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Understanding Fragrance Notes

Posted by FE on 6/6/2014

Similar to the way in which musical notes make up a song, and various shades of colors come together to form a beautiful painting, fragrance notes are necessary components in the making of all perfume. Overall, there are three basic note scales that, when blended together create the perfume's fragrant accord. Each of these levels, however, has it’s own primary and distinctive purpose.

The Top Notes

The top notes are also referred to as the opening notes or head notes, and these notes of a fragrance are generally the lightest of all three notes. They are recognized immediately upon application of the perfume. The top notes are also the first to fade, due to their light molecular structure, but this does not mean they aren't of utmost importance to the scent, overall.

The First Impression

The top notes of a fragrance reveal its first impression. This is why you may have tested a fragrance only to be turned off right away, because the top notes didn't make a lasting impression on you. It is hugely important that the top notes not only succeed at luring you in, but also smoothly transition you directly into the heart of the fragrance. Common fragrance top notes include citrus, such as lemon, orange zest, bergamot; light fruits such as grapefruit and berries; and herbs such as clary sage and lavender.

The Middle Notes

The middle notes, or the heart notes, make an appearance after the top notes have evaporated. The middle notes are considered to be the heart of the fragrance. They last longer than the top notes and have a strong influence on the base notes that are yet to come. A perfume's heart is generally pleasant and well-rounded. Often a smooth combination of floral or fruit tones; the middle notes are sometimes infused with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom. Common fragrance middle notes include geranium, rose, lemongrass, ylang ylang, lavender, coriander, nutmeg, neroli and jasmine.

The Base Notes

The base notes represent the final play of fragrance notes that appear once the top notes have completely evaporated. The base notes mingle with the heart notes to create the full body of the fragrance, while being typically associated with the dry-down period. The base notes provide the final, lasting impression. These notes are often the richest, and linger on the skin for hours after the top notes have dissipated. Common fragrance base notes include cedarwood, sandalwood, vanilla, amber, patchouli, oak moss and musk.

Without the blended but separate performance of the three levels of notes a fragrance just wouldn't possess the depth to be so intriguing and aromatically appealing. But together, like a great symphonic work, they create beautiful scents.