Essential Oils from Mother Nature's Goodies
Perfumery Notes in Aromatherapy
Blending oils for aromatherapy is rather like writing music – nobody wants all treble or all base, instead you need a good mix across all the notes from top to bottom. In aromatherapy each essential oil is considered to have a ‘note’ ranging from Top, through Middle and right down to Base. A good blend is harmonious, balanced and well rounded, with oils from every part of the ‘scale’.
Top Notes – are highly volatile oils, meaning they vaporise quickly, with very little heat. They are the first aroma we smell from the blend, and what you are mainly smelling if you sniff from the bottle. They tend to be light, sharp and fresh and they dissipate quickly. They mainly include the citrus and camphoraceous oils.
Middle Notes – follow on from the top notes and lead into the base notes and are the core of creating harmony within the blend. Their aroma lasts longer than the top notes and this will be the main aroma within the blend. These mainly consist of the herbal, wood and floral families of oils.
Base Notes – are rich, deep and heavy. They take much longer to vaporise and need more heat to do so. Their purpose is to bring depth to the blend, but also to ‘fix’ the lighter oils which holds the blend together and makes it longer lasting. These tend to be from those oils extracted from resins.
Whilst each oil will fit mainly into one of these three categories, it will contain within it different notes which is why its smell changes over time. For a beginner this is easiest to notice with the base notes which change more slowly. When several oils are blended together, this creates a highly complex aroma that subtly changes as each part of the oil is released. This can also change when the oils are added to a base product which will change the dissipation of the oils.
Some oils are easy to categorize and fit neatly into one of the three notes, for example Myrrh is a very definite base note, while the citrus oils can be confidently labelled as top notes. For others the line is more blurred and you will learn them best through your own experience and by paying attention to each new batch of the same oil which may have slightly different properties than the last, depending on here and when it was grown.
Remember that blending essential oils is as much an art as it is a science – the best way to learn is to try things out, and remember to always test your oils and blends using a smelling strip (a piece of blotting paper works just fine!), rather than smelling direct from the bottle which will not give a true measure of its character.
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