A few weeks ago, I learned that a top wholesaler of the most exquisite collection of perfumer grade essential oils and resins, White Lotus Aromatics, would be closing their business. The owners, a husband and wife two-person operation, had decided to retire. They shared that within hours of their announcement, they had sold out of 50 different essential oils, and within three days, had received over 175 orders from their clients, including Anu Essentials. Business closings like this have sent many a perfumer in a tailspin, yours truly included. Yet, this is both the challenge and the beauty of working with natural essences. Sources may change unexpectedly, and this is why the exact scent of perfume can evolve over time. Where it may once have featured jasmine from Egypt, it now smells of its Moroccan cousin.
To that end, I have been ordering essential oil samples from other companies to compare similar essences, for instance, how bergamot from company A differs from bergamot from company B and C, and so on. Actually, how these essences smell initially and how they smell after 15 minutes on a scent strip, or 30 minutes later, three hours later, and finally what the final “dry-down” reveals, is the true story of an essence. The first whiff can be very deceiving since it quickly dissipates and only tells the first part of the story. How then, is your favorite scent “constructed” to end up with its signature profile?
The process typically includes 3 layers. First, the top notes are ethereal, often made of herbs, spices, and citruses. They are the first thing you smell in a perfume, and the first essence to vanish. That is why alcohol and perfumes are often referred to as spirits.
Then, middle notes, also known as the heart-notes, are mostly from flowers and are typically the sweet spot, bridging between top notes and base notes. Middle notes are the most expensive ingredients in natural perfumes (synthetic versions of any essence can be made for pennies on the dollar). From rose to frangipani, to lotus and jasmine, these are the notes that make our hearts sing. They can last on a scent strip anywhere from hours to days.
Lastly, base notes, made mostly of tree resins, roots, grasses, tree needles, and barks, are the last thing you smell as a perfume disappears. They are the essences that give perfume its lasting power and can be evident on a scent-strip from days to a week or more, depending on the essence. Therefore, how long it lasts determines where a particular note belongs on the scale, i.e., a top, middle, or base note. Comparing notes is part of the process, and I dare say a most enjoyable part of creating perfumes. For a small investment, you can order samples of Anu Essentials perfumes and do your own testing to see what lasting notes float your boat.