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Fragrance notes in perfumes

Fragrance notes in perfumes

From the article we will learn what fragrance notes are, what notes we distinguish in perfumes and how long they last on our skin. Enjoy a sensual journey of fragrance notes together with Adex Cosmetics.


What are fragrance notes?

Each bottle of perfume contains from a dozen to several dozen different fragrances (essential oils) thoughtfully selected in accordance with the artistic vision of the creator, commonly referred to as the perfumer or ‘the nose’. Functional groups called osmophores, which are part of the molecules of chemical substances, are responsible for the phenomenon of smelling.  Fragrances are often classified based on these very osmophores. Ester, ether, hydroxyl, aldehyde and ketone groups in the structure of molecules usually result in a pleasant odour, while thiol, thioether, thioformyl, thiocarbonyl and amine groups are responsible for unpleasant odours.

Interesting fact:  An example of a pleasant-smelling substance is benzaldehyde found in almond, ylang-ylang and cinnamon oils. An example of an unpleasant odour containing a thiol group can be butanethiols – substances present in the defense secretion of a skunk.

The masterfully constructed composition, harmoniously develops its qualities to evoke pleasant olfactory sensations that change over time. That is why it is compared to a piece of music in which the sounds consisting of single notes or whole chords are replaced by fragrances. In such a composition, we can discover individual fragrances (called fragrance notes), as well as whole harmonious groups (called chords or fragrance families). The complexity of the composition usually goes hand in hand with its price.


Three fragrance pitfalls in perfect harmony - i.e. the development of the fragrance composition

The perfume develops its fragrance. What does this actually mean? Well, the release of the individual fragrance notes and chords takes place in the right order. This process is related to the physico-chemical properties of fragrances that the creator-perfumer used in his masterpiece. The aromatic characteristics of a composition are often compared to the construction of a pyramid, at the top of which the most volatile oils that constitute the head notes are gathered. They are the beginning of the olfactory experience and a kind of ‘prelude to the piece’, and at the same time, a ‘perfume showcase’. They appear immediately in the first phase of application. Most often the head notes are fresh, intense and energising citrus oils, often combined with notes of other fruits and sometimes with flowers or green plant parts. They are felt for the shortest time (assumed to be a few to several minutes).

In the middle of the pyramid are the heart notes, which usually reveal their full power after the head notes gradually recede. This part of „the song” takes much longer. At this stage, the fragrance has the greatest dynamics and high intensity and stays on the skin for up to several hours. The heart notes represent the main theme of the entire composition and define its original style.  Most often, they consist of spicy and woody fragrances, sometimes also mixed with floral or innovative fragrance molecules developed and created by the greatest creators of the perfume industry. The combination of individual aromas defines the fragrance family and can be indicative of the guiding scent of a particular perfume.

The whole structure is based on the base of a pyramid in which the base notes are hidden. The latter, although they do not have such an intense fragrance, last the longest (up to several hours) because they usually include substances characterised by a long evaporation time and good sorption properties in relation to the substrate to which the perfume is applied. The base notes form the background to the entire composition and are an indicator of the perfume’s longevity. The process of composing the entire “fragrance piece” starts right from the base notes. Depending on the chosen fragrance direction, perfume makers often like to include heavy and warm aromas of patchouli, ambergris, musk, civet, vanilla, resins, wood and leather.



Perfume is a complex mixture of fragrance substances with osmophoric groups, which are responsible for the effect of smelling. These substances are selected in a thoughtful and refined manner so that during their gradual release they bring a pleasant fragrance experience. Distinct fragrance fractions are referred to as fragrance notes or chords.


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