What are Scent Notes and What Do They Mean?

What are Scent Notes and What Do They Mean?

When shopping for perfume or aftershave, you have no doubt come across the ‘notes’ of a fragrance. These notes make up the fragrance itself, and are often split into three scales that work together to create the overall smell of a perfume or aftershave; top, heart and base notes.

If you’re looking for a new perfume, or shopping online for a fragrance, it can be difficult to know where to start. This is why understand the notes of a perfume can be incredibly helpful to get an idea of what type of smell it will be.

You will often find perfumes and aftershaves are divided into fragrance families, which can dictate the types of notes used to create the scent. For instance, if you find a floral fragrance, you would expect to read a list of flower-related ingredients.

With that in mind, here we take a look at what the different scent notes are and what they mean.

Top notes

The top notes of a fragrance create the very first smell you notice when you spray a perfume or aftershave. The top notes create the first impression of the scent, and are usually made using fresh or fruity scents.

They have a light molecular structure, which means the scent itself will be light, and also means they will fade quickly after applying the fragrance to your skin. Top notes can also be known as opening or head notes.

You will find top notes include scents created from citrus, light fruits and herbs. This can include the likes of bergamot, lemon, grapefruit, sage and lavender, but the possibilities are varied!

The perfect example of these top notes can be found in Chanel Allure; with top notes including bergamot, Mandarin orange, peach and passionfruit.

Heart notes

Heart notes are also commonly known as middle notes, because they appear in the middle of the fragrance. They appear once the top notes have faded, and include fuller bodied scents. They naturally last longer than the previous top notes, and form the core of the perfume or aftershave.

Some great examples of heart notes include lily, orchid, rose, jasmine, coriander and ginger. You will find heart notes are usually created from strong florals and spices for a longer-lasting effect. 

For instance, has middle notes of geranium, cinnamon and cloves for an elegant and rich heart.

Base notes 

Base notes are the scents you will remember the most from the fragrance. Base notes remain once the middle notes have faded. Many fragrances will have similar base notes, as there are only so many scents that last long enough. 

Base notes are associated with the ‘dry-down’ period and deliver the lasting impression. Common base notes include sandalwood, cedar, patchouli and musk. You might also find amber, vanilla, vetiver and tobacco in some fragrances. 

Issey Miyake L’Eau Pour Homme is the perfect example of this, with a woody base of amber, sandalwood, musk, Tahitian vetiver and tobacco for a unique finish.

Once you understand what the different scents mean, it suddenly becomes a lot easier to choose your next fragrance!