What the Different Notes in a Fragrance Mean

Floral, citrus, musk – what is your favorite fragrance? Every individual has their favorite fragrance as there are different characteristics to each, which are known as notes. There is a whole science to this and the different notes play a critical factor in building fragrances. Whether you are buying perfume or scented candles, it’s important to understand how the different notes in a fragrance create the final product. 

Introduction to Fragrance Notes

There are three notes that make up a particular fragrance or scent. The subtle science of combining these notes is a practice that has been around for many centuries. There is an art to building a fragrance that ensures you have a robust and well-balanced scent. If one note is too heavy, it can be overwhelming. You need the other notes to balance out the scent and make it a pleasure to smell. 

So, what do the different notes in a fragrance mean? Here are the three different notes that must be combined perfectly for that complete fragrance. 

Top Notes

Top notes, commonly known as head notes, represent the top layer of the fragrance. Since it is the top layer, it is the first scent that you recognize when you smell a particular perfume or fragrance. They are characterized by having a light molecular structure, which means that the top note is the first to evaporate upon application.

The main purpose of the top note is to build the first impression before it transitions into the next layer of the fragrance. It sets the stage for a particular scent. When you smell perfume for the first time and are attracted to it, it is primarily because of the top note. As the scent lingers, the rest of the notes are enjoyed by your senses. 

There are a few common fragrance top notes such as floral (rose and lavender), citrus (orange zest, lemon, bergamot) and fruit (berries, grapefruit).


different notes in a fragrance


Middle Notes

As the top note evaporates, the next layer of fragrance that you get to experience is the middle note (also known as the “heart” of the fragrance). The purpose of this layer of fragrance note is to retain some elements of the top note while adding a new layer of scent to give robustness to the fragrance. 

The middle note is a bit heavier in terms of molecular structure so it lasts longer than the top note. At the same time, it makes the base note (the third note) more bearable, especially if the latter tends to be quite strong.

The middle note comprises about 70 percent of the overall blend. For this reason, it does not fade easily, and the notes are present throughout the life of the fragrance. A few examples of middle notes are full-bodied scents such as lavender, cinnamon, jasmine, geranium, ylang-ylang, and neroli, to name a few. 

Base Notes

The base note is the final component of a full and well-balanced scent. Most base notes are calming in quality, but some are quite robust. It is made up of large and heavy molecules that add complexity and depth to a scent. 

Base notes are often what dominate the fragrance once the top notes have fully evaporated. They linger for a while and add that lasting impression to the scent. Depending on the type of base note used, the aroma can last for several hours.

The most common examples of base notes are vanilla, amber, musk, cedarwood, sandalwood, and patchouli. 


Now that you know what the different notes in a fragrance mean, you will have a better understanding of what gives each type of scent its unique appeal. The blending of the notes creates the ideal balance in a scent as some notes can be overpowering or too robust on their own.