Aldehydes: What They Are And How They Smell

by Gio

aldehydes perfume

“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.

aldehydic perfumes

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?



Allison April 2, 2015 - 3:21 am

I have heard of aldehydes, but I assumed that all perfumes contained them. I also didn’t know that there were different types/scents of aldehyde. YSL Rive Gauche was one of the first fragrances I wore in HS, I think. And I think I may have worn L’Interdit years ago, too. Yet, I don’t think of those scents as being related in any way. So interesting!

Gio April 3, 2015 - 7:11 pm

Allison, glad you enjoyed it. Aldehydes are so common, yet so misunderstood and little known.I love their smells. They help create some really beautiful scents,. 🙂


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