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Head, Heart & Base

Each Penhaligon’s fragrance is unique. Constructed from a blend of the highest quality natural sources and the latest technologies in fragrance chemistry.

Each scent goes onto the skin, interacting with heat and personal chemistry, creating a perfect marriage of fragrance notes and wearer. Fragrance notes develop with the evaporation of the perfume. Thermal motion, ie: skin heat, causes the scent molecules to move and evaporate, creating the effect of ‘scent’.

Penhaligon’s fragrances are designed in specific strengths - colognes, eau de toilettes and eau de parfums. These different descriptions apply to the percentages of ingredients to alcohol ratio. Customers can often get confused by these different strengths. Indeed they can vary from fragrance house to fragrance house but are designed to give an indication to how long the scent will last on the skin. Typically, colognes and eau de toilettes are constructed around the head and heart notes, whereas eau de parfums and parfum extraits are centered on the heart and base notes. Some of our colognes are surprisingly robust & rely on deep base notes to maintain their staying power. Some of our eau de parfums seem light and fleeting, but settle into spicy depth after 20-30 minutes on the skin.


Most fragrances are traditionally built around a classic triangular structure with head, heart and base notes.


Head notes

Head notes are generally smaller, lighter molecules which dazzle and invigorate. They form the initial impression of a fragrance, drawing us in. They are vital, setting the scene, catching the nose. They are usually fresh citrus or green notes. They can include lemon, lime, neroli, bergamot, grapefruit and fresher herbaceous notes like lavender, thyme & basil.


Heart notes

The heart notes follow on, often defining the scent. Many of our floral scents have their eponymous notes at the heart such as rose, violet and gardenia. Molecules of heart notes tend to be larger and smoother and can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour to develop. Sometimes they blend with the lighter head notes to usher in the complex base notes to come. They can include different ingredients including flowers, spices, woods, resins and grasses.


Base notes

Base notes have the largest, heaviest molecules. They lend solidity, depth and resonance to fragrance. They are the notes that many clients are attracted to, such as woods, resins, oakmoss, vanilla, amber and musks. They evaporate more slowly, generally appearing 30 minutes after application.

This journey to drydown is one of the great joys of perfumery. The initial whiff of fresh and floral notes, into something warmer and sweeter, down through a stable heart to the drydown.

It is important to understand the way in which scent molecules develop on the skin. This is why we take time to understand the notes and structures of each fragrance. This information is invaluable and will help our fragrance consultants find a Penhaligon’s scent that suits a particular customer.

Fresh and floral notes, something warmer and sweeter, down through a stable heart to the drydown