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  1. #1
    Basenotes Member lisa16's Avatar
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    Default top vs mid notes question....

    In the spirit of scientific enquiry, I looked up the "notes" of a few of my favorites to study them a bit. I noticed something very curious. Sometimes a note-- ylang ylang is a good example-- a note is listed as a top note in one fragrance and as a middle note in another. The same thing happens with peach. Sometimes its place in the triangle seems to vary.

    To give you concrete examples in scents that most people here seem to know:

    1. Chanel no. 5 lists ylang ylang as a top note, but Arpege lists it as a middle note.

    2. Mitsouko lists peach aldehydes as a top note on one site and peach as a middle note on another site. Are they different things? Or is this open to interpretation?

    It is my understanding that the notes are achieved by rates of evaporation, with the top notes leaving first, and so on. So can one note be manipulated to make it top, middle and/or bottom? Or is it a question of relativity such that in chanel 5 (say) the ylangx2 is lighter than the middle notes but in Arpege, the other top notes are lighter so that it becomes a mid note? Or is the evaporation rate truly chemically fixed?

    I hope I asked this in such a way that it makes sense.

    Thank you once again for your patience in answering my questions and educating my nose :-)
    homo sum humani a me nihil alienum puto

  2. #2

    Default Re: top vs mid notes question....

    I'll preface this by stating that I'm a complete beginner.

    Re different sites listing different notes - this happens because sometimes it's peoples best guess and also because companies release varying degrees of information about the notes in their fragrances. To add to the confusion different notes can be released for the same fragrance due to different marketing approaches wanting to focus on different aspects of a fragrance. I can't comment on Mitsouko specifically.

    Re relativity of notes - yes from the fragrances I've experienced so far relativity plays a part. Relativity both in terms of the other notes employed but also the volume of each that's used.

    Re evaporation - I don't know to what extent the rate of evaporation can be manipulated but I suspect it varies greatly depending upon the chemicals/oils involved.

    Anyway that's my 2 cents, I'm sure others will be able to chime in with much more specific and scientific information.

    edited to remain on topic, I must have been on something earlier!
    Last edited by laph; 23rd May 2011 at 12:28 PM.

  3. #3

    Default Re: top vs mid notes question....

    It can be two different molecules, one that evaporates slower than the other, and so one is a top and one is a middle. There's no way for us to know what's going on, so we can only guess. In some frags, the note pyramid seems wrong. Yesterday, I noticed that Python for Women and IsaBella smelled very similar, despite very different note pyramids. This could be because the few notes they have in common are really strong, and perhaps some of the other notes are similar, at least in this particular kind of frag.

  4. #4
    Hillaire
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    Default Re: top vs mid notes question....

    Not that this is the 'right' answer, but it occurs to me that with the use of synthetics, compounds used to represent 'peaches' for example can vary widely. Perhaps some similarly-likened-to-nature aroma chems are quicker 'lifters' than others?

    I have also noticed scents that have the same notes listed in two different parts of the pyramid; sometimes top and bottom!

    That's a good question! I hope we get a good answer.

  5. #5
    Basenotes Member lisa16's Avatar
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    Default Re: top vs mid notes question....

    Thanks for the answers so far...

    The same thing happens with coriander. In soir de lune and mystere by rochas, it is listed as a top note while in arpege it is listed as a middle/heart note.

    I only compared 5 perfumes, but they generated so many questions....
    homo sum humani a me nihil alienum puto

  6. #6

    Default Re: top vs mid notes question....

    natural references are used by both the industry and the consumers, but the actual natural stuff is not and can not be in perfumes. some highly volatile molecule may resemble some facets of say, peach. This would be a top note for peach. Another molecule may also resemble the same or another facet of peach, but with a lower volatility. This would be a middle note for peach.

    A peach scent that is all peach from beginning to end would naturally have peach in all three phases of the note pyramid, but it may well be a compound. Similarly for example the sandalwood oil itself would have top, mid and basenotes of sandalwood, with its natural progression, but all phases clearly smelling of sandalwood, with nuances. If a citrus or a low tenacity aldehyde were added to the mix, the sandalwood's topnotes would still be there, but it couldn't compete with the other guys for attention. This perfume could well be noted as: Top: Citrus, almond Mid: Almond, sandalwood, Base: Sandalwood

    I hope this makes sense.

  7. #7
    Hillaire
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    Default Re: top vs mid notes question....

    Quote Originally Posted by sarıpatates View Post
    natural references are used by both the industry and the consumers, but the actual natural stuff is not and can not be in perfumes. some highly volatile molecule may resemble some facets of say, peach. This would be a top note for peach. Another molecule may also resemble the same or another facet of peach, but with a lower volatility. This would be a middle note for peach.

    A peach scent that is all peach from beginning to end would naturally have peach in all three phases of the note pyramid, but it may well be a compound. Similarly for example the sandalwood oil itself would have top, mid and basenotes of sandalwood, with its natural progression, but all phases clearly smelling of sandalwood, with nuances. If a citrus or a low tenacity aldehyde were added to the mix, the sandalwood's topnotes would still be there, but it couldn't compete with the other guys for attention. This perfume could well be noted as: Top: Citrus, almond Mid: Almond, sandalwood, Base: Sandalwood

    I hope this makes sense.
    That's what I meant to say .

  8. #8

    Default Re: top vs mid notes question....

    Also, it can be a mid note because some other notes "on top" evaporated more quickly whereas in another fragrance it is the note that evaporates quickest, so there it is a top note.

  9. #9

    Default Re: top vs mid notes question....

    Some elements such as Gardenia have all three characteristics - top,middle,base. Perhaps this is a similar situation.

  10. #10

    Default Re: top vs mid notes question....

    As saripatates wrote, "the actual natural stuff is not and can not be in perfumes." How very very true, as we all know. But it came home to my nose in spades yesterday when, trying to teach my nose a thing or two, I bought a box of about 20 essential oils, the stuff that's steam-distilled, for example, from the source. From what I smell in these all-naturals to what I smell in any given fragrance, represents a world of difference. In short, it would be more realistic for perfumers to list their ingredients like this: peachy, lavenderish, piney, cuminesque, rosewoodian, etc. The roughly 2,000 synthetics available for perfumery can, I suspect, represent multiple facets of any given basic note. Quite a palette. (It reminds me of the Pantone color system used in graphic arts, which names over 1100 separate colors.)

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