The Fragrance Pyramid

A single fragrance can be best expressed through various metaphors specific to an individual’s experience. One may liken it to a wild, harmonious symphony, while another may describe it as an enthralling story. Despite the many ways a person can explain the nature of scents, this ability stems from the idea that a fragrance is the sum of many parts. We can better illustrate the nature of fragrance by visualizing a dissected pyramid.

Through this fragrance pyramid, modern-day perfumers and enthusiasts can provide a general breakdown of a scent’s profile. The pyramid can be classified into three parts: top, middle (or heart) and bottom notes. Notes refer to the immediate, identifiable impression a scent gives upon application. Each play an important role in how fragrance is interpreted. Similar to the musical terminology from which it got its name, notes can strike up a chord or a beautiful symphony when blended correctly.

The top note is essentially a fragrance’s first impression. Although its effect lasts for only about 5 to 20 minutes, it is still the very first thing a person notices when a scent is applied. Top notes often have a light but sharp tone reminiscent of herbs, citrus and other aromatics.

The second layer of the pyramid is the middle note, also known as the heart note. If one were to describe the top note as an appetizer, the middle note is perhaps the main course. Its fragrance typically activates 10 minutes upon application and lasts for a few hours. Mid notes are more distinct and dominate the top note as the scent matures. Floral, fruity and spicy scents fall under this category.

Lastly is the bottom note, which can be best described as the sturdy foundation that balances the whole fragrance pyramid. The scent activates after 30 minutes to an hour after application, and will have long-lasting traces for the whole day, depending on the environment. The bottom notes are subtler than the mid and top notes, and are usually made of wood and balsam fragrances such as musk and gourmand.

Each level of the pyramid is carefully selected and analyzed by the perfumer, making sure that the notes create the perfect harmony to play a beautiful masterpiece that each of us can interpret in different ways.

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