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How are perfumes composed?

When you smell a perfume, you can probably tell after a few seconds what it smells like. Floral, spicy, woody... But perfume is made up of much more than that. Perfumes are typically made up of multiple layers from different extracts. All these blend together, forming the character. In this way, every fragrance is unique. However, there are several guidelines that perfumers follow when creating perfumes.

How are ingredients turned into fragrance extracts?

There are lots of botanicals that are suitable for perfumes because they smell wonderful. Think of flowers, resins, woods, herbs, grasses and much more. These ingredients are extracted from the plant material and tired into oils or resins. This can be done through various chemical processes, such as evaporation, heating or cooling. If you paid attention in Chemistry class, you might be able to do it yourself. But we wouldn't recommend it. After these chemical processes, the fragrance extract remains, either oil or an absolute. All the different fragrance extracts are mixed together with water and alcohol.

Top notes, heart notes and base notes

Every perfume consists of a so-called 'olfactory pyramid'. This means that perfume is made up of three notes; a top, heart and base. The top notes can be smelled as soon as you spray. They are the very first scents that open the perfume, as it were. They can linger on the skin for about half an hour. The heart notes, are arguably the most important and form the core of the perfume. Heart notes usually last for four to five hours. The base notes remain on your skin when the top and heart notes have faded. They are long-lasting. This is what you might smell at the end of the night, that is if, you haven't eaten a plate of cheesy chips.


Fragrance extracts in the pyramid

The suitable chemical process depends on the plant species. The different chemical processes result in various fragrance extracts, each with its own structure and character. Oils evaporate more quickly and are usually found in the top notes of perfumes, while absolutes are often used for base notes. Top notes are often citrus, green or aromatic. Heart notes are often floral, spicy or fruity. The bases are usually composed of woods, amber, musk, vanilla or patchouli, as these are the longest smelling.