A Symphony of Scent

Have you ever noticed the comparisons or descriptions linked to music when describing and/or creating fragrance?  For example the classification of materials into top, middle and base notes.  This system originated from  a 19c british perfumer called GW Septimus Piesse who  tried to classify each type of fragrance to a musical chord, unfortunately the system failed and fell out of use, however the terminology stuck.  The current structure commonly used now to illustrate the stability of perfume materials is the perfume pyramid, developed by William Poucher in the 1920's. So what is a 'Top Note'?


Top notes, or 'head' notes are usually fresh, light, sharp and penetrating.   I liken them to meeting people, they create your first impression, ideally sparkling, engaging - they need to draw you in further, to capture your interest!

Top notes are quite fleeting and volatile, they evaporate quickly but give a brightness and clarity  to a fragrance. In natural perfumery, top note materials are commonly found within the citrus family such as Sweet orange, Mandarin, Grapefruit, Bergamot, Lime etc,

Spices - Black pepper, Cardamom, Ginger, Cumin

Herbs - Peppermint, Spearmint, Lavender, Thyme

Some florals, such as Neroli (or Orange Blossom), Linden Blossom

You may find fragrances created with a dominance of top notes are usually called Eau Fraiche or Eau de Colognes, they are crisp, fresh, zesty and are ideal for spritzing liberally; excellent for hot weather of for a light veil of revitalisation.  I find them ideal as quick olfactory 'pick-me-up'.  A shining example of these lighter, sparkling fragrances is the classic '1771'  or the popular Eau Dynamisante by Clarins.