Perfume Notes – What are they? And what do they do?

Like a symphony of the senses, the fragrance experience can be methodically broken down into their sum parts. With the opening act bursting out the gate with ferocity, the middle act that serves to take the audience on a journey, and the final climax to make a lasting impression, perfumes function much in the same way as a well-rehearsed orchestra.

Let’s go over the three scent notes that make up essentially every perfume on the planet.

Top Notes

Usually held by citrus

Sometimes holds various herbs

High intensity

Let’s start with the icebreaker. Some refer to them as head notes, or even opening notes, but what ever it may be called, this is the fragrance you’ll notice as soon as you lightly squeeze on the nozzle. These scents are felt right away and usually launches through the gate with energy and tenacity. The first impression makes or breaks the perfume experience, and more often than not, a perfume will be turned down for another purely based on the top note itself.

The opening notes are often packed with zing and are full of energy, as such they’re usually made of citrus elements like lemon and orange, or even pungent flavours like lavender or mint.

Heart Notes

Embodies majority of the scent

Typically made of fruit and floral accords

A fuller bodied, well rounded scent

After the initial impression makes its way and the top notes evaporate, the heart notes, or middle note, take centre stage. These more full-bodied scents last for a much longer time than the top notes are what makes up the brunt of a scent, most often experienced for the longest time by the wearer’s acquaintances. They key here is to have a smoother flow and a well-balanced scent palate to really make the experience into a journey for the senses.

Heart notes are generally more subtle than top notes and have more well-rounded scents that aren’t too overbearing but create a stimulating scent that tells a story. These are often expressed by fragrances like jasmine, geranium, or even spice accords.

Base Notes

Creates the foundation of the fragrance

Often associated with earthy scents

Heavy scents that linger for hours

To really hammer home coming to the journey’s end, base notes are what create a lasting impression on the audience and creates the perfect send off for prior scents. Base notes lightly dance with heart notes, first creating a complex painting colours, then taking over and creating a comedown akin to final farewells. These scents are deep and musky, and sometimes can be experienced well into the late hours of evening.

These deep aromatic profiles create subtle yet strong scents that are often seen by oaky, woody textures that go straight to the core and cap off orchestra and bring about the finale.


Next month we go through the history of perfume, what makes the industry what it is. Check it out.