Posted on February 21, 2020

Nuances of fragrances

The nuances of fragrances are many. As we have seen, fragrance is not a fixed, immutable object, but a happening that develops over time, like a musical composition. Applied to the skin, perfume opens on a crescendo of top notes, then mellows as the middle notes round out the sensory impression, staying on for hours, revealing its true self.

Top note
What your sense of smell first experiences in a perfume is known as the top note, or the “initial impact”. This lasts 5-10 minutes and draws you further into the fragrance.

Middle note (heart)
Then, after a few minutes, comes the “bouquet”, the heart or middle note, which gradually blends into the base note or ”fond”(French). The heart is the scent that begins to emerge after the fragrance has blended with your own unique skin chemistry. It normally takes ten to twenty minutes for the middle notes to fully develop on the skin.

Base note
The final expression of the fragrance after it has dried. This reveals how it will smell on you for the duration.

The evaporation process of a perfume could be visualized as a rocket with three (3) stages of “blast-off” in succession. The perfume components are placed in order from the top to the base, according to their volatility, from the very light ones to the heavy, least volatile – from the tingling fresh to the warmer ones. The top note could be fresh citrus and light, volatile green notes, aldehyde and fruity esters. For the bouquet of the middle note there could be accords of several flower notes. And for the base, woody notes: patchouli, moss, balsamic and animal notes: coumarin and vanillin.

Fixatives bind together the ingredients of the composition and lead them from the top to the base. Perfume should not break up into three stages. If a perfume is well balanced, changes during the evaporation process are as imperceptible as the movements of the hands of a clock. A perfume that “falls apart” in stages is badly formulated.

A perfume should be harmonious, rounded-off, but never boring. It should be reminiscent of natural and familiar odors, but also bring new and surprising ones. It should be a mirror of contemporary aesthetic feeling, but not simply reflect some passing fashion.

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