Understanding Fragrance Notes and Strengths in Cologne

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When the average buyer tests a cologne, they will probably spray it onto their wrist, give it a sniff, and make their decision within a few seconds. What many do not realize is that fragrances are more complex than they appear and will be affected by a range of environmental factors as well as the amount of time they are given to develop.

There are, however, some simple guidelines to follow that can help you navigate the world of fragrance and see beyond the branding.

Whether you are buying for yourself or someone else, this article explains fragrance notes and the different categories of cologne strength to help you make an informed choice.

What are fragrance notes?

Fragrances, including perfumes and colognes, are made up of three layers: top notes (sometimes called headnotes), middle notes (sometimes called heart notes), and base notes.

Top notes are the scents you will experience as soon as the fragrance leaves the bottle, but although first impressions are important, due to their small molecular structure, they do not last for more than 15 minutes.

Gradually, the next layer of heart or middle notes comes to the forefront. Heart notes account for over two-thirds of a scent’s composition, which is why they last much longer but may not be as impactful as the initial top notes.

The base notes come last of all but provide a depth to the fragrance that strengthens the heart notes. Base notes absorb into the skin and so last for hours after application.

Understanding fragrance strengths

In addition to understanding the notes of a fragrance, it is important to check the strength of a product before you buy. This is particularly relevant if buying wholesale mens fragrances online, as you may not have the opportunity to test the fragrance before buying.

Fragrances are categorized according to how much oil is held in the ethanol, as this will determine how long a fragrance is likely to last. The strength will usually be displayed on the bottle or in the product description if you are ordering from an online seller.

Here is a summary to help you understand fragrance strengths.

  • Perfume and extrait de parfum usually include between 20 and 40% perfume oil, which makes it the strongest, longer lasting, and therefore often the most expensive, as a little goes a long way. These fragrances often have fewer top notes and tend to contain higher-quality ingredients.
  • Eau de parfum is typically 10 to 20% perfume oil to alcohol. This type of fragrance should make a big first impression as it is rich with top notes but also contains plenty of base notes to help the scent last for up to 8 hours.
  • Eau de toilette contains around 5 to 15% oil to alcohol and/or water. These lighter fragrances may only last a couple of hours as they are primarily made of top notes without much depth.
  • Eau de cologne is an even lighter fragrance with just 2 to 4% oil in alcohol and/or water. These fragrances are often light and full of citrus, intended to refresh your scent every couple of hours.
  • Eau fraiche is the lightest concentration with between 1 and 3% perfume oil. This provides more of a general mist around the wearer and is more for their benefit than anyone around them.