Essential Oil Notes- What does this mean?

How do you choose which oils to blend together?

essential oil notes

Do you blend your oils to create new and different scent experiences? How do you know which oils to mix and how much? For much of my life I only used one oil at a time in my diffuser. In the past few years I find myself mixing it up a little and tossing a few drops of this with a few drops of that. Most of the time I am happy with the results. But what are the formulas and categories related to aromatherapy and blending your oils?

Essential oils can be categorized in a number of different ways. A few examples of categories are:

  • Effect of oils
  • Scent of oils
  • Notes of oils (their chemical make-up and how fast they evaporate)

It is interesting to note that Valarie Ann Wormwood (a well-known authority on essential oils) has written a book titled “The Fragrant Mind”. Valarie has categorized essential oils with respect to our minds and emotions. She writes about how we can use aromatherapy to feel balanced and/or bring about positive change.

For this article, however, I am going to talk about the Notes of essential oils. EOs were categorized as notes in the 19th century by a man named Piesse in much the same way we think about music. We have top notes, middle notes and base (lower,bass or foundational) notes in both music and essential oils…..imagine that!

Using the labels of top, middle and base notes, we can group essential oils together that have similar release (evaporation) times. This would be the time we can expect to notice a particular scent when using a blend. Perfumers sometimes refer to this type of labeling when referring to their blends.

Generally speaking, to get a well-rounded scent, we should select oils from all three categories and in doing this we are creating an aroma chord (just like three different notes in music create a chord). Cool!  🙂

essential oil notes

It is thought that we should use less of the top and middle notes than the base notes. A very general formula might look like this:

  • Top notes 15 – 25%
  • Middle notes 30 – 40%
  • Base notes 45 – 55%

When I diffuse essential oils, I aim to put 12 drops into my diffuser at a time. So according to this formula, this is what I would do:

  • Top Notes         2-3 drops
  • Middle Notes   3-4 drops
  • Base Notes       5-6 drops

This is a very crude example. Not to mention it isn’t always easy to get exact amounts. Some bottles and brands are easier to pour from than others. But, no big deal, essential oil blending does not have to be precise.

Another thing that is good to know is that some oils can fall into all three categories of notes (top, middle and base) but may be more dominant in just one category. For this reason you may see the same oil listed in more than one category.

But what is the difference between a top note, middle note and a base note? I will describe the basic qualities and characteristics of the three different Notes of essential oils.

It is good to know, however, that there is no hard and steadfast rule when it comes to combining oils…remember, if you like it, it is right!

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Top Notes

Top note essential oils are often the first scent noticed and are uplifting in nature (light and fresh). They can be considered the characteristic feature of a blend. Other characteristics of a top note EO can be:

  • It likely has a sharp/bright smell
  • It does not last long
  • It’s generally inexpensive
  • It generally has anti-viral properties

Essential Oil Top Notes

Middle Notes

It seems the bulk of essential oils are considered middle notes. These oils have a balancing effect and give body to an oil blend as a whole.

One may not notice the scent of the middle notes right away, due to their slower evaporation rate. Typically, the scent of this oil category is warm and soft. It’s been referred to as the “bouquet” or “heart” of the blend.

Essential Oil Middle Notes

Base Notes

Base notes give the blend staying power, which means it influences the lasting effect of the blend. Oils in this category are slow to be noticed but stay present for a long time. Base notes slow down the evaporation of the other oils too!

Other characteristics of base notes are:

  • they are generally intense and heady
  • they are rich and relaxing in nature
  • they are generally more expensive
Essential Oil Base Notes

There are other factors at play ( beyond the notes) when blending oils. For example, some oils are extremely fragrant and overpowering. If you are adding a very strong oil to your blend it is best to add one drop at a time until you find the best combination.

the benefits of lemon essential oil

To see a comprehensive list of essential oils and their categories with respect to their notes click here. I have book marked this one for myself as it will come in quite handy.


In Conclusion

Please know that there are no rights and wrongs to blending oils. If you are blending for yourself then it’s right if you like it! It really does not matter if you have the right formula. Your nose will let you know what is good.

I thought it was interesting to use the analogy of top, middle and base notes in music to the top, middle and base notes of scents. Combining a variety of sounds can be pleasing, just as combining a variety of scents can be pleasing. Sounds logical to me!

If you are not comfortable blending your own oils you can always purchase pre-made blends. These are great too! However, if you are just blending in your diffuser, why not give it a try. You might find a combination you like. It’s fun to be creative with your oils.

Thanks for taking time to stop by the website. I hope everyone is taking steps to stay happy and healthy. One easy step you can take is to start using essential oils in your life. The benefits are wondrous and vast, not to mention fun! Start taking charge of your health today!

Thanks again,

Angela (founder of Your Aromatherapy Store)

Essential oils are very potent. If you are currently taking any prescribed medication speak to your doctor before using essential oils. Some oils are not recommended for children. Some oils are not recommended if you are pregnant or nursing. Essential oils are considered “complementary and alternative medicines” and are not a substitute for professional medical intervention and advice. If you are experiencing severe physical or mental illness contact a medical professional. This information is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.

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6 Replies to “Essential Oil Notes- What does this mean?”

  1. Thank you for sharing this great post:-)

    I love using oils especially when sleeping, I normally use Lavender oil to help with sleeping. I did not know that they had frankincense as an essential oil, do you know if they have Myrhh, I know that this helps you sleep.

    Thank you again for sharing this article, i have booked marked as I will be coming back for sure. Have a great day and all the success and, health and happiness that you desire, take care.

    Kind regards.


    1. Hi Dean,
      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I am glad you liked the article. I use lavender oil quite often as well! It really works well to help me fall asleep. You asked if Myrrh was an essential oil, yes it is on the market!! I hope you have a fantastic day! Angela

  2. Hi Angela. I have used many oils in the past, but have never blended my own before. It is interesting to look at them in terms of notes as you say. This makes it easier for me to understand how the different oils can work together. I guess, like everything, it is just working out the different properties/energies that I wish to use. Experimentation is the key here, and this will be fun now that I have a better idea of how to blend them. Many thanks for the information.
    Kind regards,

    1. Hi Andrew,
      Thanks for commenting. I only started blending my oils a couple of years ago. I have to say it’s been fun trying different combinations. I agree, thinking in terms of of the top, middle and low notes makes blending a little more understandable. Thanks for stopping by.

    1. Hi Amanda,
      I like to use Rosemary, peppermint and lemon. You could diffuse 5-6 drops of rosemary and approximately 3 drops of the lemon and peppermint. There are many choices and lots of oils are known to be energizing. A few other energizing oils are orange, eucalyptus and cinnamon. I hope you find a blend you like!
      Take good care!

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