L’Air du Temps III : anatomy of the fragrance

And what’s wrong with the fragrant pyramids

Russian version - click here

Someone who is interested in perfume can easily notice that the fragrant pyramids from different sources don’t match. An advanced perfume appreciator can notice that he or she can smell the notes that are not mentioned in the pyramids. The explanation is very simple – the fragrant pyramids are nothing more than a fantasy of a perfumer – they never represent the exact formulation. The analyse of the L’Air du Temps structure can be a perfect illustration.

The core of this perfume is an accord between eugenol and benzyl salicylate. Together with Ylang Ylang and iso-eugenol they make a carnation note. Eugenol and iso-eugenol are the components of clove oil and a carnation fragrance as well. Benzyl salicylate is an aromachemical found in nature (for example as part of Tuberose, Jasmine and Hyacinth absolutes, Ylang Ylang and Neroli oils and Apple, Cherry and Raspberry). It has a heavy sweet floral note reminding an Orchid smell. Orris, vanillin and helioptropin are used in trace amounts to support the carnation accord. All together those chemicals are forming a carnation note mentioned in a fragrant pyramid. But you are also right if you smell Clove or Ylang Ylang in L’Air du Temps even if they are not mentioned there.

Another important part of the fragrance is a base note made of methyl ionone, vetiveryl acetate (a vetiver note), sandalwood, musk ketone and musk ambrette. Methyl ionone is a chemical with a fruity and woody iris-violet floral smell. It binds perfectly woody and floral notes and is especially good in combination with Ylang Ylang, Rose and Carnation.

The top notes of L’Air du Temps are made of Bergamot and Rosewood oils. But the last one is not always mentioned in the pyramids. The combination of linalool and linalyl acetate are supporting the top notes. Those chemicals are found in many flower and herbs.

And now the most interesting part – the floral heart. Only one chemical used per flower (well – two for Jasmine).

Lilac – terpeniol;
Rose – phenyl ethyl alcohol;
Gardenia – styrallyl acetate;
Muguet – hydroxicitronellal;
Jasmine – benzyl acetate and amyl cinnamic aldehyde.

To enrich the floral heart the natural absolutes of Rose and Jasmine are added. Neither complex floral bases nor naturals are used for Lilac, Gardenia and Lilly of the valley. Simple accords supported with naturals are used for Rose and Jasmine. No wonder if you never could smell a Gardenia in L’Air du Temps even if it’s mentioned in a pyramid – there is only “one molecule” of it there. This was my important lesson in perfumery – to use the most simple and the most distinctive floral accords in perfumes representing a complex floral bouquet. The complex floral bases are for soliflores.

The formula is simple. Another important ingredient I haven’t mentioned yet is Aldehyde C11. Mix it all together in a good proportion and you get the perfume. If you thought that making of perfume is simple – think of the following. There is something more – each ingredient there has more functions. Only phenyl ethyl alcohol supported with rose absolute is used for a rose. But already mentioned methyl ionone from the base, eugenol from the carnation and woody base are enhancing the rose accord. Ylang Ylang is not only the part of carnation, but also enreaches the Jasmine accord. Orris is mentioned to be a part of carnation also gives an independent iris note in combination with methyl ionone and woods. Aldehyde C11 enhances styrallyl acetate making Gardenia note more prominent in this perfume and phenyl ethyl alcohol used for the Rose may also take part in Gardenia accord. All together it’s really a multidimensional puzzle where each peace is connected with different other pieces. To make a nice picture from those pieces – that is what you need a perfumer for. Sophia Grosjman compares making of perfume with a Rubik’s cube where you can easily match one side, but need a lot of head breaking work to match all of them.

4 opmerkingen:

TheFragrantElf zei

Thank you for this most very interesting and informative review! Reminds me just how much there is to learn about perfume!

AromaX zei

Thanks. I am glad you liked it.

There is always so much to learn in perfumery - so much mystery, secrecy and hard to find information. Sometimes it makes me desperate, but it's also an interesting challenge.

maisqueperfume zei

Dear Aromax,
I heard other explanations for the fact that pyramids sometimes does not really show all the ingredients in the fomulae. One very common is that a perfumer never tell all the ingredients he used, something like "to keep the secret" of it. But that never made any sense, since we have the technology today to make the analysis Second one I have been hearing is that if you overload clients/public with unnecessary information you won't succeed to sell the perfume. So they try to make it simple.
I really prefer your explanation. Sounds way much more reasonable!!
Thank you so much for the information,

AromaX zei

Dear Simone, it's nice to hear that you did enjoy my explanation. Thanks for your compliment.

For me personally the pyramids are too "technical" and "lifeless". Reading today Andy's post made me to think that I'd prefer a more descriptive lively language enriched with nuances. Like for L'Air du Temps you can always say that you've used a single fresh waxy gardenia petal (in fact Styrallyl acetate + ald C11 ;-)). And yes, why keep the secret when any fragrance can be analyzed. Preserving the mystery is a different story to me although ;-).