What Does Saffron Smell Like? [Dive Into The Aroma]

Written By Nabila Lisha

Have you ever come across saffron in your food or perfume’s notes and wondered what it smells like?

Both cooking and perfumery are common in terms of weaving flavors and aromas. And the avid presence of saffron in both cases creates lots of curiosity about it.


If you want to know what saffron smells like then you are in the right place because in this article I will describe everything you need to know about this magical spice.

So, let’s start!

What is Saffron & Its Origin

Saffron is one kind of spice that comes from the crimson red stigma of Crocus sativus or saffron crocus flowers. It has a slightly floral, earthy, leathery, and spicy essence and a yellowish-red color which is highly valued in perfumery and cooking.

Saffron is derived from the Arabic word “za’faran”, meaning ‘yellow’. It adds a pleasing golden-yellow color to food and fragrances alongside adding aromas.

Also, the health benefits of this unique spice are not negligible at all.

The exotic olfactory profile and rarity of saffron make it one of the most expensive spices in the world. In fact, it is known as ‘Red Gold” in many regions.

Saffron is believed to have been first discovered in the Bronze Age of Greece. While some claim that it is native to the central part of Asia.

Whatsoever, the production of saffron requires dry, sunny, or temperate climates, and arid or semi-arid lands. Iran, Spain, Kashmir of India, Afghanistan, and Morocco are the wide producers of saffron worldwide. Among them, Iran generates 80%-90% of the entire saffron flower.

Saffron flowers are planted in the summer or springtime and the red stigma or threads are collected from late October to early November.

Mainly, female saffron flowers produce a chemical called ‘Safranal’, which is responsible for the spicy, leathery, earthy, and floral aroma of saffron. You will not get any smell from the fresh stigmas. Once those are dried, it starts to radiate a magical and flavorsome aura.

So, how is the smell of saffron, and what makes it so prized? Check out the following section to learn the aromatic secrets of saffron!

What Does Saffron Smell Like?

Saffron offers a grassy-earthy and leathery aroma with a subtle floral and spicy hint. It gives a slightly sweet smell that has a honey-like vibe. While saffron adds an ambery, spicy touch to perfumes, its earthy-sweet flavor is potent in foods.

In fragrances, saffron’s smell differs depending on the quality of saffron used and its fusion with other notes. It enhances the aroma of perfume and adds a fine touch of sophistication, luxury, and warmth.


The use of saffron oil is prominent in ambery and spicy faceted fragrances where it infuses a captivating leathery smell with a spicy hint and a stimulating earthy vibe. Thus, you may widely notice saffron as a prominent element in colognes as its strong vibe goes well with its masculine nature.

Due to its multifaceted character, saffron is well-regarded by everyone. As it provides an exotic aroma and the price is fairly high considering the cultivation and extraction process, there are different grades of saffron available in the market.

Smell Variation of Saffron Depending on Types

As mentioned earlier, the crimson red colored stigma or thread of saffron crocus flowers is the actual saffron spice. It is collected and dried to make the final product.

However, different portions of the stigma dictate the type of essence that saffron gives.

In different countries the grading method is different. There is a standard way of grading saffron that classifies it into two parts and based on that its quality is decided. There are 10 types of saffron available according to this system but four of them are highly valued.

So, here are the four major types of saffron that differentiate in smell and quality:

1. Super Negin: It is the top quality saffron available in the market. This one is also known as the Italian saffron. This batch of saffron is the first harvest of the season and has a strong red color with a potent spicy leathery, floral, and earthy aroma.

2. Negin: These types of saffron are highly regarded by chefs due to its strong coloring capacity. Along with the subtle smell, this saffron is used in fragrances and food for the vibrant golden-yellow color they provide.

3. Sargol: Sargol is the pure red stigma of saffron. But in terms of color and smell potency it is lighter than the first two.

4. Pushal: This type of saffron is widely available. You will find them regularly at grocery stores but its smell and coloring attribute is comparatively lower. But a positive side of this saffron is since it has the yellow/cream colored strand attached, customers often find it reliable as that indicates its purity.


On the topic of the aroma of saffron, I think it’s very important that I highlight the topic of counterfeit saffron. Yes, you read that right – there is counterfeit saffron!

A less expensive option to real saffron, counterfeit saffron is made by combining it with other ingredients or by coloring other ingredients to mimic its characteristic hue.

Sadly, it is a common practice to sell fake saffron as genuine saffron.

The quality and scent of real saffron are what distinguish it from fake saffron the most.

Saffron that is authentic has a distinct, strong perfume that is earthy, flowery, and somewhat sweet, whereas saffron that is fake has a much weaker and frequently disagreeable smell.

