What Are Perfume Notes? Discover 24 Notes and Fragrances

Perfume notes compose unique fragrances we love.

Perfume notes are one single smell in a fragrance. Coconut, for instance, is a fragrance note. All fragrances are composed of multiple perfume notes. 

When mixed, as in a kitchen, they create an effect. This effect is called an accord. It sounds complex, but it is not.

Perfumery is the art and science of combining aromas to create new ones. It is a term associated with music. Different smells make a harmonious effect.

Without getting too technical, let us explore the fragrance pyramid: Top Notes, Middle Notes, and Base Notes.

What Are the Top Perfume Notes

Sometimes the first impression is the last one. So these are the top notes. The first thing we smell when we spray a new fragrance.

It is rare for us to purchase a perfume if we do not like it right away. This is a mistake because fragrances, like us, change with time.

The top notes appear first because they are lighter and more volatile. So they evaporate first. They are responsible for much deception if a perfume takes a wild turn for the worse.

One fragrance could smell great for the first 20 minutes and then become, well, nothing.

Modern perfumery relies mainly on fresh notes to captivate buyers with familiar scents. [1]

A quick tip: if you enjoy the first minutes of a fragrance, spray it on your clothes. This way, you will capture this perfume note for a longer time. Skin accelerates change.

List of Top Fragrance Notes (One Recommended Scent per Note)

Bergamot: Aura Mugler

Lily of the valley: Dior Hypnotic Poison

Peach: Badgley Mischka for Women

Citrus: Prada Candy Sugar Pop [Powdery citrus note]

Coriander: Dolce and Gabbana The One

Grapefruit: YSL L’homme Ultime [Juicy citrus note]

Pink Pepper: Bleu de Chanel

What Are the Middle Perfume Notes

As the top notes evaporate, we move on to the fragrance’s heart, the middle notes.

This middle scent is considered the true personality of the perfume. As the middle child, they act as a buffer between the top notes and the base notes.

A scent crumbles without solid heart notes. Without them, a fragrance is unpleasant. Kind of like ginger in the kitchen. It makes everything brighter.

Floral and fruity notes are familiar heart notes.

Middle notes last around an hour, and then the perfume is on its own with the base notes.

List of Middle Perfume Notes (One Recommended Scent per Note)

Orange Blossom: Black Opium Neon [Modern floral]

Jasmine: Fiori Vince Camuto

Tuberose: Carnal Flower [Luxurious floral scent]

Gardenia: Jean Paul Gaultier Scandal 

Narcissus: Chanel 19

Clary Sage: Versace Pour Homme

Floral: Acqua Di Gio Essenza

Galbanum: Prada Infusion D’Iris

What Are The Base Notes of a Scent

The best is saved for last. Now the heart notes fade with the base creating an accord—the central theme of the scent.

Is it a catchy song? Our noses will decide.

The last stage is called the drydown. When the top and heart notes stop playing.  Woody notes are predominant.

Some base notes are incredibly resilient. Their scent remains for days on the skin and weeks on clothes; when your jacket smells like someone you would like to forget, blame the base notes.

List of Fragrance Base Notes (One Recommended Scent per Note)

Sandalwood: Herrera for Men

Oakmoss: Knize Ten [Classic woody fragrance]

Vetiver: Chanel Sycomore

Patchouli 1 Million Prive [Modern chypre]

Orris: Tom Ford Grey Vetiver

Vanilla: Because it’s You Emporio Armani

Tonka Bean: Midnight in Paris Van Cleef & Arpels

Musk: Tom Ford White Suede

Amber: Bal d’Afrique Byredo

Takeaway

Perfumery is a beautiful activity. Aesthetics and science collide to produce new smells. 

One fragrance family, we love, other we hate.

A perfumer is both an artisan and a scientist. Creating a woody scent or an oriental fragrance requires both heart and mind. One fragrance oil here, another essential oil there. The building process takes time.

For the rest of us, finding our signature scent doesn’t require a chemistry degree—just a nose.

One smell brings to mind a lovely experience from our past; another reminds us of rotten food. That is the power of scent.

Serg V

I've been obsessed with fragrances for over a decade. I have sold fragrances for a living and written about them in places like Fragrantica and Scentbird. Here I recommend my favorites to make the world a better-smelling place.