Fragrance Notes for Beginners

Posted by on

A Beginner's Guide to Fragrance Notes

The scents experienced in your environment can affect your mood, emotions, concentration, memory and behavior. For some people, it is enough simply to decide whether they like a smell or not. For others, choosing the perfect scent can be an expression of their style or even a hobby. If you fall into the latter category, learning about fragrance notes helps you better understand why different odors evoke different experiences.

Fragrance oils with ingredients

What Are Fragrance Notes?

The various ingredients that combine to produce a scent are called fragrance or perfume notes. These notes are categorized as top, middle or base notes. The combination of these notes creates a distinctive aroma. Manufacturers of scented products such as candles carefully select these notes to ensure the resulting fragrance evokes the desired experience.

What Is the Fragrance Pyramid?

The fragrance pyramid is a pictorial representation of the three types of notes arranged from shortest to longest duration. Top notes, which evaporate in 5-15 minutes, are at the top of the pyramid. Middle notes, also called heart notes, are in the middle of the pyramid and take 20-60 minutes to evaporate. The base notes are at the bottom and can last up to six hours before dispersing.

What Are Top Notes?

Top notes, which some people call head notes, are the scents you first notice when you encounter a fragrance. These notes play an important role in establishing your initial impression of a scent. Because these notes evaporate quickly, their secondary function is to smoothly transition to the next part of the fragrance experience. For this reason, top notes usually consist of smaller and lighter molecules than the other notes. Examples of common top notes include citrus scents, light fruits, fresh herbs and light floral notes.

What Are Middle Notes?

Middle notes are the foundation of a fragrance and usually account for 40-80% of the final scent. You first notice the middle fragrance notes shortly before the top notes fade. Perfumers generally select these notes for well-rounded and pleasant qualities. Cinnamon, ylang-ylang, rose, neroli and lemongrass are popular choices for middle notes.

What Are Base Notes?

Base notes blend with middle notes to create a deeper and more complex fragrance. They are the longest-lasting notes and generate the scent that remains after the top and middle notes have faded. They make up about 10-25% of the final fragrance. Fewer scents work well as base notes than as top or middle notes, so many fragrances use the same base notes. Popular base notes include vanilla, cedarwood, sandalwood, jasmine, musk and patchouli.

How Can You Identify Perfume Notes?

The easiest way to tell if you are smelling a top, middle or base note is to track how much time passes before you first detect it. The scents you notice immediately are the top notes. The scents that kick in when the initial aroma fades are the middle notes, and the odors that linger after the others fade are the base notes. Because they last the longest, the base notes often provide the aroma you remember the most.

Fragrance oils lab


What Are Fragrance Families?

A fragrance family is a system that perfumers use to classify scents into different groups based on a set of identifying factors. Learning to recognize fragrance families can help you select the scented products you prefer.


Citrus scents are modern, refreshing and playful. These fragrances are light and feature immediately recognizable odors such as lemon, neroli, orange, grapefruit, bergamot and mandarin.


Amber scents are smooth, rich and sensual. Their fragrance notes are usually long-lasting and full-bodied. Common notes in this category consist of vanilla, orange blossom, tobacco, spices and amber.


The floral family is one of the most popular fragrance families. They add a natural feel to a fragrance that makes them popular choices as top and middle notes. Much like a bouquet of flowers, floral scents are often chosen for their ability to complement each other. Common floral notes include jasmine, iris, rose and lily of the valley.


These scents are sophisticated, woody, mossy and floral. This category gets its name from the aromatic plants, such as oak moss, bergamot and patchouli, that grow on the island of Cyprus.


Woody scents are seductive and rich with an earthy undertone. Wood scents have traditionally been used in products marketed to men, but more recently, they have been gaining popularity in feminine and unisex products. Common woody scents include sandalwood, oak, rosewood and cedarwood.


Fruit fragrance notes are vibrant and fun but subtle enough for everyday use. They are most commonly used as middle notes and blend well with other notes. Common notes include grapefruit, lemon, raspberry, apple and strawberry.

Fresh Notes

Fresh notes are citrusy and light, which makes them a good choice for top notes. Popular fresh notes include bergamot, orange and lemon.

Spice Notes

Spice notes add potency and warmth. They pair well with floral notes as the middle notes of a fragrance. Common spice notes include nutmeg, cinnamon, basil and rosemary.

Musk Notes

Musk notes are most often used as base notes. The richness of these notes strengthens the foundation and increases the duration of a scent. Musk notes come in multiple varieties that can add unique qualities to fragrances.

How Do You Choose the Right Scents for Your Home?

Choosing the perfect scented candles for your home is similar to choosing the best perfume for your body. First, identify how you want to feel in the various spaces in your home. For example, you may want something soothing and calming for the bedroom, but refreshing and invigorating for the bathroom. Next, consider your decor. Woody scents tend to go well with minimalist designs, while more traditional decor may pair well with floral scents.

Nomad Noé Luxury Candles Collection

How Do Scented Candles Use Fragrance Notes?

All of the scented candles at Nomad Noé are created with fragrance oils crafted in Grasse, France. These expertly crafted scents contain the optimal blend of fragrance notes to achieve the various moods and experiences evoked by our products. Visit us online to choose the perfect candles for every room in your house.

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published