Top Tips for Assessing a Fragrance

Assessing a Fragrance:  What are Top Notes, Heart Notes & Base Notes?


So, you’re at the perfume counter and you spray on a new perfume.  It’s love at first sniff.  Then, you walk away.  A few minutes later, you take another sniff.  What happened?  It is completely different!

Well, just like love at first sight, perfume isn’t always what it appears to be initially. But worry not, there is a reason for this deception.  

Let’s break it down:

When you try on a perfume, the first smells you get are what are called the top notes.  These are the initial smells that “grab your attention”.  Think of them like a trap.   These tops notes do not stay on your skin for too long and are usually ingredients such as citrus (orange, mandarin, bergamot, lemon) or aromatic (basil, lavender, mint).  They usually tend to be fresh and bright. 

Now that the fragrance has your attention, it slowly dries down to what is called the heart notes.  These tend to stay on your skin for a few more hours – generally 2 – 4 hours or so depending on the perfume and your skin.  This is often where you will find the floral and fruity notes really playing the star role. 

Then swaggering behind the heart notes are the heavy base notes, which can often last well into the eighth hour or even the next day sometimes.  These are the notes that like to stick around on your skin, such as vanilla, musk and sandalwood and form the backbone of the perfume.     

Now do remember that these are all general guidelines to go by as every perfume has its own personality and story and can vary according to the fragrance, and of course, your skin type.

And one other tip to keep in mind.  When assessing a perfume, you need to look at it as a whole song rather than just one note.  A perfume should be a perfect balance and blend between all these notes, and like music, should have depth, texture and harmony. 

Now that you know the basics, how about testing your sniffing skills and see how many notes you can pick up in Ma Blonde Eau de Parfum!