A Complete Guide to Understand the Fragrance Notes

Flowers with Perfume Bottles

Fragrances are special mixes that make us feel and remember things. They’re not just nice smells—they’re mood enhancers. Whether a cozy candle or a fancy perfume, fragrances can change our feelings. They have different parts, called fragrance notes, that combine to make the whole scent. 

There are three main types of scent notes: top notes, heart notes, and base notes. Top notes are like the first impression, heart notes are the main part, and base notes stick around the longest. It’s like how different instruments make music together in a band. Read this blog to learn the different perfume notes and their role in making fragrance special. 

What Are Fragrance Notes?

Fragrance profiles are like the ingredients in a recipe that create the overall scent. Fragrance oils are complex mixtures of aromatic compounds in perfumes, candles, and personal care products. Perfume’s composition, consisting of three main types, is represented using a visual representation known as a fragrance pyramid. Perfumer Jean Carles introduced the concept of this pyramid to help balance the fragrance formula.

There are three main types of fragrance notes: 

  • Top notes,
  • Middle (or heart) notes,
  • Base notes

Each note plays an important role in identifying the overall scent profile. Balancing these notes is essential to creating a harmonious fragrance experience. These notes are created based on the evaporation process and the intended use of the perfume.

For example- 

The top notes of Davidoff Cool Water For Her 50ml EDT are luscious, cool, and aquatic with Citrus, Honeydew Melon, Quince, Pineapple, Lotus, and Lily. Its Middle (or Heart) notes are gentle flowers: May Rose, Jasmine, and Muguet. Its Base notes include Musk, Vanilla, Peach, Sandalwood, Orris, and Vetiver.

Identifying Fragrance Notes

Understanding scent notes can help you identify fragrances in perfumes and other products.

For example, a perfume with citrusy top notes may give off a fresh and invigorating aroma, while a fragrance with woody base notes might evoke warmth and sensuality.

Volatility Grouping

Fragrant materials are grouped based on their evaporation coefficients, ranging from 1 to 100. The evaporation coefficients between the different types of notes are shown in the table below:

NotesEvaporation Coefficients
Top Notes1 To 14 (Most Volatile)
Middle NotesBetween 15 To 60
Base NotesBetween 61 To 100 (Least Volatile)

Understanding Top Notes

Top or head notes are perceived immediately upon applying a perfume. They consist of small, light molecules that evaporate quickly, forming the first impression of the perfume. They are the initial scents you perceive when you apply or smell a fragrance upon spraying a perfume. They are described as “light,” “fresh,” “assertive,” or “sharp,” and often include scents like citrus and ginger. They last about 5-30 minutes.

Examples of top notes include citrus fruits like lemon and orange and herbs like lavender and sage. It also includes bergamot.

Aigner Pour Femme 6ml EDP Mini has Mandarin Orange, Pepper, and Bergamot as top notes. 

Similarly, Guerlain Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat 100ml EDT has lemon and cedrat as its top notes.

Check out the top notes of Versace Blue Jeans 75ml EDT.

What are Middle Notes? 

Middle notes form the foundation of the fragrance. They emerge just before the top notes diffuse. They become noticeable once the top notes fade away. These notes hold our attention and provide complexity to the fragrance. They are a link between the top and base notes.

They form the fragrance’s heart and are referred to as heart notes. They form the main body of a perfume and mask any unpleasant initial impressions of base notes.

Middle notes have a more mellow and rounded scent than top notes, with typical examples including lavender and rose. They last longer than top notes, usually 20 minutes to 4 hours. After that, the base notes become prominent. It makes up a significant portion (40-80%) of the aroma.

Middle notes are more complex and include floral, fruity, or spicy scents like rose, jasmine, and nutmeg. They provide the fragrance with its character and personality. It often features floral, fruity, or spicy scents.

Examples of middle notes include lavender, pine, and black pepper.

Jimmy Choo Illicit Flower 100ml EDT has grapefruit blossom, jasmine, and rose as middle notes.

Middle notes of Jean Patou 1000 75ml EDT are iris, violet, jasmine, Chinese osmanthus, lily-of-the-valley, rose, and geranium.

Exploring Base Notes

Base notes emerge as the top and middle notes diffuse, leaving a lasting impression. They are also called soul notes. They provide depth and solidity to a perfume. They often consist of large, heavy molecules that evaporate slowly. They are rich, smooth, calming, soothing, and deep, typically only perceived 30 minutes after applying the perfume.

It becomes noticeable as the fragrance dries down. They give the fragrance stability and are long-lasting. It typically consists of rich and woody aromas. Base notes can last up to 6 hours on the skin and longer on clothing.

Some base notes, such as animalic and musk notes, can still be detectable after twenty-four hours.

Base notes include vanilla, sandalwood, and musk. It also includes woody scents like cedarwood and sandalwood and warm aromas like vanilla and musk. Popular base notes are sandalwood, amber, patchouli, and vanilla.   

Carven Vetiver for Men – Vial has the base notes of Lavender, Geranium, and Orange. 

The base notes of  Lalique Les Compositions Parfumees Leather Copper 5ml EDP Mini are Leather, Labdanum, Amber, Patchouli, and Rock Rose.

Fragrance Families

Fragrance families classify perfumes based on their predominant scent characteristics.

The four main fragrance families, each with its subcategories, are listed below in the table: 

Fragrance FamiliesSubcategoriesFeaturing Notes
FloralFeminine And ElegantRose, Jasmine, And Lavender
OrientalRich And ExoticVanilla, Spices, And Tobacco
WoodyWarm And SeductiveCedarwood, Sandalwood, Or Patchouli
FreshModern And RefreshingCitrus, Aquatic, Or Green Notes

Creating Fragrance Accords

Perfumers blend different notes to create unique fragrance accords. These accords are similar to chords in music, where different notes harmonize to produce a new scent.

Perfumers can adjust the ratios of notes to create a wide range of fragrances with distinct personalities.

The main accords of Serge Lutens Bapteme Du Feu 50ml EDP are citrus, sweet, fruity, and leather.

The Chemistry of Aromatic Compounds

Aromatic Compounds contain aromatic rings of carbon and hydrogen atoms. They can be found in both natural and synthetic fragrance ingredients. Common aromatic compounds include terpenes, aldehydes, esters, vanillin, and musk.

Role of Molecular Structure

Each fragrance compound’s unique scent is determined by its molecular structure. Even small changes in the arrangement of atoms can result in vastly different scents.

Several factors influence the fragrance’s aroma. Some include adding or removing carbon atoms, introducing oxygen atoms, or modifying double bonds.

Why do Perfumes Smell Different on Everyone?

Individual body chemistry and skin pH levels determine how perfumes interact with the skin. Skin oils and pH balance can alter how certain fragrance notes are perceived, leading to variations in scent.

Many factors influence how perfumes smell to individuals. Some of them include medications, health conditions, and skin type.

Do Perfumes Expire?

Perfumes generally have a shelf life of 3-5 years but can last longer depending on storage conditions. 

Lighter fragrances may expire sooner than heavier ones, with changes in scent and color indicating degradation. Perfumes interact with air and oxidize over time, affecting their fragrance profile.

Also Read: Fragrance Application Guide


Find the magic of mixing fragrance notes- top, middle, and base notes, a skill usually tied to making perfumes. Visit MyPerfumeShop; here, you’ll get authentic perfumes crafted with detailed attention, ensuring a well-balanced and attractive fragrance experience.

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