There’s something about perfumes. They give you this luxurious feeling - not just when you apply them, but also when you smell them on others. The world of perfumes is artsy and aesthetic in ways not many things in life are. Making perfumes is an art, smelling them is an experience, and putting them on makes you feel like a royal. And this is not something that has started recently. The world of perfumes has existed for centuries, millennia now.
There is evidence dating as far back as 4000 years ago to show that early human civilizations too, used fragrances either to attract others, mask body odor, or as part of their hygiene. Smelling good played an important role in courting a mate. In fact, did you know some animals have a natural musk that literally exists so that they can attract mates? That’s right, your attraction to someone who smells good is not just about trends, it’s about biology, it’s natural instinct.
There is therefore nothing absurd about our love for fragrances. Perfumes are now part of beauty. They are part of wellness. They are part of a certain lifestyle. They make a statement about your personality. Other times, they make a statement about your intentions and moods. It is fascinating how deep you can get into the fragrance world. I certainly feel like I am in a trance when I get a whiff of a really good perfume. Have you ever wanted to know more? Unveil the secrets of the perfume world that seem to look just so mystical and luxurious from the outside? Well, you are right where you need to be if that is the case. Today, we dive into the world of perfumes and take a trip down the perfume note street!
What Is a Perfume?
If we speak in the simplest possible terms, what a perfume constitutes is pretty simple: anything that one wears for its smell. It does not have to include any specific ingredients. It is simply an accessory that takes its place in your life according to how you accommodate it. However, in a more commercial and cultural sense - perfumes are fragrances made up of water, alcohol, and naturally occurring or synthetically manufactured fragrances (which can come in the form of essential oils or aroma compounds).
Perfumes are classified into types according to their fragrance to water/alcohol composition. The strongest of this lot are pure perfume oils or Parfums, which have a composition of 15 to 40% fragrance. Following Parfums comes the Eau De Parfum, which has about 15 to 20% fragrance composition. Then come Eau De Toilette and Eau De Cologne, containing the compositions of 5 to 15% and 2 to 4% respectively. The higher the composition of fragrance in a perfume, the longer it lasts, and likely, the more expensive it will be for you to buy.
Okay, So What Are The 3 Notes in Perfumes?
Perfumes are complex compounds that do not contain minimal ingredients. Instead, they are made by blending a perfect mixture of different fragrances to create a bottle of magic that is ready to use. Think of perfumes as a musical piece in the orchestra, created with different instruments to form beautiful harmonies playing in different notes.
When it comes to fragrances, notes refer to layers of scents made to blend a perfect mixture of a perfume. To understand the levels of these notes better, you can take a look at a fragrance pyramid. From a marketing perspective, notes help be better aware of what your perfume is going to smell like after the top note wears off.
There are three notes all fragrances in a perfume are classified into: the top note (the scent sensed first), the heart note (sensed when the top note wears off), and the base note (lasts the longest). Chemically speaking, these fragrances appear in order and disappear in a different order because of the molecules they are made of. The molecules in the top notes are more volatile and evaporate faster. The molecules on base and heart notes on the other hand do not evaporate that easily and make a lasting impact.
Let us now discuss each of these fragrance notes in detail for a better understanding:
Top Notes - The First Impression
Though they may smell strong and enter your nostrils with their impressive aroma first - the top notes are composed of the lightest molecules. This means that they evaporate quickly, as quickly as 5 to 15 minutes, depending on how light they are.
But this does not disregard their significance and role. Think of top notes as the very first page of a book. You are being introduced to a new environment, being welcomed to a whole new world of the book and its characters. In more layman terms, the first page of a book sets its vibe. Similarly, top notes (also known as headnotes), set up the mood for the rest of a perfume fragrance. To add, these are the notes you are likely to smell first when you are about to buy a perfume. They are the whole reason you might invest in a perfume in the first place!
