MP! Style Guide: What are the different ‘notes’ in a perfume?

Most of us just sniff a magazine or spritz a sample in the store to see if we like a perfume. But you can actually dissect the scent, breaking it down to its different notes to see why exactly you like what you’re smelling. Here’s what we mean.

Perfume notes are broken down into three categories: top notes, middle notes, and base notes. What makes each note category different is when you can smell it, so perfumes are created with the evaporation process very much in mind.


This is what you smell immediately when you spray the perfume, and it evaporates the fastest. You’ll most likely choose a perfume based on your reaction to the top notes.

Commonly: citrus, lavender

Middle notes

This is what you smell after the top notes evaporate (usually within 2 minutes or so). Middle notes generally smell more mellow than top notes.

Commonly: florals, fruits, spices

Base notes

Once the top and middle notes are gone (after around 30 minutes), you are left with the base notes. Like their name suggest, these notes are usually deep and solid.

Commonly: woody, patchouli, vanilla

Now that you’re a perfume expert, grab a new scent and see if you can identify its different notes over time.

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Written by Jackie Kolgraf

I'm the lead style/beauty writer & U.S. content coordinator here at Maximum Pop!, where I get to combine my love for Louis Tomlinson with his love for Adidas. I hail from Boston, and I'm obsessed with my wiener dog, nail art trends, One Direction, and perfume samples. I believe in daily pizza.

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