A note is perfumery parlance for a scent. Perfumers use notes as musical composers do, building and layering them for an overall pleasing effect. As in music, some fragrance notes are light and lilting; others are heavier and resonate longer. The order in which notes are released is an important consideration in formulating perfumes.
Top notes, or head notes, are the first to greet your nose. They smell fresh, fruity and slightly sweet. They also evaporate first, so their impact is fleeting. Some disappear after 10 minutes. Lemon, apple, melon, and berry are popular head notes, with the occasional "sea breeze" or "ocean air."
As top notes fade, middle notes become prominent. Middle notes, also called heart notes, are richer and longer lasting. They include pleasantly pungent herbs and spices such as rosemary, nutmeg and cardamom, as well as headier florals like jasmine and gardenia.
Middle notes take center stage for about one hour, then blend with bottom, or base notes. Base notes are the most dramatic and longest lasting. They carry the perfume for up to four hours. Notes like cedar, pine and musk are called woodsy. Patchouli, frankincense and vanilla are termed orientals for evoking Asia and the Middle East.
Most perfumes include all three ranges of notes, but some favor the lower end of the spectrum. Research perfumes online. Check the list of fragrance notes or descriptors such as smoky or mellow. Experiment to find those you enjoy and that smell good on you.