Apart from clothes, pants, and other garments, perfume also plays a critical role in our wardrobe. Regardless of your preferences when applying your signature scent, whether for a day in the office or a special date night, fragrances help us exude an appealing presence and aura.
Fragrance notes are a part of what produces this certain presence in each individual. They are similar to the way musical notes create a song in that, when combined, the individual components of fragrance notes result in a unified and pleasing perfume. Below, we share all you need to know to better understand fragrance notes and their role in your favourite perfumes.
What are fragrance notes?
Fragrance notes, commonly known as perfume notes, refer to the many ingredients that comprise a single perfume. These notes are generally categorised as top notes, middle or heart notes, and base notes. When all three come together, they create what is called the perfume’s ‘accord’ - its basic fragrance. Perfumers select notes with care to ensure the resulting fragrance evokes a distinct experience while smelling pleasant. The three notes are classified into a fragrance pyramid wherein the top notes are, as expected, at the topmost, followed by the heart notes in between, and the base notes last.
● Top notes
Often referred to as headnotes, top notes form a fragrance’s top layer; they are what you smell immediately upon putting on perfume. The role of the top notes is to set the first impressions and shape the fragrance’s story. These notes tend to evaporate quickly and only linger around for the first 5 to 15 minutes. Their primary purpose is to exude an initial scent and gradually transition to the next part of a fragrance. As such, they mainly consist of smaller and lighter molecules.
● Heart notes
As their name implies, heart notes form the ‘heart’ or core of a fragrance. They retain a bit of the aroma of the top notes while introducing newer scents that deepen the experience. In addition, heart notes also act as a buffer for the following base notes as their scent may not necessarily smell pleasant on their own.
Heart notes make up 70 per cent of a fragrance’s total scent and last longer than the top notes, typically around 20 to 60 minutes. Once the latter starts to fade, the heart notes surface and remain evident for the rest of the fragrance’s life.
● Base notes
Base notes, along with the heart notes, form a fragrance’s foundation. They add more resonance and depth to the scent and help boost its lighter notes. Since they serve as the perfume’s foundation, base notes are generally heavy, rich, and long-lasting. They usually kick in at around 30 minutes after putting on the perfume and work with the heart notes to create the fragrance’s true scent. Unlike the previous two notes, the base notes soak into the skin, so they linger the longest, lasting for 6 hours or more.
How to identify fragrance notes
Identifying perfume notes depends on the time passed after applying the perfume. The initial burst of the top notes is immediately perceptible upon contact on the skin, and once it fades, the heart notes take over to form the perfume’s essence. Afterwards, the base notes kick in, blend with the heart notes, and last the longest - making their scent the most memorable.
Each fragrance note adds a unique quality to a fragrance. Notes are further divided into floral, fresh, fruits, spice, musk, and wood; each tends to be used in distinct note categories. For example, floral and fresh scents almost always serve as top notes, while musky and moody ones are typically used as base notes.
Final words: Tips on picking fragrance notes
A perfume’s appeal heavily depends on the fragrance notes that comprise it. Its uniqueness results from the composition of these various notes and the way they interact with your skin. Without combining these multiple notes, a fragrance would not be as attractive nor pleasant to smell.
Given that there are numerous options when it comes to notes, it can be daunting to pick the ones you prefer when spicing up your perfume collection. An excellent way to get a sense of your preferences is to familiarise yourself with the fragrance wheel.
If that does not seem to help, another option to get first-hand experience with various scents is taking a Singapore field trip to Scentopia! Take part in an interactive and guided perfumery tour to learn more about the heritage and history of perfumery that focuses on orchids and Sentosa’s many unique plants and flora. So if you are ever looking for free things to do in Sentosa, Singapore, and are interested in improving your nose for fragrances, do not hesitate to drop by Scentopia to learn more about all things perfumery!