When talking about the structure of perfume, one mostly uses pyramidal visualization that serves to tell what the perfume is made of and what can we expect from it. Namely, the very top of the pyramid, the so-called top notes, are those parts of perfume that have the highest degree of volatility, ie the rate of evaporation. This is followed by the middle section of the pyramid, the so-called middle or heart notes and at the very end, what makes the perfume what it is, are the base or bottom notes. They are the ones that last the longest, whose evaporation is the slowest and which fixes the perfume on the skin.

Just like, according to Freud’s theory, each person possesses levels, ie instances of personality, in the perfume world, they are divided into three. Although each of these personality units has its characteristics, modes of functioning, dynamism, and mechanisms, they are so intertwined, co-dependent and related, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to measure their effects in all human behavior. The same is true of perfume, although, in principle, the base, middle and upper notes can be separated, they are in such close co-operation that it is impossible to measure the exact contribution of each part of the perfume to the overall image of the perfume.

perfume structure


The id is the basic component of personality and following the metaphor, it is matched by the perfume base. The id is made up of all those biologically inherited, blood coursing stuff and instincts. Just like id, the base of the perfume is made up of dark, heavy fragrant notes, sometimes animal, like human instincts (civet, musk, ambergris), sometimes erotic (vanilla, patchouli), but they form the basis of every perfume, just as id forms the basis the human psyche. These are the forces that are restrained and directed, sublimated by other instances of personality, while in the base of perfume, they restrained and directed by the middle and upper notes, while base notes, in turn, give them energy and strength.

Because the base notes are very unpleasant and aggressive at first (just like the impulses from Id), perfumers have found a way to conceal those dark, animated notes with light citrus notes that last just enough to bridge that unpleasant schism.

A personality system that fits in with bright, top notes is super-ego. It is the inner representative of our ideal values, and its peculiarity is the pursuit of perfection. The main function of the superego is to block the unpleasant urges from the id, just as the main function of the top notes is to block the unpleasant odors of the base notes.

The third instance of personality is Ego, and it fits the middle, heart notes of perfume. Just as Ego, within the personality assembly, mediate between the id and the Superego, so do the middle notes (mostly floral) mediate between the top and base notes. The ego is guided by the principle of reality, as are the middle notes of perfume. Between the lower notes that have a too strong desire, which is synonymous with desires and the perfect, beautiful upper notes, the middle notes are those that make the perfume realistic, usable, meaningful in the context of objective reality.

So, to summarize. Id gives energy and strength to the personality, just like the base notes do for perfume. Superego beautifies, like the top notes concerning the overall image of the perfume, and Ego mediates between the id and the superego, just as the middle notes do the mediation (modification) between the top and the base notes.

And how all this correlates with how we choose perfumes, having in mind what part of our psyche is the most dominant one? Well, people that have a highly developed superego will choose perfumes that are ”clean”, ”pure”, and will naturally gravitate toward those perfumes that are mainly citrusy, aldehydic, fresh green. As opposed to them, people with unbridled id, that are mainly driven by instincts and needs will choose animalic, aphrodisiac perfumes rich in animal notes, vanilla, amber, etc. Those with firm ego, that tends to balance messages from both id and superego will choose perfumes where middle, moderating notes are most dominant like flowers and spices. Of course, we gravitate towards things that are similar to us, but we are intrigued with the opposites, so someone who is overwhelmed with strong desires and primal pulsions will often sense a need for purification, detoxication, and relaxation from them in form of some nice, easy to wear crispy cologne.

In the next part of the Perfume psychology, we’ll talk about personality types and, according to them, perfume types.

The Introduction to Perfume psychology can be read HERE, and the first chapter HERE.