The Harmony of Fragrance Notes



This is an amazing fact. There are plenty of similarities between music and fragrance.


According to Rachel Hertz in her book Scent Of Desire, “an odor has no personal significance until it becomes connected to something that has meaning. With your initial encounter, you begin forming nerve connections that intertwine the smell with emotions”. 


And just like your favorite song that evokes pure emotion when heard, perfumes are made with notes. Very interesting that these two art forms, music and perfumery share two distinct terms to describe their composition:  accord and notes.




In perfumery accord means two elements that combine to make a third or a unique blended fragrance. It is the basic character of a fragrance. And just like in a musical composition, in the world of fragrances, notes are combined. These notes blend together to create a signature scent. Each aromatic note has a role and purpose to play in relation to the entire scent experience. This is not an easy task to accomplish. It takes time and effort, sometimes mixing and re-mixing to achieve the desired result. If you change the formulation of a certain note, or you totally eliminate it from the mixture, a totally new perfume is born.  This is one of the reasons why perfume is so expensive.





Top notes are also called head or opening notes and are generally the lightest of all the notes. A lot of times, you fall in love with the top notes, because it is your first impression of the perfume. After you have spritz a perfume on your pulse points, the top notes emerge and after a few minutes the middle and base notes will follow.


The top notes are meant to evaporate within hours, so they are usually made of  lighter oils. Common fragrance top notes are citrus (lemon, orange zest, bergamot), light fruits (grapefruit, berries), and herbs (sage, anise and lavender).




Middle notes or heart notes are the foundation of a fragrance as they make up 40-80% of the total scent. To last for 2-4 hours, they are generally composed of strong, sometimes even spicy oils. They only become noticeable after the top notes are gone and this usually happens between 10-30 minutes. The objective is to achieve a smooth combination of floral or fruit tones mixed with strong spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom.


Common fragrance middle notes are lavender, rose, black pepper, pine, geranium, rosemary, ylang ylang and juniper.



Base notes are the last to appear, normally after the top notes have evaporated entirely. The base notes fuse with the middle notes to create the full body of the fragrance, therefore creating a last impression. It linger the longest on your skin. Base notes comprise about 20% of any given fragrance. If top notes create a first impression, the base notes bring the lasting impression.


Common fragrance base notes are cedarwood, sandalwood, vanilla, amber, patchouli and musk. Some of these fragrances maybe overwhelming, that is why the middle or heart notes are mixed to achieve a more lasting and pleasing end product.


Truly, music and perfume have similarities, not only with the words used to describe their elements... but also with the effect they create in people. Both have the outstanding ability to create a mood, an inspiring atmosphere, a lingering impression – for all the senses to enjoy!

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