What are Fragrance Notes?

Fragrance notes

What are fragrance notes?

These are the ingredients that make up the perfume. They feature at three levels known as the fragrance pyramid; the top, heart (middle) and base and dissipate and emerge over time as you wear the scent. Fragrance notes can range from plant and flower extracts to synthetically-created molecules. New technology can recreate the essence of almost any scent on earth, with recent examples including candy floss, sea salt and caramel.

What are top notes?

Top notes are your first impression of a fragrance and can last for up to 30 minutes before transitioning into the heart (middle) notes. These fragrance notes are usually lighter than the other ingredients and fade out quickly such as bergamot, lemon, lavender and grapefruit.

Tip: Remember this when you’re shopping for a new fragrance. You won’t experience the true character of the scent until you’ve worn it for longer than 1 hour on the skin. Love at first spritz, plus at least one hour!

What are heart notes?

Shortly after application, the top notes give way to the heart (middle) notes. These are usually floral, as most fruity notes are too light for this layer. Middle fragrance notes make up the core perfume as it sits on the skin for the longest, and it’s these layers that define the dry down when the scent settles on the skin.

What are base notes?

The base notes are your lasting impression of the fragrance; they determine how long a fragrance will last, and provide a background on which the heart notes can be enjoyed. Interestingly, most fragrances have similar base notes, often including sandalwood, amber, musk and vanilla; this is because there are only a certain number of notes that will last long enough on-the-skin to form the base of a fragrance.


For any fragrance terms you didn’t understand, see our full glossary.


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Fragrance notes

Updated by Keavy Slattery: 15/09/2020.