The olfactory pyramid


Everyone uses words from a personal olfactory universe, different turns of phrase.

In perfumery we use a specific jargon, whether it is to talk about the composition of a perfume or its manufacturing technique, we are used to talking about top notes, heart notes and base notes, but what does it mean?

Not all raw materials used in the design of a perfume have the same rate of evaporation. A fragrance is composed of several notes or raw materials that have a different volatility time. When we vaporize a perfume, our nose captures a complex odorous composition, which is the set of the main notes, then we discover the olfactory pyramid, which reveals the evolution of the fragrance.

The universe of the perfume is certainly very poetic, but it is based on scientific bases.

(Blog article: Create a perfume)

The olfactory pyramid has been adopted by all perfumers. It is a very important structure because it is the one that allows to balance a perfume and to make it harmonious. 


  • The top notes:
These are the most volatile notes, the ones you smell first, just after the spraying of a perfume. 

These notes only last a few minutes to an hour, they are mostly fresh and tonic, made up of citrus fruits (lemon, grapefruit, orange), aromatic notes (basil, rosemary, thyme), and green and fresh scents (galbanum, angelica).

  • The heart notes: 
They are revealed when the top notes begin to fade, they unfold for several hours, and constitute the characteristic scent of the perfume.

They are the ones that give personality, identity to a fragrance. They are made up of olfactory notes of average volatility, generally affirmed like the floral notes (Rose, Jasmine) or spices (Coriander, Ginger, Pepper).

  • Base notes:

These notes are not very volatile, their odors last several hours, sometimes even several days.
Their main function is to fix the perfume, to make it last as long as possible.
They are often made up of woody, leathery notes, nevertheless one finds there certain plants such as Patchouli or Vetiver.

The harmony of a perfume, also depends on the percentage of each note (top notes/heart notes/base notes). The more important the top notes will be and the fresher the result will be, on the contrary the more the base notes will be present, the richer the perfume will be, with character.


(Blog article: Gender neutral perfumes)

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

You may also like

View all
Vetiver, the deep roots of perfumery
Perfume and the seasons
The mysteries of sandalwood in perfumery