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How Perfumery is Alike to Composing Music!

Updated: May 19, 2022

According to a 19th Century French perfumer George William Piesse odours are like sounds, whereby each odour corresponds to a key which can be created into a perfectly harmonious blend. From this he created a scale called “The Gamut of Odours” which categorises odours from the lowest or heavier smells to the higher or sharper smells.


Basically, transposing the idea of musical harmony into the realm of fragrances, where corresponding notes to each scent form perfectly balanced chords or harmonics when combined. As an artist would blend his colours, so must a perfumer blend his scents.

His vision continues to provide inspiration today since essential oil aromas are still described in a musical metaphor as having three sets of notes …. top, middle & bottom. The oils are divided into these categories based on their speed of evaporation.


The notes unfold over time with the immediate impression of the top note leading to the deeper middle note and the base notes gradually appearing as the final stage.



The odour of each will change gradually over time due to the different speed ‘notes’ of the different constituents of the oil.


Top Notes (also called the ‘head’ notes or ‘picks’):

The top notes are the ones that hit you first …….. they tend to be fresh, volatile, of a light quality that is immediately apparent. They add brightness & clarity to the blend. The first impression they create lasts no longer than 30 minutes. They constitute 5% - 20% of the blend.

Examples of top notes in our blends are Spearmint, Lemon & Sweet Orange.


Middle Notes (also called the ‘heart notes’ or ‘bouquets’):

The scent of the blend that emerges just prior to when the top notes start to dissipate. They form the ‘heart’ or main body of a perfume. They are usually more mellow, rounded, soft ……. and impart warmth and fullness to the fragrant composition. The serve to mask the often unpleasant initial impression of base notes. They constitute 50% - 80% of the blend.


Examples of middle notes in our blends are Juniper Berry, Clary Sage & Coriander Seed.


Base Notes

The base and middle notes together are the main theme of a perfume. Base notes are normally rich, heavy and bring depth and solidity. They can hold a blend together and boost the strength of the lighter top and middle notes. On their own they can smell quite unpleasant and need to be used in proper proportion overwise they will overpower or dominate a blend. They consist of large, heavy molecules that emerge and evaporate slowly, so they are typically not perceived until 30 minutes after application but will linger in excess of 24 hours. They constitute only 5% of a total blend.


Examples of base notes in our blends are Benzoin & Amyris.


Join us for our next blog when we will be looking at Essential Oil Families ........

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