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Top, Middle and Base Notes of Essential Oils

The different scales of notes in blending essential oils

The blending of essential oils into perfumes is an ancient art that shares with music the concept of 'scales'. This means that just as musical notes in a scale range from low through middle to high, so a good blend of essential oils has top, middle and base notes. A good blend is therefore harmonious, balanced and well rounded.

The Scale of Notes for Essential Oils

  • Top notes are those that are most volatile and are the first that we smell. They are light and fresh, and tend to dissipate quickly.
  • Middle notes then appear, representing the heart and bulk of the fragrance, and some of them will linger for a while.
  • Base notes are rich and heavy, and last a long time. In perfumery, base notes are called 'fixatives' - they literally 'fix' a perfume and hold it together, helping to prevent the lighter notes dispersing too quickly.

As you will learn from reading the descriptions of the individual essential oils, each one is composed of different notes. These evaporate at different times, according to their volatility. When several oils are blended together, this creates a complex fragrance that subtly changes as each aromatic particle in its own time releases its fragrance into the atmosphere.

Classic Blends of Essential Oils

A blending is an art and not an exact science, it comes as no surprise to learn that there are differences of opinion as to where on a scale each essential oil belongs. Some are easier to categorize than others; for example, citrus oils are almost always designated as top notes, while patchouli, benzoin and myrrh are usually designated as bottom notes. Below is a short list of blends, using top, middle and base notes, of some commonly used essential oils. These give a few examples of some simple, classic and harmonious blends.

Top Notes: Lemon, Bergamot, Sweet Orange, Eucalyptus and Basil.
Middle Notes: Geranium, Neroli, Lavender, Rosemary and Rosewood.
Base Notes: Cypress, Frankincense, Patchouli, Sandalwood and Myrrh.

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