Notes in Fragrance

  1. Playing the Right Notes in Life

The perfume you wear might be an invisible component of your daily attire, yet it is still a very powerful component.

This silent component, when used right, can emphasize your inner character to the outside world, becoming a powerful statement of your inner self.

Fragrance has the power to affect our moods, health, well-being, and memory, and the opportunities this provides are often underrated and unused by people.

In her book, the Scent of Desire, Rachel Hertz states,

An odor has no personal significance until it becomes connected to something that has meaning

With your initial encounter, you begin forming nerve connections that intertwine the smell with emotions…

We wear perfume every day when we go out, whether it be for work, a special occasion, a date, a party, or even school.

But have you ever thought about how these fragrances are compiled?

Even if you’re a complete perfume noob (relax, it’s not as bad as it sounds), you probably know that perfumes are made of more than one scent.

You won’t find many perfumes that consist entirely of one scent, for example, patchouli, or sandalwood.

However, the various scents used to create a perfume aren’t just mixed randomly in a large pot and then funneled to the dainty glass bottles.

There is a science, an extremely precise science, to it. One that some people spend the most of their lives perfecting.

All perfumes, even the most basic ones, blend three scents, or more accurately, “notes”.

In this article, I will be explaining about these three “notes” in perfumes and their role in making the fragrance a truly memorable statement of the inner self.

So feel free to read on if you’re interested in knowing a little more about your perfume.

Perfume Accord

perfume accordAs I said before, the basic elements of every fragrance should be considered as musical notes that together comprise a symphony, not of instruments, but of exquisite scents that blend and linger in the atmosphere.

Just like the notes of a melody, these aromatic notes are vital to the composition of the fragrance, and each has its own purpose in the totality of the perfume experience.

The delicate balance between these notes harmonizes the entire fragrance to create a beautiful, and unforgettable scent.

In simple terms, a perfume accord is the basic character of a fragrance.

It’s a balanced blend of three or four notes which synergize together to create a completely new, unified odor impression, similar to a chord in music where two or three notes played together in harmony create an altogether different sound.

While this doesn’t sound easy to achieve, it is more time-consuming than difficult, and is a process that requires much patience and many repeated modifications.

Successful accords can be used over and over again in mixtures because of their flexibility and unique characteristics.

By changing just one or two elements in the various notes, an accord can be transformed to an entirely different scent.

Some of the most common accords are Citrus, Amber, Floral, Fresh, Fruit, Gourmand, Green, Oriental, Spice, and Wood.


Notes of Fragrance

perfume notes info

While each note serves a very different purpose in the chemistry of any scent, there is no limit as to how many ingredients any particular note should have.

A perfume’s personality develops from the combined reaction of the three notes once they come in contact with the skin.

The moment the skin receives a spritz of any perfume, it immediately reacts with the surrounding skin, and the first fragrance to reach the nose will be that of the top note.

This may only last for a fleeting moment before the middle and base notes kick in, but it is the first ingredient listed on the perfume box and is often the perfume’s main selling point. Within a span of 30 seconds to 1 minute, the middle and base notes will make their appearance and they always add a very different perspective to the perfume’s aroma.

So let’s see in detail, the three notes of fragrance and their individual roles in making the final fragrance a truly mesmerizing aroma.


Top Notes

The top notes of a fragrance are responsible for its very first impression.

They represent the story of the fragrance, or in other words, they set the stage for the entire aroma experience.

Fresh and light, they are meant to intrigue, entice, and attract, but also smoothly transition into the middle notes.

Top notes are the lightest and most volatile of all notes, so they’re usually made up of lighter oils.

The fragrance of the top notes are immediately perceived as soon as the fragrance is applied to the skin, and usually evaporate between five and thirty minutes, although some might last a couple of hours.

According to David Frossard, creative director of Frapin and co-founder of Les Liquides Imaginaires, top notes are the first step in creating the unique tale of a fragrance. According to him, “they are like something that you can’t really see. But they are there, and they are what makes the perfume alive.”

As I mentioned before, there is no limit as to how many ingredients can be used in each component of a perfume, but for top notes, three seems to be the magic number in most perfumes.

For example, Chanel No.5 uses ylang-ylang, neroli, and aldehydes (a synthetic compound) as the top notes while Joy by Jean Patou has peach, leafy greens, and aldehydes.

Some of the most common top notes include sage, lavender, light fruits, citrus, bergamot, and ginger.

Once the initial introduction and rush of the top notes subsides, the aroma of the heart notes quietly sneaks in.

Middle Notes (Heart Notes)

The foundation, or core, of any perfume lies in its middle or heart notes, which can make up anywhere from 40% to 80% of the total scent in the bottle.

The heart notes are generally composed of more potent oils because they need to hold up longer on the skin.

These notes actually comprise the heart of the fragrance and their job is to bewitch and beguile the user into an intoxicating swirl of scent and take them for a pleasant stroll down memory lane.

The heart notes usually evaporate within two to four hours, allowing the base notes to react with your skin. The heart notes act as kind of a buffer for the base notes, which might not smell quite as nice on their own.

Since the heart notes carry the responsibility of being the backbone of the perfume, they are often more complex than the top notes.

Generally pleasant, mellow, and balancing, middle notes often comprise of a smooth combination of floral or fruit tones that are sometimes steeped with strong spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, or nutmeg.

They only become noticeable after the top notes evaporate, and they can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to unfold on the skin.

Some of the most common heart note ingredients are lemongrass, geranium, neroli, jasmine, pine, and lavender.

After the top notes and middle notes slowly disappear into thin air, the base notes are finally left.


Base Notes

The base notes last the longest on your skin with some essential oils even lasting a couple of days.

While there’s a wide variety of scents that can be used for the top and heart notes, there’s less diversity among the base notes. This is because there aren’t that many scents that are heavy enough to stick around for as long as base notes need to.

The base notes generally occupy around 20 percent of any given fragrance.

These oils might not work very well on their own, so they need a bit of help from the heart notes to be pleasing to the nose. The heart and base notes mingle their molecules together to create the full body of the fragrance, deepening the scent introduced by the top notes.

The base notes become prominent about 30 minutes after the perfume hits the skin.

The “dry down period”, when the top and heart notes are gone, is when the base notes get the spotlight.

The base note’s reaction with your skin is the critical element in how the perfume ultimately ends up smelling. It’s what makes a fragrance smell differently on each person, and provides the lasting final impression of the perfume.

Some of the most common base notes are cedarwood, sandalwood, vanilla, amber, patchouli, oak moss, and musk.

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Perfumes are a silent yet inseparable partner of our daily attire, becoming a powerful statement of our inner character when utilized correctly.

These various perfumes that become the final touches of our attire aren’t just made overnight in vats by mixing random ingredients.

There’s a precise science to the process of making perfume, so precise that it has become a form of art which some people spend a vast amount of their lives to perfect.

Almost every perfume in existence is a combination of three components, or “notes”: the Top note, the Middle note, and the Base note.

Like different instruments in an orchestra combining together to create a musical masterpiece, the notes in a perfume combine and react with each other and the skin to create a unique fragrance masterpiece which can captivate the hearts of many a person.

Utilizing this attribute in a favorable manner can help you use your perfume to turn every moment of your life into a lasting and special memory.

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