Top notes are commonly composed of citrus scents such as lemon and orange, light flower smells such as lavender or rose, and fruits such as berries. Note that some of these fragrances can still make up the lower-level notes such as the heart note, depending on how much of their aroma is used up in a perfume.
Heart Notes - The Soul of Your Fragrance
When you first think of a perfume, you think…Rose. Lavender. Strawberries. Cherry. This is because many perfumes have these fragrances at the middle level in their fragrance notes pyramid. They make for the emotional component of perfume: the heart and soul of it. These are what you are likely to remember your perfumes by. They appear after the strong coming-at-your-face top notes disappear. They tend to give you a sweet more lasting smell that lasts for about an average of 4 hours.
Heart notes, also known as middle notes, follow up on the intriguing introduction (top notes) of your newly picked book and make up for most of its world. They are composed of fragrances similar to the head notes, but the difference here is that they make up about 70% of perfume. They are the themes of your perfume, the main character of the story you are reading.
Popular fragrances used as heart notes include plants such as ylang-ylang, flowers such as the lovely jasmine and rose, herbs & leaves such as lemongrass, and spices such as cinnamon.
Base Notes - The Strong Aftertaste
Base notes of perfume make up for the dramatic and strong climax of a long book. Their fragrance is here to stay. Some claim base notes can last for up to 24 hours, though the lasting time is usually determined by how much you compose a perfume with a certain scent. Base notes make the aftertaste of perfume when most of the heart note fragrance is gone. They fade away at a much slower pace, thanks to the heavy molecules that make them up.
The purpose of base notes is to bind a perfume together with a root fragrance. They deepen the smell of perfume, or in other words - they are what make your perfumes strong enough to last. They make up for about 20 to 25% of the final perfumes, and that is enough. They add character and essence to the heart notes.
As the aftertaste of a fragrance, base notes complement the top notes by giving you the last impression of the perfume. Base notes are composed of smooth and extremely rich scents such as vanilla, sandalwood, musk, and patchouli. If one puts too much base note fragrance to their perfume, it makes up for what we would call a “strong” fragrance, something that hits your nostrils with lots of intensity. Their richness is what makes their character.
6 Common Fragrance Types to Look Out For
Knowing how the notes of perfumes work can help you understand the structure of fragrances. However, that alone does not help you pick out the kind of fragrance that suits you. You would have to explore the different types of perfumes that exist out there, depending on the kinds of sources they rely on for their beautiful scents. Different smells make unique impressions of their own. To elaborate, you would probably not wear the same type of perfume when you are going out with friends during the day and when you are going on a big romantic date in the evening.
Similarly, if you are someone outgoing and bubbly, you would want to go for a perfume that stands out and announces your presence. On the other hand, if you want to keep it lowkey and are a quieter, more serious person, you would go for a more subtle fragrance. Whatever type of person you are, whatever occasion you are going out for - there is a perfect fragrance that fits right in. Here are some of the most common fragrances:
Is there anything on earth as naturally beautiful as flowers? They are pleasing to the eyes, come in a range of almost all colors the human eye can see, and oh the best part - they smell great, beautiful, and sweet. Flowers are romantic and pleasant. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that both light floral scents and their heavier versions are the most popular ingredients in perfumes.
Floral fragrances tend to be used as the heart and top notes of a perfume. Lighter versions of the fragrances of roses and lavenders are used as headnotes. Strong fragrant flowers like jasmine and orange blossoms are often used as heart notes.
You might believe that floral fragrances are for women. Surely enough, it is true that flowers have femininity about them - however, this doesn’t mean they discriminate! Orange blossoms and their strong smell are often used and are pretty popular amongst men’s perfumes.
Ah, fruits. They are a true blessing bestowed upon us by God. Not only are they tasty, hydrating, and great for your health - they have a distinct sweet smell that brings you this kind of joy and warmth. They remind you of fun, sunshine on a cold day, and innocence.