Nevertheless, there are a few ways to tell fake saffron apart from real.

Firstly, you should keep an eye out for the long, thin, and deep red threads. They are probably fake saffron if they are thicker, shorter, or have a yellow or orange color.

Moreover, real saffron will take time to turn the water or milk yellow, while counterfeit saffron will dissolve immediately, and the color will not be as strong.

So, this easy test will easily help you identify if the saffron at hand is real or fake.

And lastly, check the price – if it is too cheap, then it is likely to be counterfeit because real saffron is expensive.

Significance Of Saffron Smell

Ever wondered despite all other notes why is saffron valued so much in perfumery? Whatever this exotic spice has stored, it’s time for us to delve into its fascinating attributes.

The use of saffron isn’t something new. It traces back to the ancient times when Greeks and Egyptians used saffron on their body and hair to smell good and alluring. It is mentioned that the queen of the Nile, Cleopatra used to add saffron in her bath water to enhance her beauty and charm.

Its use was not only confined to fragrance but also people used to keep it in their bedsheets and room to create a cozy and warm ambiance.

In ancient Persia, saffron was a mark of royalty and luxury. It is also known that Alexander The Great loved using saffron-soaked water and he often recommended his army to use it for healing benefits.

Saffron’s smell has been loved and widely used for decades. Its importance in the perfumery world has multiplied over time.

Popularity Of Saffron Oil In Perfumery

Saffron is versatile, thus it is used in both the top, middle, and base layers of a scent. Its association with the floral and fruity accords creates a sensual and unique vibe in a fragrance. Again, when saffron is blended with the woody notes, that scent gives a warm and attractive feel.

Although saffron is heavily used in men’s fragrances, it can be found in women’s perfumes as well. The smell of musk, vanilla, and sandalwood complements saffron well in perfumes.

Apart from the intense and charming aroma, saffron is also used in fragrances to add colors. Its bright yellow-orange color gives perfumes a touch of sophistication.


Why Are Saffron Perfumes So Expensive?

You might think saffron is one of those fancy spices that is sold at a high price by creating hype among the users.

But that’s not the case. Because it takes time, intense care, and a delicate and meticulous process to extract the essence of saffron.

Firstly, the cultivation of high-quality saffron won’t happen if the weather isn’t ideal. It takes a dry climate yet not too much sun to grow the plants. A slight decline in the temperature can destroy the crops.

Secondly, it takes about  6-10 weeks to properly grow the saffron crocus plant. On top of that, each plant only grows 2-4 flowers and each flower has only 3 stigmas. So, you can understand how time-consuming and rare this element is.

Another important factor is the collection of stigmas. It needs to be collected early in the morning before they wither. The stigma of saffrons are too delicate to be picked by any machinery. Hence, it takes both time and the subtle touch of human hands to collect its thread without any damage.

It takes nearly 500 hours of labor and about 170-200 flowers to make 1 gram of saffron.

I think it’s now vividly clear to you why saffron is so expensive and fragrances that contain saffron are considered luxurious. Its exotic and versatile aroma along with the long extraction process is the reason behind that.

What Are The Benefits Of Saffron?

Saffron is so much more than just a spice that is added to food or used in fragrances, there are actually quite a few advantageous effects of saffron on our bodies and mind as well.

From the many benefits of saffron, I have highlighted a few of them below for you:

  • Improves Mood: Saffron is said to boost moods and promote mental well-being owing to certain chemical components that aid the production of serotonin. Moreover, saffron may lessen the signs and symptoms of mild to moderate depression, according to certain research.
  • Improves Eyesight: Certain compounds in saffron are good for the eyes’ health and are said to prevent or delay the age-related deterioration of ocular muscles.
  • Aids Weight Loss: Saffron may help in lowering cravings and reducing appetite, making it simpler to control weight. It is also said to help regulate blood sugar and be beneficial for diabetic patients.
  • Helps Reduce Inflammation: Compounds in saffron have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It could help lessen inflammation and ease the signs and symptoms of certain diseases.

What Scents Blend Well With Saffron?

The use of saffron in fragrances is very popular and loved. It’s a multifaceted note, that’s why perfumers always look for ways to blend it with other notes and create something unique.

Creating an exotic and sophisticated fragrance is possible with saffron. But definitely, it has to be done in the right way.

