perfume notes in aromatherapy

Basic perfume notes in aromatherapy are used to balance out an aromatherapy blend. This article introduces you to the concept of top, middle, and base notes of essential oils. Written by professional aromatherapist, author, and perfumer Sharon Falsetto.

There are three main categories of basic perfume notes in aromatherapy: top, middle, and base notes. Finding the right combination of each category of notes can help to balance a blend, even for aromatherapy purposes. A well-balanced blend will last longer and be more aromatically appealing.

Combining the perfect note accord takes practice. This article is intended as a basic introduction to perfume notes in aromatherapy and is by no means a definitive guide.

Top Perfume Notes

Top notes evaporate the quickest and are usually light, fresh, and uplifting in their nature.

A lot of top note essential oils do not have a long shelf life because they evaporate quickly. They are easy to extract from plants and consequently are economical in price. Many of the citrus plants produce top notes.

Some top note oils may overlap with middle note oils. Examples of top note essential oils include:

  • Sweet orange (Citrus sinensis)
  • Lemon (Citrus × limon)
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
  • Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). 

Middle Perfume Notes 

Middle notes are balancing, soft, calming, and uplifting. Unlike top notes which evaporate rapidly, and base note essential oils which are “heavy,” the fragrance of middle notes lasts for a few days.

Examples of middle note oils include:

  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
  • Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
  • Juniper (Juniperus communis). 

Base Perfume Notes

Base notes are heavy and seductive in fragrance and are often associated with relaxation and romance. Base notes are usually combined with top notes and middle notes in a perfume blend and often add stability to a blend to make it last longer. Base note essential oils can be expensive to purchase due to the difficulty in extracting the essential oil from the plant.

Some base note oils may overlap with middle note oils and are often described as both base and middle note essential oils in perfumery and aromatherapy lists. Examples of base note essential oils include:

  • Ylang ylang (Canaga odorata)
  • Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin)
  • Sandalwood (Santalum album)
  • Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica). 

How Much of Each Perfume Note in Aromatherapy?

This is a complex question! It depends if you are blending for therapeutic or perfume purposes! If you’d like to learn more about it, watch out for our upcoming Basics of Blending e-class coming up in June 2022!

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About the Author:

The author of this article has been working in the health care industry since the 1990’s and in the aromatherapy industry since the 2000’s. She is UK-certified aromatherapist and a NAHA Certified Professional Aromatherapist®. She is both a published author and editor in aromatherapy, a consultant, custom blend formulator and herbal studies and natural perfumery student. She is the author of Authentic Aromatherapy and the current chief editor of the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal. Sharon works from her garden studio in Sedona, Arizona, where she gardens and distills plants from her own aromatic gardens, surrounded by natural fauna and flora on an original pioneer, semi off-grid, homestead property.

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