Top Notes, Middle Notes, and Base Notes: What Does It All Mean?

perfumeOne of my favorite past times of blog reading is to read descriptions of fragrances! This is something I’m trying to get better at myself, so I’ve been reading some books as well and trying to learn a little more about the history and components of perfume composition, as it is something I’ve never really considered (novice here). One thing that always confused me was top, middle, and base notes, and after some research it makes a lot more sense!

Top notes are what we smell first in a fragrance, and many times they are in the form of herbs. Ginger and citrus fruits, like limes and tangerines are often used as top notes. If you recall my review of Jessica Simpson’s Fancy Nights perfume, I mentioned the initial spritz to be very strong and not very pleasant: its top notes are bergamot and papyrus.

Middle notes (also called “heart notes) have the job of enhancing top and base notes, giving “body to blends, imparting warmth and fullness”, according to Scents & Sensibilities by Mandy Aftel. These notes are usually flowers, like geraniums, jasmine, and ylang ylang. Fancy Nights has middle notes of jasmine, patchouli, and rose.

Base notes are what lasts the longest on our skin, deriving from barks, roots, grasses, lichens, saps, and resins. This is the scent that will primarily mix with our body chemistry. Sandalwood, oak moss, vanilla, and frankincense are often used for base notes. In Fancy Nights, the base notes are sandalwood, oak moss, amber, and vanilla. Fancy Nights is a warm and hearty scent, so examining this particular fragrance was like putting a puzzle together!

Of course, some of these notes will find their way across the board as they are versatile, like lavender. All of these notes work together with body chemistryΒ  as they dry down and leave lasting fragrance on our skin.

After some of my reading, I went to Fragantica and looked up some of the notes to my favorite fragrances, and not surprisingly they have similar base notes, like vanilla and sandalwood.

Now I will leave you with some excellent blog reading for fragrances: Pages and Perfume and Cute and Mundane. I hope this was helpful and maybe you learned something new. πŸ™‚

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8 Responses to Top Notes, Middle Notes, and Base Notes: What Does It All Mean?

  1. zenorah says:

    LOVE this post Melissa!! I have recently been curious about what it all means as well this was very helpful =)

  2. Bridgett says:

    I’m fascinated that people do perfume “layering” – wearing more than one at a time. If someone asks me what I’m wearing, I’d feel really strange saying “Armani Code, Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb, and Versace Bright Crystal”. They’d probably look at me like I’m a crazy person! Plus, that’s 3 times the expense of wearing one fragrance and a lot of (expensive) experimentation to figure out what would work…

    • MelissaC says:

      I know! I would also worry about coming up with some crazy combination that smelled terrible. Haha

      • I love layering scents. i normally will experiment on a day that i’m just lounging at home or only running to the grocery store. so if i don’t like how it turns out, the only person that i’m really offending is myself. i love mixing strong florals with sweet scents to make a sweet floral, like la vanilla pure vanilla and valentine rock n rose. it turns out line a sweet vanilla rose scent. great post melissa! don’t be afraid to experiment a little

      • MelissaC says:

        Thank you, Holly! I’ll have to be more bold. πŸ˜€

  3. I don’t think people realise how much perfume terminology there is – we’re still learning more and more everyday! Thank you so much for mentioning us! xo

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