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A Few Notes on Aromas

Hand using glass droppre to blend essential oils into tiny bottle on a counter with essential oils and dried herbs

Aroma, odor, fragrance ... scents surround us everyday, everywhere. But, how do we describe them?

Our sense of smell is one of the most subjective senses we have. We associate odors with our feelings and memories, which complicates describing them even more. There is a scientific language to describing aroma that follows some simple guidelines related to music and the notes of a chord - which, interestingly enough, we also tend to associate with our feelings and memories.

The best way to experience all of the notes of a blend or oil is to place one or two drops on a perfume blotter or cotton ball and inhale. Take care not to touch the oil to your nose. I have on too many occasions accidentally hit my nose with a blend and had to walk away from what I was doing until later.

Peppermint, eucalyptus, and sweet orange essential oil bottles next to each other standing upright

What are Top Notes? 

Top notes are the first impression of an aroma. They are usually light and sharp, and evaporate quickly, sometimes within 5 - 10 minutes. Sniff your blotter right away to pick up on the top notes. Some essential oils that are considered top notes are: citrus oils (orange, lemon, grapefruit), neroli, peppermint, and eucalyptus.

What are Middle Notes? 

The next aroma that you will experience is the middle note or the body of the oil/blend. These notes are the main part of the aroma and may last up to 2 hours. Some popular middle note essential oils are clary sage, geranium, tea tree, and juniper.

What are Base Notes? 

The final note to an aroma is the base note. Sometimes referred to as the dry out note, fixative note, or bottom of the aroma. These will start to appear within a couple of hours of putting the oil/blend on the blotter, and can sometimes last for up to a day. Some classic base notes come from vetiver, cedarwood, patchouli, and ylang ylang.

Every aroma combination or single essential oil has elements of all three notes (top, middle, and base). A particular oil may be classified as a top note, but will still contain some characteristics of the other two, all working together in harmony. Hopefully, this information helps to make their complex beauty a bit easier to find and to understand.


Want to learn more about essential oil blending? 

Check Out Our Essential Oil Blending Tips

 .5 oz and 1 oz. essential oils laying out on a granite pallette with  lavender and droppers

Topics: Aromatherapy, Natural Body Care, Recipes


Written by Christine on August 4, 2012

As Products Manager, Christine Rice has been working with the botanical goodies at Mountain Rose Herbs for over 14 years. With a Certificate in Aromatherapy from The American College of Healthcare Sciences, she works closely with the essential oils and hydrosols that we offer. She connects with the aromatherapy industry through our National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy business membership and contributes on working committees with The American Herbal Products Association. In addition to her love for aromatics and blending essential oils, Christine can be found gardening and exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She enjoys canning and preserving food, knitting when she has time, and keeps busy with her energetic daughter.

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