streets, wafting in your wake an alluring blend of scents that captivates the imagination, stimulates desire, and casts a magical spell that envelops your body for those lucky enough to be in your vicinity.

So certain of a perfume’s seductive power, legendary beauty and style icon Elizabeth Taylor once remarked, “The beauty of fragrance is that it speaks to your heart…and hopefully, someone else’s.” In another sense, we believe that perfume tells your story, lingering in the memory of others long after you have left a room, hinting at the secrets of its composition in its invisible presence. 

Here at Dossier, we aim to connect the essences of your favorite fragrances with the mood and effect you want to create so that you use them to accentuate your wardrobe, complete your daily routine, and make you feel glamorous.

While strict vegans and hippie naysayers might contend that one’s natural body odor produces the pheromones that enable genuine physiological attraction, this does not diminish the indisputable power that a fragrance (regardless of whether it’s a cologne or perfume) matching your scent preferences  holds. It can provoke feelings of relaxation, excitement, creativity, titillation and even recollection of long forgotten childhood memories. 

A perfume allows you to be in harmony with oneself, to attract and seduce, or to give yourself a boost of confidence. It speaks volumes about yourself, without saying a word. Thus, we firmly believe that it’s not the fragrance that perfumes the person, but that the person perfumes the fragrance.


What do you think?