What are top notes, heart notes and base notes?
Much like musical notes make up a song and various shades of colors turn into a painting, fragrance notes are necessary to make a perfume / oud. Overall, there are three note scales that when blended together create the perfume’s fragrant accord. Each of these levels, however, has its own primary purpose.
Also sometimes referred to as the opening notes or head notes, the top notes of a fragrance are generally the lightest of all the notes. They are recognized immediately upon application of the perfume. The top notes are also the first to fade given their light molecular structure, but this does not mean they aren’t of utmost importance.
The top notes of a fragrance represent the first impression. How many times have you tested a fragrance only to be turned off right away? Why? Because the top notes didn’t make a lasting impression on you. It is hugely important that the top notes not only succeed at luring you in, but also smoothly transition into the heart of the fragrance.
Common fragrance top notes include citrus (lemon, orange zest, bergamot), light fruits (grapefruit, berries) and herbs (clary sage, lavender).
The middle notes, or the heart notes, make an appearance once the top notes evaporate. The middle notes are considered the heart of the fragrance. They last longer than the top notes and have a strong influence on the base notes to come. A perfume’s heart is generally pleasant and well-rounded. It is ofen a smooth combination of floral or fruit tones; sometimes infused with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom.
Common fragrance middle notes include geranium, rose, lemongrass, ylang ylang, lavender, coriander, nutmeg, neroli and jasmine.
The base notes are the final fragrance notes that appear once the top notes are completely evaporated. The base notes mingle with the heart notes to create the full body of the fragrance, but are typically associated with the dry-down period. The job of the base notes is to provide the lasting impression. These often rich notes linger on the skin for hours after the top notes have dissipated.
Common fragrance base notes include cedarwood, sandalwood, vanilla, amber, patchouli, oakmoss and musk.
Without the combination of the three levels of notes, a fragrance / Oud just wouldn’t be aromatically appealing. But together, they create beautiful scents.
Sillage (pronounced as see-yazh) is a term used to describe a scented trail left by the fragrance wearer. It comes from the French word for “wake,” as in the trail left in the sky by an airplane or on the water by a boat. Sillage defines how fragrance diffuses around the wearer, and a strong sillage means that a fragrance projects well. Sillage has nothing to do with the richness of the composition, however, but rather with the diffusive nature of the materials that go into it. For instance, hedione, fresh floral notes and some types of musk are extremely diffusive and radiant, while retaining an airy, light character.