Fragrance is a key part of the experience when using a shaving soap. You want yours to stand out with a full range of complementary scents. But how do you choose essential oils that will blend nicely without muddling together?
There are two important concepts when it comes to understanding shaving soap fragrances: the idea of base, middle/heart, and top notes, and the fragrance wheel, which helps us to group fragrances.
If you’re familiar with cologne or other perfumery applications – even wine or whiskey – you will have heard of base/middle/top notes. But what do they actually mean?
Base, Middle, and Top Notes
The base notes of a fragrance sit on the ‘bottom’ of the scent. They might not be apparent when you first apply a fragrance, but throughout the day they become more prominent.
They tend to evaporate slowly, so they will stick around for a long time – usually most of the day.
Base notes tend to be woody or earthy scents.
Examples: Sandalwood, vanilla, patchouli
Middle notes are well-rounded fragrances that appear between a few minutes and 1-2 hours after application.
Middle notes will become prominent as top notes evaporate, and subsequently evaporate to unveil the base notes underneath.
They tend to evaporate a little faster, so they will disappear after a few hours.
Middle notes tend to be floral, fruity, or spicy.
Examples: Lavender, lemongrass, nutmeg
The top notes sit at the top of the scent. They’re most prominent when you first apply the fragrance, but evaporate faster than middle or base notes.
Top notes tend to be ‘light’ and instantly recognizable. Citrus and herbal notes are common here.
Examples: Eucalyptus, lime, bergamot
The Fragrance Wheel
OK, so it’s all well and good knowing how different essential oils will appear and disappear over time – but how do you choose which ones to actually blend?
If you’re not used to picturing multiple scents or flavors together, this can be the most intimidating and seemingly mysterious question about making shaving soap.
But, don’t worry! Lots of smart people have figured this sort of thing out long before we wondered about it.
One of those smart people is Michael Edwards. Michael created a new classification system for elements of fragrances that splits them into 11 categories:
You can check out the fragrance wheel here.
Your Shaving Soap Fragrance
Although it’s kind of subjective where some scents fit on the fragrance wheel or if they are closer to a top, middle, or base note, this information should give you more than enough to start thinking about blending fragrances.
A good starting place for blending your own custom fragrances might be to pick a few scent families (for example, woody and floral oriental), and then try to ensure you have at least one base, middle, and top note.
While you want to blend fragrances that make sense together or conform to a ‘theme’, you also want to have a fragrance that will evolve over time. A complex fragrance, if successfully executed, will be a lot more enjoyable than 4 citrus scents muddled together.
I hope this post has got you thinking about different fragrance combinations you could try. This is definitely one of the more creative aspects of soap making, and it certainly requires some finesse.
Do you have questions, comments, or a cool new idea for a shaving soap fragrance? Share them in the comments!