Top, Middle, And Base Notes In Perfume: What To Know When You're Choosing A Scent

Buying a new perfume can almost feel a bit daunting at times. Before you enter the store, you tell yourself you know exactly what you're looking for, but as you browse through the perfume section, things start to change. You begin to feel mesmerized by the wonderful floral, fruity, and musky scents. There are so many incredible perfumes, and you want to try them all out like a kid in a candy store. Before you know it, the perfume aisle has transformed into somewhat of a labyrinth you don't want to get out of.

While this experience can be quite relaxing every once in a while, sometimes, you just want to pick a perfume and get on with your day. A fantastic way to narrow your choices down is to know what fragrance notes you're looking for. Fragrance notes, or perfume notes, is a term you'll encounter with most scented goods, and it's pretty important.

To understand fragrance notes, you need to think of your perfume as a medley of small, tasteful scents instead of a singular burst of fragrance. Fragrance notes are made up of top, middle, and base notes. It's easy to assume what each of these notes means based on the name, but the truth of their meaning might differ.

What each fragrance note means

The top note is the very first scent you get out of the perfume as you spray it on. Think of this note as an appetizer that sets the tone for what the meal is going to be without giving it all away. Many people mistake this for the overall scent of the fragrance, but as you let it sit, you'll notice it mellows out. Alia Raza, fragrance expert and founder of Regime Des Fleurs, explained the reason for this when she spoke to Bustle. "The lighter the weight of the molecule that makes up a given ingredient, the quicker it will evaporate off your skin and into the air and then into your nose." The top note fades into the background to make way for the true star of the show, the middle note.

The middle note is often called the heart note because that's exactly what it is. It's the scent that sticks around in your senses for hours and plays a crucial part as the middleman. The middle note needs to be well-balanced to create the perfect transition between all three notes. It breathes new life into the perfume before leaving you with the memorable finale, the base note.

Although the base note is the last one to the party, it's the one that lingers the longest on your clothes and skin. Unlike the noticeable top and middle notes, this one has an underlying scent that's soothing and well-bodied.

Know the fragrance wheel before you buy a perfume

When buying perfume, you should know it'll fall into one of the four major categories on the fragrance wheel. Understanding the fragrance wheel is another fantastic way to narrow your perfume choices down and choose harmonious scents that pair well together. This wheel explains the different types of notes and shows how one leads into the other. Although there are four main categories, each is further divided into 12 to 14 subsections to depict the relations between each one.

The four main note families are floral, amber, woody, and fresh. As the name suggests, floral notes are naturally or artificially derived from flowers. Many people tend to have polarizing views about floral fragrances because they can irritate the senses if they're too strong. But floral notes can range from boldly floral to spicy floral, which cuts through the sweetness of the flowers. On the other hand, amber notes are deep, sensual scents with a warm, sweet, and spicy tinge. Usually, these smells encompass more exotic fragrances like jasmine, vanilla, or musk. The spicy notes lead into woody notes, which outdoorsy lovers can hardly resist. Unsurprisingly, woodsy fragrances smell like trees or fresh wood. They can have a rather bold and well-bodied scent of trees like pine, cedar, sandalwood, and more. And finally, we have fresh notes that refresh your mind. They include aromatic notes like lavender, citrusy scents like orange, water-based fragrances like the ocean, herby smells, and fruity scents like berries.