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  1. #1

    Default I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    A nearly relevent side track to the number of ingredients question thread. I nearly posted this there but it would have sidetracked too much...

    I've never really got to grips with this top, middle and base idea, even though I am a rank amateur and even though it is the worldwide and widely accepted notion, because there seems to be such an individual enterpretation of what constitutes these things.
    One mans base item is another mans top. Some of the things I have found listed as a top note have a longevity of 348 hrs and others only 12.

    I am just finding it very hard to accept that this concept is so relevent in the structure of a perfume, and I do realise I am flinging this thought into the face of adversity and a collective experience much greater than my own.

    It is my humble and amateur view that surely the top, middle and basenote thing should be based on the substantivity of each individual oil. French Lavender for instance is listed as 12 hours but spike lavender as 184, orange peel oil 32 and angelica 31, with grapefruit which I would certainly have ranked as a top note, as a whopping 348, which puts it by the base notes of tonka 400+.

    Am I just a mad scientist or am I missing something really important? Any thoughts?

  2. #2

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    I take substantivity numbers with a grain of salt. Some "highly stable" components seem to disappear more quickly than other highly stable components. I also think that there are quite a few exceptions to idea of having top, middle, base. It really makes you appreciate the master perfumers. Its not too easy to develop something really nice.

  3. #3

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    In the natural perfumery group one of the members explained it a while ago very well so here I quote him:

    Does fragrance tend to remain longer on the paper than skin? Yes, any fragrance material stayes longer on a paper strip than on the skin.. The paper strip has room temperature. Skin is warmer. So it evaporates faster.

    Oil has a lower vapor pressure then most fragrance oils so it stays longer, but it does not radiate as good as with Ethanol. ( Ethanol lifts, Oil as a carrier holds it back. We call this fixatives)

    One can easily find out the odor performance of an odor substance on a paper strip.
    After I wrote down the name of the substance, the date and time, I smell a fresh dipped blotter and make notes. Odor intensity and evaporation time. I check the blotter every 30 minutes. The next morning again. Me and my apprentice do this exercise every morning and during the day. This way we build up an odor memory, which is very important.
    This method gives you a very good idea which of the naturals are good for the top-middle or base note.

    Diluted versions don't last as long as a concentrated versions, especially when the solvent is Ethyl Alcohol.
    If the solvent would be a Jojoba Oil with a low volatility factor, it would stay longer on the blotter. It also depends on the diluted version. Lets say Olibanum 1% in Alcohol will not last as long as the pure oil.

    There is one thing I should mention here, there is also another force involved. The forces of adhesion, and the degree of adhesion is often designated by the term substantivity. To make this understand better, fragrance material adheres to paper better then plastic.

    Adhesion plays an important role in the persistence of perfume on the skin.
    Odor persistence of a perfume material depends on its volatility. The greater the volatility, the less persistence.
    So if you have Oakmoss pure and Oakmoss 50% in Alcohol, the solution will not last as long as the pure substance. Although in this case there is really no big difference. 1% against 100% yes. Big difference.

    To my knowledge Top - Middle and Base Notes are all related to vapor pressure of the individual components in an essential oil. Eo's are ALL a mixture of Aroma Chemicals, each with its distinct vapor pressure. This chemicals evaporate at a different rate.
    High volatile components evaporate faster then the ones with low volatility.

    Since all the aroma chemicals have their own distinct scent, it is clear that the odor of an EO changes on a paper strip and even faster on the skin. One example is Orange Oil. A mixture of D'Limonen ( > 90% ), and aroma chemicals in trace amounts. One is Aldehyde C-10 or Decanal. A fatty, orangy scent. It is the last aroma chemical that stays the longest on a paper strip or skin. Some people say it smells like a wet dog. (I love animals).

    Middle notes have a higher VP (or Volatility) then base notes. Top notes have the highest VP (high volatility).
    That means: Base notes: low VP. Low volatility. Therefore they last the longest on a blotter.
    Middle notes: higher VP then base notes. Therefore they evaporate faster then the base notes.
    Top notes: higher VP then middle and base notes. Therefore they evaporate faster then middle and base notes.

