Top Notes, Middle Notes and Base Notes In Fragrance

Posted in: Perfumes and Colognes- Aug 08, 2010 No Comments

When we write about perfumes and explain the fragrance industry, such as the difference between Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette scents, you will notice that we use the phrases top notes, middle notes, and base notes (sometimes middle notes are called heart notes).  You may not understand exactly what top notes, middle notes, and base notes mean so we thought a short explanation would help you.

Think of Fragrance As Having Three Layers – Each Layer Is a “Note” in a Musical Chord

Most scents you enjoy from major perfume houses have three distinct layers, called top notes, middle notes, and base notes.  Here is a short description of what each of them means …

  • Top Notes: The top notes of a perfume form your first impression of a fragrance.  They are immediate and what you notice before anything else.  Chemically speaking, top notes are small, light molecules of fragrance that evaporate quickly so they will be the first to fade.  Top notes normally fade within 10-15 minutes of applying fragrance to your skin.
  • Middle Notes: The middle notes of a perfume emerge right before the top notes fade away into oblivion.  These are the “heart” of the fragrance and are sometimes called heart notes.  The middle notes are often used to mask the base notes, which are unpleasant when first applied but become increasingly better with the passage of time.  Middle notes typically fade within 30-45 minutes of applying the scent to your skin.
  • Base Notes: The base notes are the foundation of a perfume and help keep the top notes and middle notes from evaporating too quickly.  The base notes often soften over time and can last four hours or more depending upon the concentration of the perfume you purchased; e.g., the much stronger Eau de Parfum is going to last longer than the same scent in Eau de Toilette.

A perfect example of a fragrance that is base note heavy is Creed Bois du Portugal.  The scent can be overwhelming and, to some people, unpleasant within the first 15 minutes of application.  Yet, within 20 to 30 minutes, it settles into one of the softest, warmest scents you will ever experience.  In fact, one of the Gilded Life writers described it as “smelling the way a warm, fluffy blanket feels“.

Most colognes and body splashes have only top notes and middle notes because they are heavily diluted and designed to fade quickly.

For more information, read our Fragrance, Perfumes and Colognes category for reviews, articles, and announcements in the world of high-end luxury scent.


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