The secret of the olfactory pyramid

The secret of the olfactory pyramid

Why doesn’t my perfume smell exactly the same between the freshness of the morning spray and the warmer smell that left at the end of the day?

A fragrance is composed of many raw materials (flowers, woods, citrus, etc.), each having a different speed of evaporation. The stronger this speed is, the faster the raw material will be smelt. If this speed is slow, the raw material will reveal itself gradually as you wear the perfume.

This is often represented visually in what is called an “olfactory pyramid”, which organizes the different raw materials with the top notes at the top, the heart (AKA mid notes) in the middle, and the base notes at the bottom.

Let’s get into the details of these three stages.

Top notes: the seduction parade. Lighter than the others, top notes are the most volatile. They emerge first when you spray a perfume, and disappear between a few minutes to 1-2 hours. For example, citrus (like bergamot, grapefruit, etc.) are the most volatile, and so are some– but not all– aromatic, green, fruity, and spicy notes, like rosemary or pepper.

Heart/mid notes: Action! After this exciting and promising opening phase, the real action takes place. The heart notes begin to emerge from the tips of their petals. Flowers are often heart notes, but that doesn’t mean some woody, fruity, spicy, and aromatic notes don’t join in, too!

Little by little the main theme of your perfume settles in, and you feel its true personality appearing. It’s tempting to judge a perfume right away, but hold out patience until this stage so you can fully get to know it before deciding!

Base/dry notes: the addictive phase. Base notes wait until later on to fully show themselves. These are heavy and dense notes, often warm (such as vanilla, ambery notes, musks, and some woods) which reveal themselves slowly, from two to four hours after vaporization, and last a long time– sometimes a very long time. These are the notes we sniff lovingly in the neck of another when returning in the evening. They are also the ones that we find on a scarf worn two days earlier, and that we can not help smelling. Base notes most often are the ones which create an emotional attachment, making you practically addicted to your fragrance.

Obviously, it’s not that simple. Because all these notes reveal themselves progressively and intertwine at each moment, the perfume evolves gradually and permanently. All the talent of the perfumer will be to orchestrate this evolution in a harmonious way, without gaps or hitches.


What do you think?