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Scent notes: top, heart and base perfume notes explained

Scent notes: top, heart and base perfume notes explained


You hear about them all the time, but have you ever wondered what top, heart and base notes actually are? Well if so, you’re in the right place! We’ve put together an ultimate guide to fragrance notes, which will help you to discover the difference between these different fragrance layers and become an expert in no time.

What are notes?

Think of notes as the ingredients that make up a fragrance. From natural floral scents to synthetically created molecules, there are many notes for perfumers to choose from. In fact, it’s now possible to create almost any smell you fancy – candyfloss, baby powder, freshly cut grass and even rain. There’s no limit to the number that can be used in each fragrance, but all scents – even the simplest ones – blend at least three notes together. It is the individual arrangements of these notes that create a unique fragrance.

Top notes

Top notes are the first notes you smell when trying a fragrance, so they are the ones that shape your first impressions of a scent. These often fresh, fruity scents are usually light and burst on your skin as you spray, fading about 10-15 minutes after applying. We love the refreshing top notes of bergamot and mandarin in Guerlain Mon Guerlain Eau de Toilette for her.


Popular top notes: bergamot, orange, grapefruit, lemon, basil




Heart notes

Once the top notes fade, the heart (or middle) notes start to bloom. These usually floral, full-bodied notes and are the most dominant of the fragrance; they are more long-lasting than the top notes but less so than the base notes. These notes form the core of the fragrance. Smell bold and masculine heart notes of juniper and sage in YSL Y Eau de Parfum for him.


Popular heart notes: lavender, rosemary, black pepper, geranium, juniper

GUERLAIN Mon Guerlain Eau de Toilette for her £62.00 null Quick buy >
Carolina Herrera Good Girl Velvet Fatale Collector Eau de Parfum for her £94.50 null Quick buy >

Base notes

Base (or bottom) notes are what remain once the heart notes fade away. It is these notes that you remember most and which help create a memory in your mind. Most fragrances have the same base notes because there’s only a small amount that will last long enough on the skin to be used as a base. These longest-lasting notes also help to boost the staying power of the top and heart notes. We're big fans of the vanilla and coffee base notes in Carolina Herrera Good Girl Velvet Fatale for her.


Popular base notes: vanilla, sandalwood, cedarwood, jasmine patchoulli