Take Note: Perfumery Notes Explained

Take Note: Perfumery Notes Explained

When it comes to perfumery, notes are like music to our noses.

The notes of a fragrance essentially give a scent its personality. As with individuals, scents give a first impression. Then, once you get to know the scent a little better, you experience a whole new dimension of that scent’s personality.

Another way of explaining the complexity of fragrances is through notes. Specifically, top notes, middle notes, and base notes are the three dimensions of any perfume.

At Fragrance Original, we want to dive into what these notes actually mean. This way, you can make an educated decision as you decide which vintage fragrance will be right for you.

Top Notes:

Also called head notes, top notes are the initial burst of scent you get from a perfume. It’s like the first impression.

Generally, because top notes only last for a few seconds after initial application, top notes are extremely sharp, bright, and potent. They can be because they disappear so quickly. They lure you into the perfume, delighting your senses from the get-go.

Ginger and citrus scents, such as lemon and orange blossom, are common top notes because of how sharp and recognizable they are.

Middle Notes:

Referred to as heart notes as well, middle notes are exactly what they sound like. When the top notes start to dissipate, middle notes come into the picture. Because middle notes foster the transition between strong top notes and initially off-putting base notes, they tend to be mellow, grounded, and warm.

Unlike top notes, which dissipate a few moments after initial dispersion, middle notes come into the picture anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes after application.

Think of lavender, rose, or amber as common middle notes.

Base Notes:

Once the middle notes begin to subside, base notes come in and give the lasting scent of the fragrance. In general, a fragrance will be defined by the combination of its middle and base notes, as this is the portion of the scent that lasts the longest.

Think of base notes as the anchor for a scent. They harness some of the delicate brightness of the top and middle notes, keeping traces of them around for a well-rounded scent.

Base notes can take up to 30 minutes to be perceivable, but they can stick around for 24 hours or more (especially with musk notes).

Scent Families

In addition to their top, middle, and base notes, perfumes are also defined by their scent (or olfactive) family.

There are all sorts of scent families, and complex perfumes can have aspects from multiple families. Here’s a general overview of scent families to keep an eye (or nose) out for:

  • Single floral: fragrance with scent dominated by one flower, such as rose
  • Floral bouquet: combination of several flowers
  • Amber (oriental): classic resiny scents including vanilla, tonka bean, and wood
  • Woody: think agarwood, sandalwood, cedar, and other woody smells
  • Leather: honey, tobacco, and wood characterize this scent family.
  • Chypre: bergamot, oakmoss, and labdanum characterize this classic fragrance family
  • Fougère: French for “fern,” this family is comprised of lavender, oakmoss, and other traditionally masculine base notes.

The scent families listed above only represent traditional olfactory families. Modern scents include bright floral, aquatic, citrus, and other scents you’ll see listed in perfume descriptions.

Vintage Fragrances At Fragrance Original

If you’re in the market for a vintage fragrance or have been trying to find your favorite discontinued perfume for years, Fragrance Original is the place for you.

Shop our selection of vintage fragrances today, including discontinued perfumes and colognes. As you make your decision, pay attention to the fragrance notes to get a real “scents” of the perfume.