The Top Notes: Will They Behave?

It’s one thing to make a satisfying combination of top notes, but it is far trickier to coordinate it with the underlying facets in a perfume.

After working on a top note combination of grapefruit and pink peppercorn essential oils, I added aldehyde C-11 enic. for sparkle and edge. Koavone and spices brought complexity and intensity. The top notes smelled good together. I was encouraged.

The next day, my carefully composed top-note combination just smells like grapefruit. I added more of the other stuff until the grapefruit receded. I then added a small amount to the heart/base combination and was surprised that the top note aromas became subtler and integrated with the whole. The grapefruit gives a freshness to the opening, but is barely recognizable as grapefruit—the kind of effect I was looking for. The top notes have brought the heart and base more to the forefront. The top note accord gives the perfume vibrancy, freshness, and a new greenness.

Suddenly, a tiny citrus sparkle seemed like a good idea.

Lemon is unstable and I don’t like lemon chemicals like citral and limonene. I decided to use litsea cubeba, which smells strongly of lemon and is a tad cleaner. The stuff is strong, so I worked with a 1% solution instead of the usual 10%. A few drops of this 1% solution to the remaining top-note mixture was about right. I added this to the base/heart complex, and it indeed provided a miniscule twinkle.

It seems I might be onto something.

Since the perfume and I need a break from one another (my nose is tired and the perfume needs to “marry”), it now sits overnight. I’ll let it sit a week or so and readjust again as it’s sure to change. After a month, I’ll re-adjust one more time and let the perfume do what it’s going to do.

Time usually makes perfume better, but one can never be sure.