Top, Middle and Base Note Essential Oils

Did you know that essential oils are categorized as having top, middle and base notes? Their note classification helps us understand how volatile each oil is so we can choose the right oils to create a blend that is harmonious, well balanced and lingers for hours (or even days).

bottles of essential oils with dried flowers on table

When I first started experimenting with creating my own unique essential oil blends, I realized that a lot did NOT work. They either did not smell good or I was not able to smell some of the oils I added. A TOTAL waste. And I hated wasting oils because they are not cheap. Once I learned about the different oil notes, I was able to create my own DIY oil blends that worked SO well together with less wasted oils!

How are essential oil “notes” useful?

A chemist named George William Septimus Piesse invented the concept of “notes” in perfumery which are stilled used today. Because essential oils are made up of numerous different compounds, they have different evaporation rates. This means that some oils will evaporate faster than others. Why is this important? Well if you want to create your own essential oil blends, you want to create one with the best “synergy” so that the fragrance lasts as long as possible. Otherwise you will be wasting your money.

I put together a list of the more popular essential oils below. They are each categorized alphabetically based on their note classification. Keep in mind that some of the oils below can be considered two notes.

essential oils in clear bottles

Top Note Essential Oils

Top note oils are the most volatile meaning they evaporate the quickest. They also happen to have anti-viral properties. They are usually light aromas that are uplifting and are usually the least expensive.

  • Anise
  • Basil
  • Balsam
  • Bay Laurel
  • Bergamot
  • Cinnamon
  • Clary Sage
  • Coriander
  • Eucalyptus
  • Grapefruit
  • Hyssop
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Lemongrass
  • Lime
  • Mandarin
  • Neroli
  • Niaouli
  • Orange
  • Peppermint
  • Rosewood
  • Sage
  • Spearmint
  • Tangerine
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme
  • Verbena

Middle Note Essential Oils

Middle note oils, also known as “heart notes”, are like the middle-man who helps the top oils and base oils come together nicely. They make up a majority of the oils. They last longer than top notes but not as long as base notes. They are typically extracted from spices and herbs.

  • Black Pepper
  • Cardamom
  • Chamomile
  • Cinnamon
  • Citronella
  • Clary Sage
  • Clove
  • Cypress
  • Fennel
  • Geranium
  • Helichrysum
  • Ho Wood
  • Hyssop
  • Jasmine
  • Juniper
  • Lavender
  • Marjoram
  • Melissa
  • Myrtle
  • Nutmeg
  • Parsley
  • Pine
  • Rosemary
  • Rosewood
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme
  • Violet leaf
  • Yarrow
  • Ylang Ylang

Base Note Essential Oils

Base note oils create the full body of the fragrance. They are heavier oils which evaporate the slowest. They are usually more expensive and are extracted from trees, bark or roots. Base note oils are meant to ground you and provide a lasting impression.

  • Balsam Peru
  • Cassia
  • Cedarwood
  • Cinnamon
  • Copaiba
  • Frankincense
  • Ginger
  • Jasmine
  • Myrrh
  • Oakmoss
  • Patchouli
  • Peppermint
  • Rose
  • Rosewood
  • Sandalwood
  • Turmeric
  • Valerian
  • Vanilla
  • Vetiver
  • Ylang Ylang

Creating a balanced blend of Fragrance notes

infographic listing essential oil top, middle and base notes

If you are reading this because you want some help creating your own oil blends that “work”, here are some things to keep in mind before blending your oils:

  • What is the note of each oil?
  • What are the aroma profiles of each oil?
  • What’s the purpose of each individual oil in your blend?
  • What is the blend going to be used for?
  • Will the oils will be exposed to sunlight?
  • Does the oil contains esters?

Try not to overpower your blend! It is also recommended to use less top note/middle note oils than base note oils. Choosing a woody base note, a floral middle note and a citrusy top note will result in the most successful blends. Ideally you want to aim for 2 top note oils, 2 middle note oils and 1 base note oil. which is five total oils. A popular blending ratio is 3:5:2 which is 3 parts top note, 5 parts middle and 2 parts base note oils. You should not need more than six different essential oils in one blend. Sometimes just two oil blends are the best!

Here are some of the most popular top note oils: eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint, sweet orange, lavender, pink grapefruit, basil, bergamot, and clary sage.

Some of the more popular middle note oils are: Roman chamomile, geranium, lavender and rosemary, black pepper, eucalyptus, rose absolute, ylang ylang, tea tree, clove, and cinnamon.

The most popular base note oils are: cedarwood, jasmine, patchouli, myrrh, frankincense, vetiver, and vanilla oleoresin.

white essential oil bottle with flowers in the background

Final notes on “Essential oil notes”

Don’t let this overwhelm or intimidate you! It is just a recommendation and should be simply looked at as a recipe guide. My suggestion is to start with a 1:1:1 ratio. Use a perfume strip or cotton ball to add your blend to it after you add each drop and take a whiff. Add more of what you think it needs. Have fun with your oils and don’t forget to write down everything! 🙂

Check out how to create the perfect roller ball blend!

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