Among fragrance families, only "green" scents are classified through a visual connotation, specifically a color coding. You could argue that color plays an important role in the perception of fragrance anyway: "noir" or black connotes a sense of nocturnal danger, of priceless and unusual objects or of mighty seduction; spicy orientals are routinely being encased in reddish or brown boxes to evoke the materials associated with their make-up and the exotic East artifacts and textiles they are inspired of; marine scents come in blue bottles to recall the "big blue" of the sea they try to reference etc. And you would be right.
But green is a category all its own because the smell so categorically corresponds to the color for once that there is just no other way to "view" them: snapped leaves, mown grass, young stems retaining the dew, young buds striving to grow, pine needles all fresh and tingling in the forest air ... there's something about green scents that makes even the most die-hard urbanite of us yearn for the call of nature, of open spaces and of the freedom of an existence lived in a timeless way, in unison with earth. Today when the Green Movement is rampant, they seem particularly "now."
Green scents can be said to be unisex, though many women consider them more masculine or casual. But shed a thought for supermodel "The Body" Elle McPherson, a legend in the late 1980s and early 1990s and still a force to be reckoned with: her signature scent has always, famously been Guerlain's masculine Vetiver. Think of Sycomore by Chanel too: the concept was to offer a classically masculine targeted scent (a vetiver) to women who were busy buying off Les Exclusifs range. Or consider that super-sexy Christina Hendricks (of Mad Men fame) is a fan of the smooth green of Premier Figuier by L'Artisan Parfumeur! Vetiver is technically a woody scent, coming from an exotic grass, yet because green packaging was first used for the first "stand alone" Vetiver (that of Carven in 1957) and all the others copied the color scheme, the association of vetiver with "green" has stuck!
Green fragrances are not necessarily always "earth mother" types, "Om" chanters, dressed in hand-knitted woolies. They can be refreshing, upbeat, cheeky even! Etiquette Bleue by Parfums d'Orsay is a lively, citrusy scent which is underscored by greenery to render a playful and classic herbaceous ambience. O de Lancome is as fresh as tomorrow, its geometric packaging (in the words of Susan Irvine "reminiscent of 1960s wallpaper") denoting a modern sensibility; the basil, petitgrain, rosemary, witch hazel and vetiver notes give a decidedly green character to the hesperidic and floral notes that would speak of a simple cologne. Green fragrances can lean a bit more sophisticated too, borrowing facets from the fougere and chypre classification: Koto by Shiseido, Eau Parfumee au The Vert by Bvlgari, Diorella, Givenchy III, Safari by Ralph Lauren, Jacomo Silences, Niki de Saint Phalle and Eau Sauvage by Dior are all class acts in their own way and they all have perceptible "green" elements.
So beloved were these green scents once upon a time that the inclusion of a "herbal green" aroma in a functional product (namely the original "Herbal Essences" shampoo) has nostalgizers scouring Ebay for remaining bottles fetching stratospheric prices, even if only for opening the cap and getting a good sniff!
Green shades can technically veer into two main directions: fresh or resinous; leaves, floral notes with green elements such as lily of the valley/muguet and herbs are classified in the former (and accounting for green florals), with some citrus peel materials (bergamot notably) and grasses (such as galbanum) classified in the later, accounting for green chypre perfumes and green citrus fragrances.
Certain raw materials naturally tilt the scales into greenery indeed: galbanum, the driving force behind the classic green Vent Vert by Balmain (1945, its very name meaning "green breeze"), but also an indispensable addition to Chanel No.19, a green floral; pine needles (is there any other way to think of classic Italian Pino Silvestre but as intensely green?); cut grass, lemon leaves, petitgrain and eau de brouts (a by-product of the distillation of the Citrus aurantium tree), violet leaves (as opposed to violet flowers), mint leaves, spearmint, angelica, wormwood, lily of the valley (a green floral note indispensable to perfumers), even absinthe notes, all lend that touch of emerald that makes a composition at once majestically glow and refresh. Bring on the springtime greens!