7 successful accords of the olfactory pyramid
Fragrances are leaving creations showing a complex perceptual structure with a spatio-temporal development, which is more than the sum of its components. As in a music composition, fragrance notes follow each other and overlap in accords and discords, while describing a theme that keeps its individuality through several transpositions. Over time, accords and discords blend few single notes in something more, and the most impressive of them outline the fragrance composition.
When creating fragrances, the timing of expression of any single fragrance note is as important as the “character” and the “strength” of the note itself.
That’s why, based on the volatility and, more exactly, the timing of expression when part of a compound, fragrance notes along with related accords or discords (pleasing or jarring combinations of few notes) fall into three layers that are known as “top/head”, “middle/heart” and “base/end” of the fragrance structure.
Top notes are the most “volatile” ones that mark the first fifteen minutes or so of evaporation of a fragrance compound. The middle notes last for several hours. The base notes will persist for days or weeks on a perfumer’s bottlers.
Mentioned layers are generally represented as horizontal sections of a triangle that perfumers refer to as Olfactory Pyramid, and that is a great visual aid to the fragrance description.
Fragrance notes that characterize the top, the middle and the base of the fragrance structure are noted on the olfactory pyramid or by side of the pertinent section. This typical olfactory chart is generally complemented by the mention of main accords and the fragrance family classification. In some cases, icons or small pictures on the pyramid give a visual evidence of primary notes.
The main accord
The main accord of a perfume reveals the theme, or the story the scent is going to tell, and gives the perfume its classification: it can be situated in the top, in the heart or in the base, or it can cross the perfume from the opening all the way down to the base notes.
Some main accords are milestones in Perfumery History, characterizing with their presence hundreds of successful perfumes spanning at least 6 decades.
The best main accords
· Citrus Accord. The citrus accord is fresh, energizing, mood-enhancing. It is a combination of citrus essential oils like lemon, bitter and sweet orange, bergamot, lime, grapefuit, mandarin and others. Citrus is the main theme in classical Colognes and eaux Fraiches, built purposely to lift the mood and offer a splash of vitality. The absence of a heart and base accord shortens their persistency. Citrus essential oils may be complemented with spices, green herbs or florals, to offer a longer impression and interesting side aspects. Dior Eau Sauvage and Eau de Guerlain are among the best examples.
· Floral Accord. Floral accords are the most widely used in perfumery and their variety is virtually endless. They are subdivided into “fresh florals” (combinations of lily-of-the-valley, violet, hyacinth, freesia, lotus, honeysuckle, heliotrope) and “rich florals” (combinations of jasmin, rose, tuberose, lily, neroli, gardenia, orris, etc). The Floral main accord may be introduced by citrus or green notes, complemented with spices and prolonged with woody notes. The star floral accord is considered to be rose/jasmin, a trademark for many masterpieces like Chanel N.5 and Patou Joy.
Sometimes, the main accord is situated in the base but, thanks to wisely selected top and heart notes, it may impart the scent a direction since the beginning.
· Oriental Accord. The oriental accord, with its deep, mystical, intense nuances, is at the very roots of perfumery. It is a combination among woody notes (vetiver, sandalwood, cedarwood, patchouli) and vanilla, often complemented with tonka bean and benzoin. This sumptuous accord may stand alone, but in most cases it is introduced by spicy or citrus notes and a floral heart. Examples may be Guerlain Shalimar and Yves Saint Laurent Opium.
· Woody Accord. A well-balanced and rich woody accord, like an oriental one, might well stand alone, but green, spicy and citrus notes are widely used to extend its majestic dryness up to the top, while florals make a tender heart. It is a combination of woods like sandalwood, patchouli, guaiacwood, vetiver, oud, cistus labdanum, cedarwood, oakmoss or treemoss. Good examples are Hermès Eau des Merveilles and Chanel Égoïste.
· Amber Accord. This accord features a mix of cistus labdanum and vanilla, complemented with spices (cinnamon, nutmeg) and balsamic notes like benzoin, myrrh, Tolu and Peru balsams. Also the amber accord is situated in the base of the scent; to announce its presence perfumers use mainly fruity and floral notes, like in Habit Rouge by Guerlain and Habanita by Molinard.
But the main accord may span the whole fragrance, binding note after note from the opening to the base.
· Chypre Accord. Chypre is a combination of fresh/warm and bright/dark sensations, conveyed by an accord beginning with bergamot, rose, jasmin, patchouli, oakmoss and sometimes cedarwood and ciste labdanum, complemented with green notes on the top, florals in the heart and leather or tobacco in the base. Examples may be Aromatics Elixir by Clinique and Cabochard by Gres.
· Fougère Accord. Fougère main accord is a combination of green, outdoorsy sensations of lavender, hay, thyme, sage, and thicker, darker notes of oakmoss, vanilla and musk. The accord may then be complemented with leather or floral notes. Shulton Old Spices and Drakkar Noir by Guy Laroche are good examples.
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