Unveiling the Mystery: What are Top, Middle and Base Notes?

Unveiling the Mystery What are Top, Middle and Base Notes

Have you ever wondered why the scent from your perfume or candle does or does not last long enough? If yes, then we are all in the same boat here, but after reading this article you will understand the reason behind this.

The answer lies in the fascinating world of fragrance notes. These notes, expertly blended by perfumers, create a layered scent experience that will reveal more of itself over time.

What are Top Middle and Base Notes?

What are Fragrance Notes to Begin With

Fragrance notes are like building blocks for a perfume. They are categorized based on their evaporation rate, creating a multi-dimensional scent journey:

  • Top Notes: The first impression, is light and refreshing.
  • Middle Notes (Heart Notes): The core of the fragrance, becomes apparent after the top notes fade.
  • Base Notes: The long-lasting foundation, provides depth and richness.

Top Notes

What is a Top Note

The top notes are the initial burst of scent you experience. They are the most volatile and evaporate quickly, typically lasting 15-30 minutes. Think of them as the attention-grabbing introduction to the perfume. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Characteristics: Light, fresh, and invigorating.
  • Common Examples: Lemon, bergamot, grapefruit, and mint

Popular Top Notes and Their Feel

Top Note Feel
Lemon Zesty, uplifting
Bergamot Bright, slightly spicy
Grapefruit Tangy, invigorating
Mint Cooling, herbaceous
Lavender Calming, floral

Middle Notes

What is a Middle Note

Middle notes, also known as heart notes, emerge after the top notes fade. They form the “heart of the fragrance”, and their presence can last for an hour or two. This is where the true character of the perfume shines through. Here’s what defines middle notes:

  • Characteristics: Floral, spicy, or powdery scents.
  • Common Examples: Rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, cinnamon, and cardamom.

Popular Middle Notes and Their Feel

Middle Note Feel
Rose Romantic, luxurious
Jasmine Delicate, sweet
Lily of the Valley Fresh, green, floral
Cinnamon Warm, spicy
Cardamom Sweet, slightly peppery

Base Notes

What is a Base note

Base notes are the anchors of the fragrance. These rich and intense scents linger on for the longest time (several hours or even all day). They provide depth and complexity to the overall scent experience. This is what allows the fragrance to last for a longer duration in your space, or on your skin. Here’s what to expect from base notes:

  • Characteristics: Deep, warm, and musky scents.
  • Common Examples: Sandalwood, vanilla, patchouli, amber, and musk.

Popular Base Notes and Their Feel

Base Note Feel
Sandalwood Creamy, woody
Vanilla Sweet, comforting
Patchouli Earthy, musky
Amber Warm, balsamic
Musk Sensual (often synthetically recreated these days)

How Do Fragrance Notes Work

Different fragrance molecules have different volatilities, meaning they evaporate at different rates. Smaller and lighter molecules evaporate faster, while larger and heavier ones take longer. This is why top notes, composed of lighter molecules, hit your nose first, while base notes, with heavier molecules, stay there longer.

It’s not like the top notes reveal themselves on the first 10% of the candle, and then the middle notes show up at 70%, and so on. Regardless of when you are using the candle, even if you are down to 10ml of wax only, the notes are blended, so they will still reveal themselves in a timely manner based on their molecular composition.


By understanding fragrance notes, you can choose candles & perfumes that suit your preferences and evolve throughout the day. So next time you spritz on your favorite scent, pay attention to the notes and appreciate the beautiful olfactory journey they create!

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