Olfactory pyramid explained

Olfactory pyramid explained

The world of fragrance is vast and complex, but understanding the basics of how perfume is structured can help you choose a scent that's perfect for you. At the core of every fragrance is the olfactory pyramid, a system of categorising a perfume's ingredients by their strength and longevity.

The three levels of the pyramid - top notes, heart notes, and base notes - each play a different role in the overall smell of perfume.

When choosing a fragrance, it's important to keep the olfactory pyramid in mind. If you're looking for a scent that will be subtle and short-lived, go for something with light top notes. If you want a perfume that will evolve over time and has staying power, look for something with heavier base notes. And if you're somewhere in the middle, choose a fragrance with prominent heart notes.

Of course, not all fragrances follow this simple structure. Some have multiple layers of top, middle, and base notes, while others may not have any heart or base notes at all. But understanding the olfactory pyramid is a good starting point for anyone interested in perfume.

Top Notes

The top notes of a fragrance are the lightest, most volatile molecules that make up the scent. They hit your nose first and evaporate quickly, not lasting too long.

Common top notes include citrusy scents like lemon and bergamot, as well as green notes like grass and leaves. These fresh, sharp smells are used to create an initial impact and set the tone for the rest of the fragrance.

Heart Notes

Heart or middle notes start to become apparent after the top notes have dissipated. These molecules are heavier than the top notes, but still quite volatile and don’t stick around all day, maybe for a few hours in some cases but each fragrance is different and so is every formulation.

Common heart notes include floral scents like jasmine and rose, as well as spicy scents like cloves and cinnamon. These richer, sweeter smells help round out the fragrance and give it its signature smell.

Base Notes

Base notes are the heaviest, most long-lasting molecules in a perfume. They can take several hours to fully develop on your skin, and can linger for days in some cases, again, every fragrance is different and even the oils in your skin can make a big difference; this is the magic of scent and true luxury fragrance.

Common base notes include woody scents like cedar and sandalwood, as well as earthy scents like patchouli and moss. These deep, rich smells help give a fragrance its staying power and make it more nuanced over time.

Moods and Styles of the Olfactory Pyramid

Top notes are often used to create an initial impact and set the tone for the rest of the fragrance. They can be fresh and sharp, like citrusy or green scents, or they can be sweet and spicy, like floral or oriental scents.

Heart notes help round out the fragrance and give it its signature smell. They can be rich and decadent, like gourmand or woody scents, or they can be light and airy, like aquatic or fruity scents.

Base notes are the heaviest, most long-lasting molecules in a perfume. They can be deep and earthy, like musky or amber scents, or they can be light and clean, like citrusy or green scents.

Balancing the Olfactory Pyramid

Fragrances with prominent top notes

Fragrances with prominent top notes are often used to create an initial impact. They can be fresh and sharp, like citrusy or green scents, or they can be sweet and spicy, like floral or oriental scents.

Fragrances with prominent heart notes

Fragrances with prominent heart notes are often used to create a signature smell. They can be rich and decadent, like gourmand or woody scents, or they can be light and airy, like aquatic or fruity scents.

Fragrances with prominent base notes

Fragrances with prominent base notes are often used to create a long-lasting scent. They can be deep and earthy, like musky or amber scents, or they can be light and clean, like citrusy or green scents.

Well-balanced fragrances

Fragrances with a balanced blend of top, middle, and base notes are often used to create a well-rounded scent. They can be fresh and sharp, like citrusy or green scents, or they can be rich and decadent, like gourmand or woody scents.