    Consequently it is clear why Natural and all other perfumes change their scent over time.
    To determine vapor pressure of aroma chemicals are not so difficult to measure and there are lots of literature about it.
    To measure it in EO's is almost impossible, because they all have many aroma chemicals in it and it changes quickly.
    A good way to find out how long EO's or Naturals will last on a blotter, is to test and make notes.
    A natural Perfumer does not have to know what 9.8 Eugenol ( Vapor Pressure - microns at 20C )means. It is meaningless. It is more important to know how long a certain EO last on a paper strip or on the skin.
    Many EO's have similar evaporation times. Like Agrumen Oils or Citrus Oils. Like Orange, Tangerine, Lemon, Grapefruit, Bergamot etc.
    Highly volatile, there for excellent for Top Notes or to give lift for a compound.
    Middle notes, everything that has lower vapor pressure then top note oils.
    Base notes everything that last longer on the blotter the the previous one mentioned.

    I do my blends in a way that I know which ones are the top note EO's and the ones for middle and base. I prefer to use the ones that "stay" together as long as possible. That means the ones that have very similar volatility factors or from observing how long they hang on a paper strip. I don't like when the middle or base notes "drift apart quickly.
    HTH
    Customized consultancy on perfume formulation, safety, training and marketing & olfactory research
    I also offer individual online personalised advice on perfume making to anyone eager to learn how to smell and design like a pro
    www.irinatudor.nl

    Social platform & research network on all things smelly, daily smelly science twitter feed @SomethingSmelly
    www.somethingsmelly.com


    The facts on IFRA restrictions & EU regulations

  4. #4

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    Quote Originally Posted by JonB View Post
    It really makes you appreciate the master perfumers. Its not too easy to develop something really nice.
    It certainly shows how much work they have put in. I have so far to go for any true understanding. I did actually make quite a nice blend using the Hermes terre as a master guide, but it isn't difficult to make a nice smell with vetiver, orange, benzoin and black pepper amongst a few other things, but I am way away from making that 'mastered smooth blend' that a true perfumer can do... One day....

    That long quote is completely brilliant and answers everything. Thank you.

  5. #5

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    irina,
    that must be udo, no?

    one more point in this issue: the amount. more of the same stays longer. try it on a blotter, a tiny bit versus a large amount will make a lot of difference on a piece of paper, and, i believe, so it does in you perfume formula. i believe an aldehyde can be an topnote or a basenote, and it depends on the amount that is used. (maybe i'll do some test and see if i can come up with a formula for this. that way you can predict more accurate how any material is going to perform in a blend)
    and there might be other factors when doing a blend: a certain smell might cancel out an other at some point, mask it, etc. so that something that should be a basenote is now a topnote. or something might just disappear altogether. that's chemics.

    but of course, those are details. putting a drop on a blotter and start clocking is essential. i have this information written down and filed for every aroma material, together with their odor profile.

  6. #6

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    I will have a go at that versus the available stated substantivity of some obvious ones that I possess and see where mine match up... or not. There really is so much to learn and discover. I am so very happy to have found this tantelizing occupation. It is for me like the donkeys carrot.... ever just out of reach.

  7. #7

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    i use the supplier or tgsc's data as a guideline, but when i possess something, i do my own test which i know i can rely on. when something has really disappeared i make a note. sometime a little later i smell again to make sure. with topnotes it's a matter of hours, but basenotes can linger for weeks on a paper strip. i also make notes about the intensity at different stages, and how their profiles change.
    in my experience it's rather easy to find stuff that smells good together, the hard part is the development over time. it just can't fall apart at any point, and just throwing things together will get this as a result.

  8. #8

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    That is what I have been finding happening now and then. I made a post a long time ago about a perfume with a hole in it, and I think this is exactly what it was. I was thinking it should be a continuous piece of beautiful music with the tune gently changing from one melody to another, not crashing and banging or being so quiet that you couldn't hear it anymore, then crashing back again.

