The olfactory pyramid: top, middle, base notes

Understand the three notes of a perfume and the importance of the olfactory pyramid
3 notes of olfactory pyramid

A perfume is often made of dozens of ingredients that evolve over time on your skin. These are orchestrated in a specific way in the olfactory pyramid to create a unique scent. Depending on their tenacity or volatility, the notes will not reveal themselves in the same way. Like a score, discover how your fragrance reveals itself in 3 distinct acts, 3 notes that unveil its character, its identity, and will do everything to seduce you…

Decipher the olfactory pyramid

Regardless of the manufacturing technique used, the formulation and composition of a fragrance is designed according to an almost universal model, that of the olfactory pyramid.

The identity of your perfume: between magic and chemistry

The world of perfumery has always tickled our noses and appealed to our imagination. Fragrances evoke a certain form of poetry and arouse emotions for those who wear them. Each perfume, regardless of its brand, scent or composition, tells a story that we appropriate according to our personal interpretation, thanks in particular to our olfactory memory, which is directly linked to the center of our emotions. However, the creation of a perfume is based on a much less romantic process! It is indeed thanks to the perfumer’s technical mastery and solid physical and scientific notions that you can embark on an olfactory journey. Thus, the nose will build a fragrance by positioning various ingredients in a very technical process.

It was Jean Carles, a famous perfumer, who gave a name to this architecture by creating the olfactory pyramid. He then established a classification of notes according to their volatility, from the least tenacious to the most persistent.

What is the olfactory pyramid for?

This orchestration of the perfume allows the nose to give an harmonious structure to the fragrance. Using the olfactory pyramid is a way to balance the formula so that it evolves over time, once sprayed. It thus contributes to making the perfume more alive, more evolutionary or on the contrary linear, according to the wishes of the creator. The evaporation of the fragrance is then done in a continuous and gradual way. This prevents the juice from running out of steam too quickly. The perfume can then reveal its identity, through multiple facets that will express themselves over the hours.

A question of evaporation

The different levels of the olfactory pyramid correspond to the notes of the perfume, from the most evanescent to the most persistent. The raw materials used do not all react in the same way over time and on the skin. In short, they do not all evaporate at the same rate. Some ingredients, such as citrus notes, will give off an intense and incisive smell that will only last for a few minutes. Other compounds will be perceptible for a longer period of time and will constitute the olfactory identity of the composition. Some ingredients will also be used because they are excellent fixatives and will increase the lasting of the fragrance.

Evaporation will also depend on the nature of the raw material. Ingredients of natural origin will evolve rapidly and will tend to evaporate faster. Use of synthetic molecules, beyond reproducing odors impossible to capture in nature, will bring stability, power and tenacity to the composition.

The olfactory pyramid: a play in 3 acts

The structure of the perfume according to the olfactory pyramid can be observed on three levels: the top note first, then the middle one and finally the base note.

Top note

Press the spray and give in to a first tonic scent… Here is the top note. It is composed of the lightest and most volatile olfactory elements. Generally fresh and bright, we often find at the top of the pyramid some citrus and aromatic notes such as bergamot, neroli or rosemary. This upper part of the olfactory pyramid is decisive in the choice of your perfume, since it is the smell you will distinguish first. It is then referred to as the flight of the perfume, the notes of which must prepare the nose for what comes next, with the middle and base notes. This is why it is important to let a few moments pass to know the evolution of the perfume before making up your mind. It lasts from a few minutes to a maximum of 2 hours.

Middle note

Gradually, the middle note appears and replaces the top note. Less explosive, but more tenacious, it embodies however the main theme of the perfume and represents its identity and intensity. It is composed of floral, powdery, green or fruity notes. Voluptuous, the middle note unveils longer than the top note and will remain on your skin for about 3 hours. It is the most complex level of the pyramid to elaborate because it will take on all the originality of the perfume, creating a real olfactory signature.

Base note

Finally, an ultimate scent will gently bond intimately with your skin, never to leave it again! These notes are revealed a few hours after spraying and will linger for hours or even days on your clothes. This is the base note, made of ingredients that are tenacious, generous and captivating. Woody, leathery or oriental notes are generally found at this level of the pyramid. The flagship ingredients in this category are balms, fragrant woods, moss for chypre perfumes or amber and vanilla. The base note focuses on making your fragrance last over time. It is the one that sets the top and middle notes to give depth to the fragrance. It will induce a certain attachment and will be a determining factor in your fidelity to the perfume.

Although resulting from a thorough and precious work, the perfume is not an exact science. Every skin being different, a fragrance perception and time duration vary from a skin to another. This is the magic, the beauty of olfactory art: your perfume makes you unique, and you make unique your perfume…

Do you take the time to discover the top, middle and base notes when you try a Carrément Belle perfume for the first time?

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