What Is Sillage & Other Fragrance Terms Explained
When looking further into perfumes, you may be overwhelmed with a bunch of words that you don’t understand.
Longevity? Sillage? Base notes?
What do these words mean precisely?
In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the most commonly used words and terminology used by perfume enthusiasts and explain them.
Sillage & Projection
The word Sillage originally comes from the French and means “wake” or “trail”. It is pronounced “siːˈjɑːʒ”, and it has picked up popularity thanks to fashion publications and perfume enthusiasts which use it to compare and contrast different perfume types.
Sillage is the scent trail left by someone wearing perfume after they walk by. Sillage gets very often confused with "Projection". Sillage is measured when a perfume wearer is moving, whereas projection is measured when a perfume wearer is stationary.
Accordingly, it is possible that a fragrance that projects well can have weak sillage, and vice versa.
Fragrances which have a minimal sillage are often said to "stay close to the skin".
Projection is about how far a fragrance travels from your skin.
If a perfume projects well it could be smelled within arm's length.
In contrast, a fragrance with a poor projection can only be smelled at a short distance of a few centimetres.
A note is an aromatic ingredient in a perfume. For example, a perfume may contain the ingredient or ‘note’ of ‘lemons’.
Tones are the accents or flavours a perfume gives off. Where notes are the overall personality of a fragrance, tones are the subtle, underlying scents that together blend into a single note.
Top, Middle & Base Notes
Notes are the different kind of scents a perfume gives off. Almost all fragrances have three types of notes: head (also called top notes), heart (middle) and base notes. Headnotes are the initial scents of perfume. Commonly they last for about five to 10 minutes. Heartnotes or middle notes are fuller and more abundant than the headnotes, and they last for around 20 minutes up to an hour.
Heart notes help to transition a perfume's scents into its final fragrance phase the base. The base is the main body of the scent and appears once the notes are fully set. It concludes the fragrance and can last for hours.
A perfume pyramid is the complete list of different notes that are used in a fragrance, sorted into their respective ‘base’, ‘middle’ and ‘heart’ categories. In short, the top note is the first impression of perfumes. The top note has the shortest life of all the three notes.
The middle note is the heart and character of a fragrance. The base note gives body and longevity to a perfume.
Performance & Longevity
Performance, or longevity, is about the time a fragrance lasts and projects from the skin. The performance of a perfume can be anywhere from 30 minutes, to 12 and more hours.
The dry down of a perfume is the ‘final phase’ of a fragrance's development.
It is the time when the fragrance has literally ‘dried down’, and is no longer fresh or developing, and this usually the most prolonged phase in a perfume.
The dry down occurs in the base note of a fragrance. By the settling down and mixing a fragrance with a person’s natural oils every perfume has a different dry down on each person.
Therefore it means that a perfume that smells great on one person might smell different on another. It is the longest-lasting part of a perfume’s scent life.
The depth defines the capability to hold the tones during all the three phases of a fragrance. A great depth shows that the scent is of a higher quality. Although a perfume with a good depth usually has a higher price, it will require fewer sprays and carries a stronger smell for its entire application life.
A blind buy is a perfume you purchase before you have smelled it.
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