    I have got to the stage now where I can make some quite pretty smells, much better than I did at the beginning. Acceptable, even nice as a perfume to wear, but they are still a bit like a child's grade 2 piano piece as yet. Pretty, but rather lacking in greater mastery, and as yet the timing is still a bit dodgy.

  9. #9

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    Quote Originally Posted by gido View Post
    i use the supplier or tgsc's data as a guideline, but when i possess something, i do my own test which i know i can rely on. when something has really disappeared i make a note. sometime a little later i smell again to make sure. with topnotes it's a matter of hours, but basenotes can linger for weeks on a paper strip. i also make notes about the intensity at different stages, and how their profiles change.
    in my experience it's rather easy to find stuff that smells good together, the hard part is the development over time. it just can't fall apart at any point, and just throwing things together will get this as a result.
    Gido said it perfectly. You need to do your own testing of the longevity of your ingredients. The TGSC/supplier's data are just a very rough guideline and, in my experience, often not accurate at all when it comes to the real longevity of the material in perfume.
    Blog: www.perfumenw.blogspot.com
    Website: Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes http://orchidscents.com.

  10. #10

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    You're welcome, Mumsy, and indeed it was Udo. Just like Guido I'd really recommend doing your own tests. Isn't this a wonderful endeavor?
    Customized consultancy on perfume formulation, safety, training and marketing & olfactory research
    I also offer individual online personalised advice on perfume making to anyone eager to learn how to smell and design like a pro
    www.irinatudor.nl

    Social platform & research network on all things smelly, daily smelly science twitter feed @SomethingSmelly
    www.somethingsmelly.com


    The facts on IFRA restrictions & EU regulations

  11. #11

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    It certainly is, and just when you think you are there..... nothing doing.

    I mixed a lovely one the other day, using expensive and beautiful ingredients and was convinced it was going the right way, left it a week or two, and the tiny amount of calamus in it overtook the whole blend. I mixed it again without any, and the now the lemon overpowers the entrance. The smell is delicious after a while, but really harsh at the beginning.

    This seems to be a recurring problem with anything I am blending. Harsh at the beginning, but lovely later. That's why I was posing the powdery note question. If I could just get a more gentle introduction, then I may be getting somewhere.

  12. #12

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    I have a related question, and since this thread is active...

    How long would one expect a middle note to last on a testing strip/blotter? I know a base note could last for weeks or months depending on what it is, but at the moment I'm testing a sample of Abies sibirica (Siberian Fir), twig and leaf distillation, and it's been going strong on this blotter for nine hours with only very minor dispersion. I can't seem to find out if it's regarded as a base note or a middle note (which is part of why I'm testing it), so, errr... how long does a "middle note" last?
    "Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other."
    -Karl, age 5

  13. #13

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    Quote Originally Posted by bonni View Post
    How long would one expect a middle note to last on a testing strip/blotter? I know a base note could last for weeks or months depending on what it is, but at the moment I'm testing a sample of Abies sibirica (Siberian Fir), twig and leaf distillation, and it's been going strong on this blotter for nine hours with only very minor dispersion. I can't seem to find out if it's regarded as a base note or a middle note (which is part of why I'm testing it), so, errr... how long does a "middle note" last?
    9 hours on a blotter is clearly a topnote.
    it would be interesting to hear what other people think a heartnote is. personally, i do all the tests in dilution (mostly 10%, sometimes less) and i use 1 drop. i'd say it needs to be there for at least 2, maybe 3 days to become a heartnote, it becomes a basenote if it's still going after 10 to 14 days.
    actually, i categorize stuff in five groups, 2 are 'on the border' between top/mid and mid/base. these notes can easily swing both ways. and i find it gives me a better overview. but that's all strictly personal, and i still think about perfume creation in terms of top/modifier/base.

  14. #14

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    Quote Originally Posted by gido View Post
    9 hours on a blotter is clearly a topnote.
    Well, it's still present. It had been nine hours when I wrote that post, that's all. It's past 13 hours now, and still quite present. Not quite as strong as it was at first, but only slightly less.

