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  1. #1

    Default A Question About Top, Middle, and Base Notes

    I have a question about top notes, middle notes, and base notes:

    According to “Perfume: The Ultimate Guide to the World’s Finest Fragrances,” by Nigel Groom:

    “The top note . . . contains the most volatile of the perfume’s ingredients. These will last for only a short time, perhaps no more than a minute . . . . The middle note . . . rapidly supercedes the top note and reveals the main elements of the perfume. It is where the principal fragrances lie . . . and should last at least four hours. The . . . base note . . . contains the longest-lasting (slowest evaporating) fragrances, providing the perfume’s fixatives and holding it all together. It may last a day or more."

    But note, for instance, these two scents:

    FIDJI (Guy Laroche)

    Top Notes: galbanum, ylang-ylang
    Middle Notes: Bulgarian rose, jasmine, tuberose, iris, spices
    Base Notes: ambergris, balsam, musk, patchouli, sandalwood

    CALANDRE (Paco Rabanne)

    Top Notes: bergamont, aldehydes
    Middle Notes: rose, lily of the valley, jasmine, gardenia, ylang-ylang
    Base Notes: vetiver, oak moss, sandalwood, cedar, musk, amber, civit

    As you can see, one of Fidji’s top notes is ylang-ylang (a jasmine-like fragrance distilled from the leaves of a tree in South-East Asia). But in Calandre, ylang-ylang is a middle note. My question is: Does ylang-ylang, or does it not, evaporate quickly? How can a note in one fragrance be "top" and in another fragrance be "middle"?

  2. #2

    Default Re: A Question About Top, Middle, and Base Notes

    I'd say that if, for example, ylang-ylang (which is a long-lasting scent) figures in the topnotes, it is because it's noticeable from the start. Natural essence has in themselves top, middle and basenotes because they are made of several aroma-chemicals allready blended in nature. Some of these might have a high evaporation rate, some might be slower.

  3. #3

    Default Re: A Question About Top, Middle, and Base Notes

    The general classification of the different elements into Top, Middle or Base notes is very subjective: they have indeed different volatility and persistence when evaluated individually but their final characteristics and behaviour within a frag will be given according to the way they are blended. Is all about chemistry.
    « L'odeur de rose, faible, grâce au vent léger d'été qui passe, se mêle aux parfums qu'elle a mis.»
    [ Paul Verlaine ]
    Wardrobe

  4. #4

    Default Re: A Question About Top, Middle, and Base Notes

    There are differences between an essence and an absolute of a given note. The difference is in how the oils are extracted from the raw material and the smell of each is not identical and absolutes are longer lasting than essences. Not all notes can be made into both. And there are really more than just the 2 - there may be 10 different was to extract the oils from a lemon, each producing a slightly different character and lifetime.

    That really only applies to natural ingredients. When using synthetics, the perfumer blends several chemicals which constitute "most" of the chemicals present in the natural ingredient (all or almost all notes are composed of hundreds of different chemicals). The perfumer can obviously choose to emulate the essence or absolute of a given note, or he can choose neither and create just a basic outline that suggests a note, but whose longevity is taylored to what he is looking for. This is more typically the case because to create something that smells "exactly" like ylang ylang (or whatever) would require careful balance of hundreds or thousands of chemicals whose subtlety and precision is completely lost when mixed with another note. Also, many notes may share a few common chemicals, so as the more volitile chemicals evaporate the effect is that a topnote may "change" into a heartnote. Taking your FIDJI as an example, some chemical in the fragrance may help the topnotes smell like ylang, but it is still there in the middle to contribute to the rose note.

    So the moral of the story is perfumers have more to work with than a buch vials - one labeled lily, one labled lemon, one labeled sandalwood. If they are working with natural ingredients they'll have sandalwood (or whatever) which has been extracted in 4 (or 10) different processes. If they are working with synthetics, they have thousands of individual chemicals and they know how to mix them to "suggest" a particular note in a particular stage of the scent's evolution.

  5. #5

    Default Re: A Question About Top, Middle, and Base Notes



    A very articulate, concise, and highly informative account FatTony. My commendations and thanks.

    scentemental

  6. #6

    Default Re: A Question About Top, Middle, and Base Notes

    Thanks, guys. That was REALLY helpful and interesting.

  7. #7

    Thumbs up Re: A Question About Top, Middle, and Base Notes

    A terrific question! Regrettably, there are hardly any great answers. Fundamentally, the notes do what they are purported to. Since perfumes are worn by all sorts of people and in different seasons, the notes themselves have a way of jumping from their initial 'orbits', so to speak. Thus, middle and bottom notes could switch their positions in what would seem to be an arbitrary manner. This doesn't mean that frags themselves have lost their basic identity. So I'd go with the creator's claim; it may be just a benchmark but it's a very sound one!

  8. #8

    Default Re: A Question About Top, Middle, and Base Notes

    Self edit.
    Last edited by scentemental; 26th March 2007 at 03:21 PM.

  9. #9

    Default Re: A Question About Top, Middle, and Base Notes

    There must be some kind of scientific formulation aspect as to how they put together the different layering of notes in perfume, but an interesting, (maybe not to you) thought is, the same fragrance can smell completely different on many people. So I think the individual chemistry of the person, can change the equation of the notes, and how they respond & smell, no matter how they're put together, or formulated. Make any sense? Sounded good to me....lol....

    I'm a good example of that, my chemistry is so wacky that I have changed many known fragrances, into something totally different than what most people experience. Many salesladies in Dept. stores, have been surprised, after spraying a fragrance that they swear by on me, because it then, takes on a new scent altogether, not always good, I might add, or just completely different from what they expected.

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