Understanding Notes

As stated in a previous lesson, a perfume is seldom made with just one essential oil. They’re usually a blend of up to three or more fragrant essential oils, consisting of base notes, middle notes and top notes.

Edward Sagarin, author of “The Science and Art of Perfumery” (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1945) wrote, “Another contribution to the field of odor classification was made by the famous perfumer and perfume historian, Septimus Piesse. This unique figure in the history of science created what he called the “odophone.” The odors were like sounds, he pointed out, and a scale could be created going from the first or lowest note, the heavy smell to the last or highest note, the sharp smell. In between there was an ascending ladder. Each odor note corresponded to a key on his odophone, and in the creation of a happy mixture of many different odors, which we call a “bouquet” and which every finished perfume must be, the creator seeks not only to hit the right notes, but to strike those notes which go with one another. His perfume must not be out of tune.”


Base notes, usually the backbone of the perfume, is what the users will remember most about this particular fragrance. This scent of base notes will last the longest in the air. Examples of base notes are Vanilla, Sandalwood, Lichens, Cinnamon, mosses or other woodsy scents.

The middle notes (also called mid-notes) are usually the inspiration for the perfume and often a floral scent such as Geranium, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Lemongrass or Neroli.

Top notes are usually the selling point for the perfume as well as the first name listed. Common top notes include Rose, Lavender, Orchid, Lemon, Bergamot or other citrus or herbal scents. In fact, Bergamot oil is one of the most widely essential oils used in the perfumery and toiletry industry, together with Neroli and Lavender, as the main ingredients for the classical Eau-de-cologne fragrance. These notes can also be followed by another ingredient to bridge the fragrances such as Peppermint, Chamomile, Marjoram, and Bay.

As with any good creation, it’s combining the right mixture of ingredients that counts. Using notes that go well with each other will give you a beautiful fragrance you’ll never tire of wearing. Your friends will constantly be asking you what you’re wearing and where you got it. Imagine their surprise when you tell them it’s your own creation!

One of the keys to successful perfume making is in mixing the right blend. Don’t just assume because you happen to like two different fragrances that they’ll make a good mixture for perfume. Before you waste a lot of time and money on essential oils, make some samples. Although making your own perfume is a lot cheaper than buying perfume, essential oil can get costly as well.

If you’re considering blending a couple different oils together, put them on a cotton swap or perfume tester strip and let them sit overnight. In the morning, check out what they smell like. If you’re pleased with the results, you have your new perfume fragrance and are ready to start creating your own masterpiece!

cinnamon sticksA. The Base Oil (Base Notes) This will produce the scent that stays longest on the skin and for this reason it is usually added to the mixture first. Some of the fragrances with a base note include: Sandalwood, Vanilla, Patchouli, Cedarwood, Clove, Cinnamon, Mosses, Lichens, Ferns and Frankincense.

Base notes are what you smell after about 30 seconds of applying it to your skin. The base and middle notes are what make up the main fragrance of the perfume. However, for a perfume to be successful, they must have a combination of all three notes.

The base note will react with your skin to form a scent of its own. This is why no two perfumes smell exactly alike on any two people. It is also the reason why you should test out a perfume for about a half an hour by putting a dab on your wrist, do your shopping then taking a sniff to see if you still like the scent.

ylang_ylang-300x289B. The Middle Oil (Middle Notes) This also influences the smell of the perfume for quite some time, but not as long as the base notes does. Some of the fragrances with a middle note include: Lemongrass, Geranium, Rosewood, Neroli, Jasmine, Rose, Hyacinth and Ylang-Ylang.

Middle notes are what we smell when the scent from the top notes disappears. It is generally considered as the heart of the perfume and often server to cover up any unpleasant scents that may come from the base notes. This scent often evaporates after 15 seconds.

chamomile_2C. Top Oils (Top Notes) This is added to the mixture after the middle notes, and may then be followed by some other substance which will help to bridge the scents together. Some of the fragrances that are top note include: Orchid, Rose, Bergamot, Chamomile, Lavender, Pepper-mint, Lemon, Orange and Lime.

Top notes are the scents that you smell as soon as you apply it. If you’ve ever sprayed a perfume in a store, the smell you get immediately after spraying is coming from the top notes. The top notes, although they quickly evaporate, are what gives us our first impression of a perfume.

Your fragrance will contain one or more from each of the above categories: base note, mid note and a top note. Some perfumers recommend using a four note, a bridge notes such as Lavender or Vanilla. The bridge is what will help the other three oils blend together and is often Vitamin E oil, Jojoba oil or carrier oil, which you can get at a health food store.

The top note is the first to evaporate on your skin. It is also the first impression that you have of the fragrance. The mid note stays on a little bit more and the base note is what will remain on your skin for hours.

It is very important that when you are making perfume, you mix the extracts in the above order starting with base, then the middle and finally adding the top note. Typically, you can add equal amounts of each type in order to produce a quality perfume or follow the recommended basic formula in the book, The Art of Making Perfume.

It takes a bit of trial and error when mixing blends at home. Perfumery is an art unto itself and takes years to practice. Perfumers today still practice this art and make scents that fail. It is all a matter of personal taste and seeing what blends well with what.

In order to create a wonderful aroma of fragrant oils known as a bouquet, you will have to stay in tune by finding the right note in an odor, as well as finding notes that strike a chord and harmonize well together.

Follow these steps to help you get started:

1.Pray for guidance and direction as you create your formula. This blend will be uniquely yours and serve as a sweet savor and fragrance of your intentions. Each of these oils represents a spiritual characteristic and attribute we need to obtain in order to reach perfection. Study each one and see what the Creator is teaching you through these essential oils.

pen-and-notebook2.Have a notebook and pencil handy to write down the formula. (You will forget how many drops you used of each oil if you don’t do this!) Write down how many drops of each fragrance you use, so you will know the final formula of your blend and can duplicate it later. Give your fragrance a name.

3.Before actually blending your oils together, you may want to experiment by placing one drop of each fragrance on a separate cotton swab and fanning together beneath your nose to get an idea of what your fragrance will smell like. (You may also be able to get an idea of what it will smell like by just opening the cap on each of your chosen oils and placing close together to smell.)

essential-oil-safety4.Use a clean, dark, empty glass bottle for blending your formula. Add your essential oil one drop at a time using a plastic pipette (dropper). Follow this simple formula when blending your fragrance (blending your own perfume is never an exact science, so these are approximates): 30% top notes, 50% middle notes, and 20% base notes.

5.Once you are happy with your formula, mix well and add carrier oil. For a 10% dilution, add one drop of essential blend to 10 drops of carrier oil. (For example, a one-ounce bottle of anointing oil with a 10% dilution will contain 27 ml of carrier oil and 3 ml of essential oil blend.) Allow blend to set for a day or two, so the aroma will form and round out a bit. If you are not happy with your blend, you may want to add a few more drops of one or more of the essential oils you chose in order to find the right combination.

6. Be sure to store in a cool, dark place until ready to use.