What Are Fragrance Oils?
When shopping for fragrance oils to use in your soap creations, you'll be astounded by the vast array of scents available. From copies of famous perfumes to bubble gum; from ocean to tomato leaf; from incense to watermelon — the choice is spectacular.
When creating a scent, the perfumer draws upon talent, experience, intuition, and a vast knowledge of scent materials. Sometimes known as “a nose,” a perfumer has an exceptional ability to combine chemistry with knowledge of the subtleties of scent to create a fabulous fragrance. Scent is the sense most closely linked to memory, and some of our most poignant memories are linked to the work of a perfumer.
The perfumer's palette consists of “notes.” The primary notes are the top, middle, and base. The top note is the first impression. The middle is the scent you experience after the top note has dissipated, and the base note ties everything together, fixing it and leaving the most lingering scent. Of course these notes all work in concert to make the heart of the scent, but it is helpful to understand the note structure when talking about fragrance.
Description of Notes
Top notes are bright, light, and catchy. Florals, sweet fruit, and ozone are common top notes. They also tend to be fleeting, evaporating first, making way for the more complex middle and base notes. The top note doesn't leave completely but can be thought of as stepping back from center stage to take its place within the entire blend.
When you shop for fragrance oils, you may find it frustrating to have nothing but words to go on. Once you learn perfumery vocabulary, you can translate the written descriptions in a catalog or on a Web site. You can educate yourself by going to a perfume counter. The salespeople can help you identify and name what you are smelling.
Middle notes mellow and enhance the brightness of the top note. They round it, fill it out, and support it. The middle note can support a top note by blending with it or by contrasting with it. If you layer a deeper floral under a lighter one, you have a middle note that blends. To support the top note through contrast, a sweet floral top note can be contrasted with a tangy middle note.
Base notes are frequently in the category of “fixatives.” A fixative is a scent material that has an ability to linger and “stick” to the skin. Resins, moss, sticky grasses, and animal scents are fixative base notes.