    Quote Originally Posted by gido View Post
    i'd say it needs to be there for at least 2, maybe 3 days to become a heartnote
    Right. That's a useful rule of thumb. Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by gido View Post
    it becomes a basenote if it's still going after 10 to 14 days.
    Again, very useful guideline.
    "Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other."
    -Karl, age 5

  15. #15

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    Gido's guidelines are about the same as mine, and probably pretty standard - less than 2-3 days on a blotter is a top note, more than 2+ weeks a base note. Of course the volatility/persistence of everything will fall somewhere along a continuum, not into distinct categories, hence Gido's in-between categories.

    I guess I think of my materials as ordered along a continuum with clear end points ("gone in a flash" and "can't ever get rid of it"), with a mushy area of "heart notes" or "bridge notes" in between. I think the points at which you arbitrarily draw the lines differ a bit depending on what it is that you're formulating and what sorts of interactions you want.
    Blog: www.perfumenw.blogspot.com
    Website: Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes http://orchidscents.com.

  16. #16

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    i'm considering and thinking about making a filing system that includes all notes, from top to base, with their properties (intensity, shape, character, effect, etc) written down in some sort of a grouped time table. that way, i can see what all my materials do at certain given points in time. it's just an idea that occurred to me, need to think it over.
    how do you people file the profiles of your materials? i reckon a good database is essential, at least until you know your materials by heart.
    maybe i need to look at some database programs, and create a software system that i can work with. or perhaps there is something already (i did find a few things online some time ago, but did not really like them so much)?
    right now i have everything in plain text files. a file per material, and one file that functions as a overview, all the materials with short notes (one line) sorted by volatility.

  17. #17

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    Gido, the standard database format is for Microsoft Excel, and it's something pretty much anyone should be able to at least read, because there's Open Office, which can read (and create) .xls files. I know next to nothing about setting up a database, but I often read .xls files that other people have created.
    "Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other."
    -Karl, age 5

  18. #18

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    i think excel is a spreadsheet, not a database. the office suite does come with a database program, the name escapes me. i do not know if this is the industry standard or what else is.

    i have been a database programmer, this was around 1990. i was 18 years old, made a ridiculous amount of money for that age (more than a common grow-up salary). they though i was a upcoming star, but i hated it and did quit the job after 7 or 8 months. i had learned my lesson, i had figured out that i would rather do something that i really liked, than making lots of money doing something boring (i probably would have been rich by now if i had kept that job).

    anyway, that's 20 years ago, windows 3.1 was the new operating system, and dbase was based on msdos. if have forgotten all about it.. plus, it is totally irrelevant in today's world. :)
    i did take a quick glance at this office program - i remember now, it is called access - and felt very uncomfortable with the prospect of learning how to program it.

    what makes a database more suitable than a spreadsheet, is that you have indexes. my idea is to take my overview, and have than as an index. you browse the index, containing basic info and sorted on volatility (ordered in groups) and when you want more info you just click on the name and you get a whole page with in-depth information. when you create a new page, an index point should be made automatically.

    additionally, it could be even more interesting when you start linking things. for instance, i have linalool, but i also possess several oils than contain linalool. but that's more advanced, i haven't even really thought that over, actually that idea just hit me.

  19. #19

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    Quote Originally Posted by gido View Post
    i think excel is a spreadsheet, not a database. the office suite does come with a database program, the name escapes me. i do not know if this is the industry standard or what else is.
    Oh, yeah, you're right. I don't know the standard, either. Open Office does have a database component, but I know so little about it as to say "I don't know anything about it" (only that it exists).

    What you've described sounds very, very useful, indeed!
    "Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other."
    -Karl, age 5

  20. #20

    Default Re: I'm at another questioning stage, about top, middle and base notes....

    It would be most interesting to see that information in graphic terms too. It would make a very interesting mac app. I have a computer whizz friend and will ask her to have a look to see if it's remotely feasable. I don't see why not. It's a matter of what types of information are required. I was a graphic designer once, in a pre children life, so this thought is right up my street.

    This could be a very interesting idea for basenoters to develop together. What sort of stuff would you like to compare? I see there would be volatility, strength of smell, longevity etc. What other info would be likely to be needed?

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