As vice-president of corporate fragrance development at Aramis & Designer Fragrances in New York City, Trudi Loren has overseen the creation of scents for Michael Kors, Marni, Ermenegildo Zegna and Tommy Hilfiger. She’s spent decades working with both fashion designers and consumers, gently educating them in the art of fine fragrance. She says that few people understand that a fragrance evolves three times after you spray it on your wrist or dab it behind your ear. “Classic fragrances are constructed like a pyramid with top notes at the peak, heart notes in the middle and base notes at the bottom.”
“Top notes in a perfume will typically last 30 to 45 minutes once you spritz.”
She says that from the moment you spritz a scent, you’ll smell the top notes for 30 to 45 minutes. “These are notes that create freshness and sparkle to a fragrance. Perfumers will use citrus ingredients like bergamot, lemon, and grapefruit. They’ll also use aromatic, green and aquatic ingredients such as rosemary, blackcurrant bud and pink pepper to create an uplifting effect.” These notes are often quite volatile and evaporate quite quickly.
You’ll notice that a perfume’s middle notes will last two-to-three hours after you apply your scent. These ingredients have a higher tenacity than top notes and are used to create personality and character. “This is where you find floral and spicy notes,” says Loren. Cinnamon, jasmine, rose and ylang ylang are all ingredients that appear in the heart of a fragrance.
At the bottom of the fragrance pyramid you’ll find base notes, the foundation of any scent. Perfumers rely on the most tenacious notes to give a fragrance lasting power. These ingredients can last 5 to 6 hours and often include woody, musky, gourmand, leathery and balsamic notes. Cedar, sandalwood, amber, vanilla and caramel are the most common base notes in modern scents.