The scent pyramid: what are top, heart and base notes?

Ever feel frustrated by scent-aficionados talking impenetrably about the 'scent pyramid'? Well, feel frustrated no longer as we set out a handy guide to the infamous scent pyramid.

What is the scent pyramid?

Fundamentally, the scent pyramid is a simple, three tier-structure that describes the different notes that make up a fragrance.

The structure is determined by the weight of the molecules that make up the notes: lighter molecules evaporate more quickly and so the notes which they form hit you sooner. They form the 'top' part of the pyramid.

"...lighter molecules evaporate more quickly and so the notes which they form hit you sooner."
- Antonio Weiss, co-founder Thomas Clippper

Slightly denser and heavier molecules take longer to evaporate, and so emerge after the 'top' notes - these are known as the 'heart' or 'middle' notes. And the most dense notes which evaporate last, are known as 'base' notes.

Which are top, heart and base notes?

Broadly speaking, 'top' notes are light and green in nature: citrus, green notes and aldehydic notes abound. 'Middle' notes tend to be more floral and aromatic: jasmin, orange, and lavender are commonly found. And 'base' notes are the woodiest: ambers, musks, resins and ambergris frequent this part of the pyramid.

Does everything confirm to the scent pyramid?

Not quite. With the advent of synthetic developments (which allows our scents to be vegan-friendly, as many 'base' notes would have historically come from animals), perfumiers have experimented with the scent pyramid and attempted more 'cubic' formations - essentially that 'base' and 'top' notes hit you concurrently. But, most fragrances can still be helpfully described using the pyramid - try it out with our Unite collection!