Here are the notes that blend nicely with saffron:

  • Jasmine: The touch of sensuality and delight that comes from the smell of jasmine magnifies a lot when it is merged with the leathery, spicy facets of saffron. Their combination is well-loved in colognes.
  • Lavender: Lavender’s aromatic, powdery sensation and the spicy, floral, and earthy hint of saffron make the most striking combination. Altogether, their aroma is mass-appealing and doesn’t give any overwhelming feel.
  • Tonka Bean: A sweet creamy smell with some sizzling spicy hint already makes the aroma of tonka bean captivating. When this note is blended with the spicy, ambery nuance of saffron that fragrance is definitely an attention-magnet.
  • Bergamot: It is the most common element in the top notes of most fragrances. The refreshing and uplifting citrusy, aromatic smell of bergamot becomes more enciting and enjoyable when saffron joins with its spicy, floral nuance.

What Are Some Fragrances With Saffron?

Saffron has been used in the fragrance industry for centuries, its complex yet delicate aroma adds a flavorful touch to any scent it’s added to.

So, what are some of the best fragrances that have saffron in them?

Below I have mentioned four fragrances that are potent with saffron:


1. Boss Bottled Oud Saffron By Hugo Boss

Boss Bottled Oud Saffron by Hugo Boss is a men’s scent that launched in 2019 and has a very warm, woody, and rich aroma.

Saffron is a keynote in this scent and is present as a top note in this cologne.

The high-quality, premium saffron has been meticulously chosen and mixed with other notes to provide a distinctive and opulent smell, adding a sense of luxury and sophistication.

The fragrance has a warm, woodsy finish thanks to the captivating smell of oud in the base that holds the saffron’s exotic whiff strongly.

2. Versace Man By Versace

Another cologne with saffron in it is the famous Versace Man by Versace. This spicy, woody, masculine scent was created by Domitille Michalon Bertier and launched in 2003.

Saffron’s function in Versace Man is to produce a cozy and welcoming aroma that is both contemporary and classic. In fact, this is so loved that people still look for similar colognes to Versace Man!

It is a favorite among individuals who value high-quality scents because of how it lends a touch of richness and refinement to the smell.

3. Baccarat Rouge 540 Maison Francis Kurkdjian

There are fragrances that need no introduction. And Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian is one of them.

This masterpiece has the finest blend of ambery, leather, and spicy faceted saffron with carnal floral jasmine and dusty cedar notes.

Saffron’s aroma takes a different turn in this fragrance. Initially, it gives a lovely floral-spicy touch and slowly evolves into a charming spicy, leathery nuance.

There are a handful of similar fragrances to BR 540, but the way Francis Kurkdjian has presented saffron in this scent is unparalleled.

4. Halfeti Penhaligon’s

Every fragrance by Penhaligon’s is graced with royalty. Halfeti is no exception. This masterpiece is another amazing scent that has prominent saffron notes.

The top layer of this perfume blends the earthy, aromatic smell of cypress with a mind-seizing sweet-floral touch of saffron.

During dry-down, the saffron doesn’t fade. Rather it develops into a seductive aroma that has some spicy and leathery doses.

No wonder, why there are always some queries about similar fragrances to Penhaligon’s Halfeti. The presence of saffron has given a unique dimension to this gem and thus its popularity is sky-high!


Does saffron smell like tobacco?

No, saffron doesn’t smell like tobacco. But fake saffron can give a smokey smell like tobacco along with a metallic hint.

Why does my saffron smell like plastic?

Fake saffron often gives a chemical smokey, metallic, or plastic-type smell. The smell of real saffron is leathery, spicy, floral with a honey-like sweetness.

What is so special about saffron?

Saffron is a well-rounded spice that adds flavors and colors to food and gives a pleasant and attractive smell to fragrances. Also, its health benefits are enormous.

What does saffron taste like?

Saffron infuses an earthy, sweet, floral flavor into foods. Also, it gives a subtle bitter tinge with a honey-like sweet taste that adds an exotic touch to any food.

Who should not take saffron?

Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding shouldn’t take saffron as it can cause mood swings sometimes.

Is saffron worth the money?

Yes, saffron is worth spending a good amount of money given the versatile profile it has. From cooking to perfumery, saffron’s presence is considered luxurious and classy.


It’s no secret that saffron is an exquisite and luxurious ingredient.

Not only in the culinary industry, but saffron is also a valued and sought-after ingredient in the world of fragrances.

With a scent that is earthy, sweet, and flowery, it is an excellent accord that elevates any fragrance it is added to and makes the user feel more confident and comfortable.

So, I hope all your saffron-related queries have been answered in this article. Until next time, it’s goodbye!

About The Author
Hello, I’m Nabila Lisha, an avid perfume enthusiast, and a devoted fragrance reviewer. I’m trying to pen content about branded perfumes on a regular basis because I’m fascinated by fragrances. I don’t write for perfumes as a hobby, they are something I’m truly passionate about.

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