Inside Perfume

How To Describe A Fragrance

Posted on: October 20, 2008

I don’t know if it’s just me, or what, but I didn’t know there was a specific way to describe a fragrance until I began working in the industry. It’s actually quite simple though. Basically there are three notes to a fragrance: top, middle and bottom.


A note is a term used by perfumers to describe a specific odor characteristic. Describing notes is essential in the fragrance world. You may have thought, like myself, that you just spray and smell. There’s much more to it than that though. It’s an experience through time, sensing how the fragrance changes.


The top note is the initial appeal of a fragrance. It is the scent which is picked up most immediately. Imagine tasting wine, and how the flavor starts off one way and changes as it flows over your taste buds and down your throat. This is similar in that there is an initial scent that does not last very long because it consists of the most volatile components of the fragrance. This is important because it is the first impression of the fragrance, it sets the mood in a way.


The middle note also called “the heart” (or “le coeur” in French), because it gives a fragrance its body, or fullness. The middle note is sensed a few moments after the fragrance is applied. Obviously, being the heart, the middle notes plays a very important role in the “life” of the fragrance. It is perhaps the most memorable odor of the fragrance.


Last, but not least, the bottom note is the residual portion of the fragrance. This is the note that lasts the longest because it is composed of ingredients with low volatility. Once the volatile top and middle notes have faded, the bottom note is all that remains and is therefore responsible for the longevity of the fragrance.


Together these elements characterize a fragrance and make it more than just a scent, but also an experience. Next time you apply a personal fragrance, take note of how it changes. Share your experience with me if you like. Did you know this about fragrance?


3 Responses to "How To Describe A Fragrance"

Hello. I recently took over a fragrance blog and I found this post very helpful. I want to be able to explain what or why something is, not just copy and paste an explaination. In the past, I knew when I liked something, but not always what I was responding to.

I plan to cover this very subject later and I would like to link back to you. If you would be available for an interview, please email me.

Im about to review some perfumes on my blog so this has helped me a lot, thanks 🙂 x

I just got a seasonal job at Macy’s in the Fragrance department, so this is going to help me a lot. Thank you! 🙂

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