Top, Middle and Bottom Notes of Candles Explained

Posted by Patty Clarkson on

Finding and enjoying a lovely fragrance enriches everyday life and often serves as an important act of self-care. Scents can feel energizing, refreshing or calming. They might even boost a sense of well-being and create a sensual connection between ourselves and our environment. Liking or disliking a certain scent or scent family is deeply personal. Preferences change over time or with the season. Many people favor light and refreshing scents in the summer months and enjoy deeper, warm aromas during the holiday season or go through the entire scent spectrum as they advance in age.

When fragrances are applied to the human skin, body chemistry also plays an important role in how we perceive a scent. Even perfumes or body care products belonging to popular brands wonโ€™t smell exactly the same but vary ever so slightly on the skin of different people. To make matters even more personal, the human olfactory sense is strongly linked to our memories. A scent might be appealing because it brings the consumer back to their childhood, an exciting life change or memorable trip.

No matter how straightforward or complex, scented products usually consist of three components. The combination of certain oils and aromatic ingredients creates a layered scent profile, giving each component their moment to shine and mingle with the others into one irresistible scent.

The aroma hitting your nose immediately as soon as you spray perfume or light a candle is the top note, also called the head of the scent. Top notes dominate the first impression. The components responsible for a top note consist mainly of small molecules that are easily dispersed from the carrier. However, the top note is also the first to dissipate. That fresh hit of citrus fruit or herbaceous aroma that drew you to the scent might not linger for a long time.

As the prominent top note evaporates, the middle or heart notes begin to assert themselves. Middle notes tend to be gentler and more full-bodied than the first aromatic ingredients. Often composed of floral or spicy scents, they last quite a bit longer than the top notes. Popular middle notes include rose, ylang-ylang or cinnamon. About 50-80% of the fragrance composition is made up of middle notes. They create the structure of every scent harmonizing with both the dissipating top and the developing base.

The bottom or base notes pack the final punch to round out a rich aromatic profile. Warm, deep and smooth, bottom notes build the foundational layer of a scent. The molecules of their ingredients are much larger than those of the other notes and remain in the air or on the skin for hours, making up the final and lingering impression of the scent. Popular bottom notes include woody or balsamic aromas, including scents like sandalwood, moss, patchouli or vanilla.

All three notes are essential for the intricate scents that are so appealing to the human olfactory system. Balance is key, since the notes work together, enhancing and contrasting each other. Perfumers and scent designers pour a lot of time and passion into working with a huge range of aromatic ingredients to create just the right mix of top, middle and bottom notes that will make you happy when you smell it.

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