Understanding Fragrance Notes

Understanding Fragrance Notes

Stefanie Grant-Cassel

Ok, I know that shopping for perfume online isn't exactly easy.
How do you know what you want to smell like if you can't actually smell anything?! 
You can either go with something that looks really cool with an elusive, mysterious, (or missing altogether) description which means you may hate it; 
or - 
stick with something you know... 
Like, lavender. 
single note perfumes twinkle apothecary
(I think pretty much everyone knows what those smell like?)
But what if you want to try something new?
Be bold!
Change it up!*
Because my perfumes are made with essential oils, you can vary them for their different therapeutic aromatherapy benefits...**
And who doesn't love the idea of changing your scent each season, or wearing a fresh, clean scent during the day, and something a little more sultry at night?!*** 
So how do you sort through the flowery language, exotic sounding names, and mysteriously absent ingredient lists (in some cases) to decide on which sample to try?! 
No idea.**** 
But, I can tell you how to better understand my fragrance notes. 
If you take a look at each of my item listings, I've included a "fragrance notes" section, where I go into detail about what each scent smells like.
To me, at least.
That's the thing. Scent is sooo subjective! I'm not sure that two people ever really smell the same thing. And trying to find the right words to describe a scent is always a challenge.
Bright, creamy, sultry, warm, fresh... 
These words could all mean completely different things to different people! 
(This is why I love it when my customers leave reviews on my website, because maybe y'all can find a better way to describe your favorite scent better than what I've come up with!)
Anyway, if you've ever wondered about the term "notes" in reference to fragrances before, it's basically another way of saying "scents," or "ingredients."  
Think, all of the elements that make up what you're smelling when you sniff a perfume! 
In my "fragrance notes" section on my product listings, I'm also talking about actual notes. Like, I'm making notes on the scent for you, since you can't smell it in person. 
You'll see that each perfume has a top note, middle note, and a bottom note.
The top note is what I call the first impression. 
It's what you smell when you take the very first whiff after you apply the perfume, or maybe what you get when you sniff the bottle before you put anything on. (Which is never an accurate way to tell what it will smell like once you put it on, by the way - don't judge a scent until you try it!)  
Typically, top notes are the lightest element of the fragrance, and it's also what's going to disappear the most quickly. (It has to do with molecule size... but I won't bore you with science today!) Top notes are usually a citrus element, very light floral, or the bright harshness of a spice or herb before it warms up and softens during wear. 
Not all of my fragrances have a traditional top note (such a rebel, I know.) But I still list whatever it is that hits my nose first as the "top." 
Here's where I should add that I often have people say, "I wish my perfume would smell the same all day long." And, I hate to break it to you, but that simply isn't possible. Especially with natural fragrances that don't contain added chemicals. Even if you're wearing a single note fragrance, every individual scent has a top, middle, and base note in itself. So you'll still notice different elements of the lavender, sandalwood, etc., as it wears.
Once that volatile top note dissipates, you'll begin to notice the middle notes. 
The middle note is what I call the heart of the scent. 
I call it the "heart" because it's almost like the main ingredient to the composition. Almost... 
It's what you smell the most of in the perfume. In-between the lightness of the top notes, and the deep, lasting impression of the base notes.
Typically these are the hearty florals and warmer elements of herbal, spicy scents. They may be the main "smell" that comes to mind when you try to describe the perfume to a friend. Or not... maybe your nose wants to focus on the top or base notes! 
I like to say that the the base note is what lingers behind. 
This will be the very last thing that you smell on your wrist at the end of the day. These tend to be very heavy, woody, deep, rich, strong fragrances. Patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver, and cedar wood are some of my favorites. 
In my lighter perfumes, whatever the heaviest scent is will be the bottom, base note. 
In florcore, it's the ylang ylang. 
In basic, it's the vanilla. 
In duchess, it's the rose! 
If you've ever looked into making your own natural perfume blend, you've probably come across a lot of rules about what percentage of each scent should be the top, middle, or bottom notes... and let me just tell you that I disregard all of that when I'm blending.
I never liked traditional perfumes much anyway, so why would I bother to make something by the "rules?" 
And also... says who, exactly?! Last I checked, there was no perfume police. 
Vegan police, yes. 
Perfume police... not so much. 
That being said, I do always try to have a strong base note element to tie everything together and give the perfume staying power, but, not always. The beauty of the natural, oil based fragrances is that you can simply re-apply if the scent goes away. And it will, eventually. I mean, unless you want to buy something artificial, full of phthalates for added staying power. 
To which I say, no thank you! 
So, does this help at all? 
Of course, if you're still having trouble choosing, another good way to tell what a perfume is going to smell like is to order a sample!
(Keep scrolling to order...) 
Mine are just $3, or, you can buy a sample pack of 4 for $10!
(Pick between sweet, earthy, floral, or herbal.)
I HIGHLY recommend samples.
I'd hate for you to end of with a bottle of perfume that doesn't make you happy! 
And you can always get in touch with me if you need help deciding. 
That's all for now! 
*Side note: I LOVE the idea of changing your fragrances often. Scent memory is so powerful that if you take a break from wearing a favorite perfume and come back to it later, you will probably notice that the scent is tied to memories of the particular time in your life when you last wore it. I think that's really cool. Changing your perfume is also a handy way to start a new chapter after a breakup or major life event.  

**Fun fact: Nasty Woman is the combination of oils I was wearing in an attempt to remain calm and grounded during the presidential debate where that lovely moment in history went down. The next day, I knew exactly what I had to do! 

***SO LUXURIOUS! And the great thing about my perfumes is that they're inexpensive, so you can collect lots and lots to have on hand! 

****This is why I try to make my scents, descriptions, and ingredients as straightforward as possible. I just happen to think that you deserve to know exactly what you're getting, and especially to know what you're putting on your body!   


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1 comment

  • I love this article! And I think your perfume descriptions (and honestly the descriptions you do for all of your products) are so helpful. As you know I’m a total Twinkle perfume hoarder, so all of this is right up my alley :)


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