The term is thrown around by brands and experts, but ever wondered what perfume notes actually are? Just like your favourite song is made up of layers – distinctive vocals, a catchy chorus, and a steady beat – your scent is created in the same way by strategically playing with top, heart and base notes. Here’s everything you need to know…
What are perfume notes?
Swap the word ‘notes’ for ‘ingredients’ and it’s a lot easier to understand how notes work together to make up a fragrance. Nowadays there’s a whole spectrum of notes available for our favourite brands and perfumers to experiment with and they can create almost any smell you fancy – coffee, 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’s the individual arrangements of these notes, often referred to as the fragrance pyramid, that creates a unique scent time and time again.
When you first spritz a fragrance on a card or on your skin, immediately you’ll pick up the top notes. It’s your first impression of the scent, so it’s usually packed with fresh and bold notes taken from citrus, fruit or fresh herb fragrance families. They evaporate fast, lasting about 10-15 minutes after that first invigorating inhale. But, even though they don’t hang around they give you that ‘love at first spray’ feeling and sets the tone for what’s to come.
Popular top notes: bergamot, orange, grapefruit, lemon, basil
Fragrances with wow-factor top notes:
Once the top notes fade, the heart (or middle) notes start to come through. These are usually floral, full-bodied notes and are the most dominant of the fragrance; more long-lasting than the top notes but less so than the base notes. These notes form the core of the fragrance (or your catchy chorus that you can’t get out of your head!).
Popular heart notes: lavender, rosemary, black pepper, geranium, juniper
As found in…
Base (or bottom) notes are what remain once the fragrance has fully settled, about an hour or so after your first spray. The notes found here have long-lasting staying power and you may notice a lot of fragrances share the same base notes as there’s less notes out there that work well on skin for hours and hours. They can also double up as notes that boost the staying power of the top and heart notes too, or add an extra element of complexity to a scent – like a zesty scent with a woody base.
Popular base notes: vanilla, sandalwood, cedarwood, jasmine patchouli
Long-lasting base notes can be found in: