Perfume making is a mysterious craft. A perfumer is an olfactory expert who uses their understanding of fragrance notes to create compositions that balance and delight the senses. To do this they start by selecting and combining the right mixture of raw materials of oils, molecules and solvents to achieve an agreeable balance and body of the perfume.
Perfumery, in its purest term, is the secret of creating these captivating scents using subtle combinations of top, heart and base notes. Just like music, perfume is described in a musical metaphor consisting of three sets of notes making the harmonious scent accord. The notes appear over time, with an immediate impression of the top note leading to the deeper middle notes, and the base notes gradually appearing as a final step. These notes are carefully created with knowledge of the evaporation process and the olfactory pyramid.
The different olfactory notes in perfumery
What are the 3 fragrance notes categories?
Perfume notes are classified in a olfactory fragrance pyramid of top notes, heart notes and base notes. These notes are layered on top of each other to make an accord.
The pyramid reflects the perfume notes volatility, how quickly they evaporate and their persistence over time. Top notes are characterised as being the most volatile and last the shortest amount of time. Heart notes are considered the soul of the perfume and its fragrance can be evident throughout the full lifespan of the perfume. The base note is appear more gradually and provides the longest wear in a fragrance.
The top notes
The top notes can be described as the first impression of a perfume as it is the one you smell first. Top notes are strong in scent and are very volatile, it's olfactory tone is light and lasts only a couple hours maximum on the skin. However most evaporates after 30 minutes due to their smaller and lighter molecule make-up. Top notes include many citrus fruits, but also herbs, berries, bergamot, basil, rosewood, camphor, lemon, bay almond, pink berries, bergamot, basil, sweet orange, rosewood, lemon, lavender, mint, rosemary just to name a few. The opening notes of a fragrance often offer an zesty, aromatic or green freshness to their character and this is because top notes are the first to evaporate. Colognes are particularly rich in top notes and pleasant to use to refresh and brighten up a hot summers day because of their light, zesty and fresh aroma.
Fragrance which is perceived immediately upon application of the perfume. The top notes have smaller, lighter molecules that evaporate quickly. They form a person's initial impression of a perfume and thus are very important in the sale of a perfume. Examples of top notes include mint, lavender and coriander.
The heart notes
The heart notes or the middle notes is the "heart" or the main body of a perfume and serve to blend and balance the components of the perfume. The heart notes deepens the olfactory experience and becomes alluring over time. Heart notes can make up to 70% of the fragrance components and would usually lasts for 6-8 hours on the skin.
Jasmine, neroli, ylang ylang, sage, rose, juniper or geranium are just some of the oils often used for the heart notes of perfumes. They are flowery, fruity or spicy. It allows you to make the transition between the freshness of the top note and the depth of the base note. Heart notes appears once the top notes begins to fade and is used as a way to harmonies top notes and base notes together.
The base notes
Base notes are the one that lasts the longest on the skin and provides the lasting impression of the scent. Base notes creates rich, smooth and heavy scent body and can last for several days after the first spray. Its function is to fix the perfume and create a foundation for the perfume accords to be built upon.
Some of the oils which are considered base notes include sandalwood, patchouli, cinnamon, vanilla or cedarwood in the base notes, for their woody, suave or leathery olfactory power. These fragrance notes that appears closer to the departure of the middle notes. The base and middle notes are the main theme of a perfume. Base notes bring depth and solidity to a perfume. Compounds in this class of scents are generally rich and "dark" and usually do not occur until 30 minutes after application.
Examples of base notes include tobacco, amber and musk. The scents in the top and middle notes are influenced by the base notes; Conversely, the scents of the base notes will be replaced by the fragrance ingredients used as the middle notes. Manufacturers who publish perfume notes typically do this with fragrance components presented as an aroma pyramid, using imaginative and abstract terms for the components listed.
How to choose your fragrance and make your perfume last?
Don't choose your scent too quickly. The top notes may provide you with a first impression of a perfume however we would recommend buying a sample or discovery set so you can really spend time getting to know and understand the characters of the perfume before making your purchase. We advise waiting to discover the middle note and base notes and how they reveal themselves on your skin on different days and weather conditions too. This is because the acidity of your skin could change under different climate.
Another thing to note is that the same perfume can vary from one person to another, the same perfume that smell pleasant on someone else can smell distinctly unpleasant on you. So make sure to always try on because the composition and pheromones specific to our skin is unique! Perfumes will evolve over the course of the day slightly differently depending on your skin type so make you sure you try the perfume before making a purchase to avoid disappointments. Lastly perfumes are meant to wore on different parts of the body, on pulse points like the wrist, neck and behind the ear, but we also love spraying perfumes in our hair, over clothes and in the air to create an aura of delicious scent.