They are the different phases through which a fragrance develops when you spray it on your skin that is the “dry down” process. These stages or groups of ‘notes’ each has different degrees of volatility. Think of the notes as the ingredients in a fragrance all coming together to make a perfect whole; they each are distinct in their own way. These notes are:
Top or head notes – This is the scent you notice first when you smell a perfume. It forms a person’s initial impression of a perfume and thus the top note of a perfume is very important in the selling or buying of a perfume. They are usually lighter, more volatile aromas that evaporate easily. Their scent usually lingers for between 10 to 15 minutes. Their main purpose is to give off an initial scent and transition smoothly to the next part of the fragrance.
Middle or heart notes – This is the scent that starts to bloom retaining the top notes while also introducing a new scent to deepen the experience. They make up the core body of the perfume as well as serve as a buffer for the base notes that may not smell as pleasant on there own. They take 15 to 30 minutes to fully develop on the skin and remain evident for the full life of the fragrance. They are the notes that classify the fragrance family i.e. floral, oriental, woody.
Base or bottom notes – Base notes are very rich, heavy and long lasting. They are felt after about 30 minutes and work together with the middle notes to create the fragrance scent. The base notes and the middle notes create the overall memory of the fragrance as they are present the longest. They are also important as fixatives by helping slow down the evaporation rates of the lighter notes, giving the fragrance holding power and last longer.
There are some fragrances that present the same smell from start to finish, with minimal development. They do not have the traditional top, middle and base notes. These are called the Linear Perfumes.