Olfactory pyramid sample
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The olfactory pyramid

When we smell a perfume, our natural gesture, breathing, activates our senses. By inhaling a fragrance, each one of us perceives it differently. However, thanks to the scent composition we manage to sense and discover it in an objective way. It happens due to an olfactory pyramid that every fragrance has. But what is it? Why is the olfactory pyramid so important?


The olfactory pyramid is a classification of olfactory notes that make up a perfume. Aimé Guerlain used the term of a pyramid for the first time in 1889 to describe one of her creations Jicky.

The concept of the olfactory pyramid can be compared to the musical scale. Each fragrance is classified according to the degree of volatility and persistence of its notes.

The perfumed notes, depending on how they are mixed among each other, make up a perfume. We perceive them differently, based on the moment of application on our skin.

Jicky di Guerlain


The olfactory pyramid is interpreted from top to bottom and indicates multiple facets of a fragrance itself. As a perfume gradually evaporates, it reveals new nuances and accompanies us with a new trail thanks to the olfactory classification of every single note.

Every fragrance consists of top notes, at the top of the pyramid, middle or heart notes, in the middle, and base notes, the most persistent ones

Once the olfactory notes are mixed in order to create a perfume, they transform into chords. Each one of them communicates a different nuance of the fragrance. If we take it into account, it will be easier to choose or wear a perfume depending on our occasion.

Olfactory Pyramid with top notes, heart notes and base notes.

Top notes

We smell the top notes right away, at that very moment when some drops of a perfume touch our skin. They are the ones we sense at the beginning, and for this reason, they are the ones we catch immediately.

The top notes represent the most volatile part of a perfume because they fade right after a few moments from its application. The most common olfactive families on the top of the pyramid are citrus and marine.

For example, the citrus notes of Bergamot and Lemon prevail in Puro Neroli and reveal right at the first contact with the skin. The high concentration of these two raw materials in the formula gives a very intense top note to the fragrance. It manifests itself for a long time before giving space to the heart notes.

Heart notes

The heart notes are those that are perceived after some minutes. We notice them immediately after the top notes. It is about the warmest part of the olfactory composition of a fragrance, the one that often distinguishes the soul of the fragrance that we wear.

We smell the heart notes for up to four, six or eight hours after its first application. Moreover, in most times, they are composed of floral or fruity olfactory chords.

The floral note of Osmanthus in Osmarine manifests itself for many hours along the whole trail of the perfume and conveys a desired olfactory harmony already present among the top notes.

Base notes

The core of all niche perfumes are base notes, the most persistent and long lasting notes. We can smell them on our skin after eight hours and even the day after wearing our perfume (depending on the skin pH).

The most intense notes in the bottom of the olfactory pyramid are spicy, woody, oriental, gourmand or leathery. The lighter fragrances, on the other hand, have Vanilla, Chypre or Musk as final notes.

The Sandal, one of the most important base notes, enhances the perfume Caldo Legnoso. In this olfactory harmony, the Sandal reveals through all olfactory pyramid, taking place and passion right from the heart of the perfume. Standing out makes this note so peculiar, that is why the base of a perfume is distinctively perceived on the skin also the following morning.


If we know the olfactory pyramid of a fragrance, the volatility of top, middle and base notes, we will immediately learn a fundamental aspect: never judge an essence at first sight.

Considering that every chord can be influenced by our skin pH, it is highly important to go well beyond the top notes in order to understand a perfume. It would be like drinking a glass of excellent red wine, perhaps vintage wine, without decanting it first.

Never judge in a hurry a niche perfume. Similar to a good piece of music, it is often necessary to listen to it two, even three times to understand whether we like it or not

The perfume changes over time, gradually as it reveals. For this reason, it is always necessary to make more than one try before your final choice. Do not make hasty judgments and give all necessary time to let the fragrance reveal completely.


We have explained how an olfactory note, being a part of the top, heart and base notes, depends on its level of volatility in contact with air. This clearly explains us the reason why the scents with a dominant citrus feature will hardly have the same persistence of a scent with woody or gourmand characteristics.

It is impossible to make essential Orange Blossom oil evaporate more slowly or behave like a base note. Precisely because it is the nature itself to determine the laws and not perfumers.

In fact, this is one of the greatest challenges for those who create a perfume. The challenge to create a balance based on the top notes together with the heart and base notes without making dominant the last ones.

Olfactory notes in Grasse Perfumery School

Those who choose a perfume in a hurry must accept the fact that every fragrance expresses itself according to own characteristics. We need to enjoy our favorite fragrance for its natural predisposition and not for what we expect it to be.


Regardless the classification of the olfactory stages, we do not clearly perceive how a perfume evolves when we wear it. In fact, the notes of a perfume intertwine among each other in order to give natural olfactory harmony to the scent. A delicate balance, created thanks to the right dose of every component. A game of the parts based on a balance of natural elements that result in an unprecedented olfactory facet. This is the beauty of the artistic perfumery. The power to count on new creations and interpretations always unique that are worth trying over and over again.


About Officina delle Essenze

Officina delle Essenze means personal and home perfumes. It’s a family-owned company where there’s still the Italian know-how which led to success the Made in Italy all over the world, as a synonym of handcrafted luxury. It’s a journey which goes on through the blog, where the brand accompanies the niche perfumery lovers to the discovery of always new olfactory paths as well as reference articles and advice on its products.

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