Not to be confused with citrus scents (they make up a different genre), fruity fragrances come from juicy fruits such as peach, strawberries, apples, and watermelon. They have a very summery aura about them and are perfect for a day out in the sun or the beach.
Fruity scents can be versatile. While sometimes they make up for playful casual perfumes other times, they can be sophisticated with just the right amount of strength in composition. These tend to be most commonly included in the heart notes. Fruity scents, just like floral scents, tend to be more popular in women.
Oriental or “spicy” fragrances tend to be for the more adventurous - there is something unique about the scent they make up. They are warm and sensual with a dense quality thanks to their composition of strong spices such as cloves, cinnamon, pepper, and more. These fragrances are not kidding around - they make a clear statement.
Often their spicy scent is countered with some floral notes to make a perfect blend of sweet and spicy. Perfumes with spicy fragrances tend to use oriental spices as base notes and heart notes. Because of their rich aroma and heavy molecules, they tend to last much longer than fruity or floral fragrances do. They have a certain seductive feel to them so hey if you are looking for something to wear on a special night, oriental is the way to go!
Picture waking up early and taking a walk in your home garden. The scent you smell when taking a deep peaceful breath in - that is exactly what fresh scents replicate. They sing the song of greenness, oxygen, fresh air, and peace right into your olfactory senses.
Fresh and green scents are a wide term used to denote fragrances taken from leaves, herbs, and citrus fruits. Citrus fragrances come under the fresh category because though they are fruits, they do not have the sweet smell that is typically associated with the word “fruity”. Instead, citrus has a distinct sour and fresh fragrance. Examples of citrus fragrances include lemongrass, lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and so on.
While citrus fragrances lie in the heart notes of green perfumes, their base is made of stronger herbal notes. They come together to make up a perfect blend of perfume that brings nature itself to your mind right through your nostrils. Green fragrances are perfect for a chill day out, or everyday use. They are not too attention-grabbing, yet do the job of masking odor and making you feel as fresh as you can.
You might think woody sounds a lot like green but in terms of fragrance, woody and green notes hit your senses pretty differently. Fresh notes tend to be much lighter. Woody notes, on the other hand, are known for being strong bases. Think about all the different smells that come right from the woods of big strong trees - and you will know what woody fragrances smell like.
Woody scents are suitable for the outdoors. For example, when you go out for a hike or camping. Made of sandalwood, patchouli, oakmoss, bargeman, and more, these fragrances have a very earthy and grounded feel around them. They are soothing yet powerful. Many times, woody notes are used as a base for other fragrances that have citrus scents as the top notes. They are great binders and are incredibly long-lasting.
The ocean has a distinct smell. Well, that is, if you are not on a crowded beach with lots of pollution. But the point is oceanic or aquatic scents are inspired by the sea and conjure up images of being near the water when they are smelled.
They draw fragrances from the salt air, the smell of the sea, and algae. This is done by making replicas that smell similar to the setting. Seaweed essence may also be used to make an aquatic fragrance. Clean, smooth fragrances with touches of spice and citrus are characteristics of these scents.
In recent years synthetically made perfumes creating a replica of natural settings have become increasingly popular and the oceanic scent is a great example of it. Go for an aquatic scent if you have a chill personality that enjoys marine experiences. Oceanic scents are also great for daily use.
A Parting Note
Perfumes make up for a way of life. Before someone even looks at you, they can smell the perfume you wear. They make up for your very first impression. They make up for your presence. But that is not all a perfume is - creating a perfume with a perfect blend is an art.
The notes of a perfume affect it artistically. What would a painting be without the perfect strokes of a paintbrush on a canvas making gorgeous blends of colors and textures? The top, heart, and base notes act like the paintbrushes and colors for the canvas of a perfume. If that was not enough, the perfume world gives you a wide variety of choices to pick a fragrance for your personal needs, preferences, and occasions. I hope I was successful in bringing you with me to a fragrant trip down the world of perfumes, and that you are now able to appreciate and recognize the efforts put in perfume blends after this reading.