by Elena Vosnaki
Top notes of honey flower and solar musk. Heart notes of Osmanthus and Amberlyn. Base notes of tactile woods and vetiver. Does this random perfume notes list, replete with sensuous innuendo, make absolutely no sense to you? It might be unicorn tears and rainbow ends for all you know! Likewise, in front of an aromatic stanza, we're often at a loss to accurately describe what we smell to another.
The Situation: Introduction to Confusion
Consider flipping through a fashion magazine for a minute: Sandwiched between glossy pages of advertising with models in ecstatic surrender to the sheer beauty of any given potion of seduction, you will find editorial guides that teach you that fragrances are classified in olfactory "families" and that they develop like music "chords" into top notes, heart notes and base notes, built into a "fragrance pyramid": maximum volatility* ingredients first; medium-diffusion materials following them after the intial impression vanishes; tenacious, clinging for dear life materials last. That should make it easier, right? Well, not exactly.