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The fragrance pyramid: How perfume is structured

By Hannah Werneth

Each perfume bears the unmistakable signature of its perfumer, who develops it in delicate fine work and coordinates the many different fragrance notes with empathy and tact. In the process, each fragrance presents its diverse aromas, which correspond to its individual fragrance pyramid. The fragrance pyramid describes three scent phases that reveal themselves one after the other during the unfolding of the fragrance: Head, Heart and Base.

Only the interplay of all olfactory components and the interaction of the selected nuances give a perfume its fascinating and unique character. The structure of perfume is always the same – its effect, on the other hand, is always a unique experience. This applies equally to women’s, men’s and unisex fragrances.





The structure of perfume in detail

Discovering a perfume and getting to know and love it in all its facets requires a lot of time, because the first impression made when applying the perfume to the skin does not even begin to reflect the full effect of the fragrance. The structure of perfume can be understood like a musical masterpiece. First comes the intro, the introduction, which gives an impression of what might come. Then comes the transition to the actual work, which embodies the melody and mood. Only at the end does the climax of the composition come to full fruition, giving the listener heart palpitations and goosebump moments. It is the same with the fragrance pyramid in noble perfumes.

Here, the top note forms a spiky, invigorating prelude that leads into the heart note after only a short time. Here, the fragrance body is refined, built up and led towards its climax. In the base note, the perfume reveals its final direction and its unique, profound character – only at this point does a perfume tell its very own story.



Fragrance concentration

To develop a luxurious perfume, various high-quality perfume oils and fragrance essences are combined into a work of art, in addition to the basic ingredients of alcohol and distilled water.

The fragrance concentration provides information about how high the proportion of fragrances is in the product. An eau de cologne is the lightest fragrance representative, containing 2-5% of fragrances. Eau de toilettes have between 5 and 9%, are very volatile and move quickly through the fragrance pyramid. An eau de parfum, on the other hand, carries a concentration of 8-14% of perfume oil, which is why it is more productive and economical to apply. Also, here the pyramid is experienced much more intense and the shelf life is happy to 8 hours.

The fragrances presented at PAFORY are partly even Extrait de Parfums, which come to a concentration of up to 30%. Such compositions are a pleasure and should be applied with caution.

The proportion of perfume oils can consist of over 250 different components. In order to harmonize the exquisite elements in such a way that they create a harmonious, soulful, dynamic, romantic or powerful image, not only a good nose is necessary, but also years of experience. It is the perfect harmony of the individual fragrance phases that characterizes a perfume. The fragrance pyramid provides information about the results that make a luxurious fragrance what it is.





The top note – the entrance into the fragrance experience

After applying a fragrance, a first impression unfolds immediately. This opens the door to the actual fragrance experience in style. Light, invigorating and lacy fragrances are usually used for this prelude. The charisma of this fragrance phase remains only up to a maximum of 15 minutes and effective, then the fragrance molecules evaporate and it is seamlessly transitioned into the heart.

Top notes are mostly citrus, green, aquatic and energetic perfume notes. Bergamot, orange, lemon, tangerine, grapefruit, fresh green and also fruits like pineapple, peach or mango, subtle spices, herbs, tea and also floral nuances like lavender or orange blossom are good examples of fragrance elements that form the prelude of a perfume. This paves the way for the beguiling fragrance composition.

A women’s fragrance with a particularly fruity prelude is, for example, Hundred Silent Ways by Nishane.



The heart note – this is where the body of the fragrance is formed

Once the first impression has settled after a few minutes, the heart of a perfume comes to the surface. This note remains active between two and three hours (in the case of very intense perfumes also between five and six hours) and stimulates the senses with more intense, longer-lasting nuances. In the fragrance pyramid, the heart note determines the character of the perfume, its direction and intensity.

Here are reflected mainly floral, fruity, herbaceous, but also synthetic fragrance elements. Blossoms of jasmine, lily of the valley, ylang-ylang, freesia, orchid, tuberose or even gardenia, rose nuances of May or peony, powdery sounds of violet, iris or mimosa are found in the heart as well as spicy scents of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom or a pinch of pepper.

The men’s fragrance Laudano Nero by Tiziana Terenzi convinces with its woody-spicy orientation and a heart that continues into the base.



The base note – it rounds off the sophisticated fragrance concept

The base note forms the broad and solid foundation of the fragrance pyramid. This phase of fragrance lasts up to 24 hours. The base gives a perfume its depth and warmth – an echo that symbolizes the signature of a fragrance. This is where fragrance notes come into their own, fixing molecules to both the skin and clothing (they are therefore also called fixators).

In the base, woody, resinous, smoky, oriental and gourmand sounds unfold their aromas. Musk, amber, patchouli, vetiver, tonka beans, oakmoss, but also incense, cedar, sandalwood and oud components fire the imagination and stimulate the senses and have a sensual, romantic and seductive effect. But also caramel, vanilla, almond, chocolate, coffee, honey and cocoa can round off a fragrance base appetizingly. Animal, exotic or even sweet – the composition of the base wraps its wearer in a fascinating aura for many hours, gladly also with a portion of playfulness or provocation.

A good example of a very warm, deep fragrance with a powerful base is Note Vanillée by Maison Micallef. This luxury perfume impresses with its long-lasting, intense foundation.




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See you soon, your PAFORY team 🤍