“Women do not want to smell like a bed of roses!,” Coco Chanel insisted when she commissioned perfumeur Ernest Beaux to create a new, innovative perfume. To capture l’odeur de femme (the scent of a woman) the designer wanted, Beaux decided to use a generous dose of aldehydes. Legend has it he was the first to do so.
He wasn’t. Chanel N°5, when it was released in 1922, made aldehydes famous, but Rêve D’Or (Golden Dream) by Armingeat was the first to make use of them, more than 10 years before. Since then, the popularity of aldehydes hasn’t faded. In fact, it’s almost impossible to find a fragrance that doesn’t contain them.
Aldehydes are organic compounds present in many natural materials, such as rose and orange rind, but they can also be reproduced in a lab. They vary in smell. Most of the aldehyddes with low molecular weight stink (think of rotten fruit), while those with a higher molecular weight have a very pleasant odour.
The type of aldehydes used in perfumery is called aliphatic, or “fatty”. Their scent ranges from soapy to metallic, from waxy to starchy, from green to citrsuy (you know that lemony scent of soaps and detergents? That’s the aldehyde Citral). Some of the most widely used are Vanillin/4- hydroxy-3-methoxy-benzaldehyde, (vanilla-like), Benzaldehyde (almond-like), C7 (has a green, herbaceous scent), 8 (orange-like), C9 (rose-like), and C13 (has a waxy, grapefruit-like scent).
That crisp, soapy, and floral citrusy scent of Chanel N°5 is the result of the combination of three aliphatic aldehydes, C10 (smells like orange rind), C11 (clean, leafy green aroma), and C12 (smells like lilac or violets). Other aldehydic fragrances include Lanvin Arpége, Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, Dior Miss Dior, Guerlain Vol de Nuit, Givenchy L’Interdit, Estee Lauder White Linen, Hermés Amazone, and Le Labo Aldehyde 44.
What are your favourite aldehydic perfumes?