The Intoxicating Triangle

Melanie Jane
“Just like men, perfume is never perfect right away; you have to let it seduce you,” - Jean Patou

As a musician creates melodies through scales, a perfumer creates a symphony of fragrance notes. These notes are categorized into top, heart, and base notes, which blend together to create a complex and sophisticated fragrance that is more than the sum of its parts.  

Just like music, the perfect balance of notes is essential to creating a pleasing scent. Too many base notes, and the fragrance can be overwhelming, while too many top notes will leave you with a scent that's fleeting and unmemorable. Finding the right balance is crucial to creating a long-lasting marriage within the ingredients and allowing the scent to seduce you.

Did you know that an accord is the combination of two or more perfume materials that, when blended together, create a new fragrance? A good simple accord can be between 2-5 materials, and the result can be surprising and delightful.

An Evolving Scent
When you first smell a perfume, you are immediately introduced to the top notes. These are the flirty and fleeting notes that don't stick around for long. Think of them like the lightning in a thunderstorm, adding excitement and illumination to the fragrance. They may not last long, but they are crucial to creating a first impression and setting the tone for what's to come.

Grab your favorite perfume, set a timer, and see for yourself. Spray it on a scent strip and write your first impressions. Then smell the same strip after five minutes, again after twenty minutes, and finally after one hour. Does your impression change as the top and heart notes fade and you experience the “dry-down”?

TOP NOTES - Flirty and fleeting
Many people believe that top notes are the first to disappear, followed by the heart and base notes. However, this isn't entirely true. Just like a movie trailer, the top notes give you a glimpse of what's in store, but it's the heart and base notes that tell the story. As the lighter notes gradually dissipate, the heavier notes begin to surface and reveal their character, resulting in an evolving scent that surprises and delights.

Bergamot essential oil
is a popular top note that is widely used in perfumery. However, it's important to be cautious when using it as it's notoriously phototoxic due to a component called bergaptene. This means that the maximum safe use is 0.5%, and most bergamot oil in perfumery is synthetic. So, be careful when experimenting with essential oils and always do your research before using them.

A student of mine once added several drops of bergamot into her sunscreen, and as she lay on a Mediterranean beach, her body started to blister and burn! Because of this issue, most bergamot oil in perfumery is synthetic. The aromatherapy industry uses the natural version with extreme caution. Thankfully, a bergaptene-free version of bergamot is available, but due to the cost, you’ll rarely find it in cheaper commercial perfumes.

HEART NOTES - the soul of a scent
In the world of fragrance, the heart notes of a perfume are like the soul of a person, representing the core essence that lingers long after the initial impression fades. Lavender absolute is a prime example of a heart note, with its heavier molecules and rich, full-bodied aroma.

With over 60,000 kilograms of lavender oil produced annually in Provence alone, it can be challenging to discern the genuine article from counterfeit fragrance oils. To ensure you're getting the real deal, always purchase lavender oil from a reputable source, look for the term "pure essential oil," and verify that the label displays the Latin name Lavandula Angustifolia.   There are three main types of lavender used in perfumery and aromatherapy: fine or true lavender, spike lavender, and lavandin. Fine lavender is the most popular variety due to its relaxing properties and low flower-to-oil yield ratio, which results in a higher cost. Spike lavender, on the other hand, is highly camphorous and therefore not recommended for children or expectant mothers but can be useful for sports massage and healing new scar tissue.   Lavandin, a hybrid of fine and spike lavender, offers a more cost-effective alternative to fine lavender, and is frequently used in colognes. However, due to its higher camphor content, it should also be avoided by children and expectant mothers.   When it comes to lavender absolute, its heavier molecules make it a quintessential heart note, adding depth and complexity to any fragrance formulation. Its rich turquoise colour is a sight to behold, and its round, full-bodied aroma profile is a must-try for any fragrance enthusiast.  

In conclusion, whether you opt for fine lavender, spike lavender, lavandin, or lavender absolute, each has its unique properties and place in the world of fragrance. Choosing the right type of lavender can make all the difference in the aroma and therapeutic benefits of your fragrance or aromatherapy blend.

BASE NOTES-a lasting impression

Base notes are the sturdy foundation upon which any great perfume is built, much like a faithful long-term relationship or marriage. They provide comfort and sustainability, leaving a lasting impression on the senses. Heavy molecules like vanilla, oudh, sandalwood, and patchouli are commonly used as base notes due to their incredible staying power. When blended together, they create a complex and intriguing scent that lasts for hours on end. Base notes have a unique ability to evoke memories and emotions, making them a powerful tool in the psychology of scent. By using base notes that remind you of positive life experiences, you can create a signature scent that not only smells amazing but also makes you feel good.

Sandalwood is a highly prized base note in the world of perfumery. Native to southern India, it has been used for thousands of years for medicinal, cosmetic, and spiritual purposes. Sandalwood was considered a sacred wood and was used in religious ceremonies and rituals in ancient India.

As demand for sandalwood grew, so did the need for regulations and restrictions on harvesting and trade. Today, sandalwood trees are successfully grown in Australia, but many perfumers still prefer the East Indian oil for its superior quality. Pure sandalwood oil is very expensive and is only found in the finest, most expensive perfumes. Synthetic alternatives like Sandalore offer a more affordable option for those who aren't concerned about natural perfumes.

Sandalwood is also believed to have skin lightening properties and is commonly used in India as a face mask to treat pigmentation.
It is ground into a fine paste and applied to the face for a few minutes before being washed off. Ground turmeric is another popular ingredient in face masks for the same purpose but be careful not to overdo it if you're planning a night out!

Patchouli is a popular base note used in perfumery. It has a rich, earthy, and musky scent that is often associated with hippie culture. However, it's also used in high-end perfumes for its unique and complex aroma. Patchouli is extracted from the leaves of the patchouli plant and is native to tropical regions of Asia.

Oudh, also known as agarwood, is a rare and highly sought-after base note in the world of perfumery. It's derived from the resinous heartwood of the agarwood tree and is often referred to as "liquid gold" due to its high cost. Oudh has a rich, woody, and smoky aroma that is both powerful and seductive.
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