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Image - a nice hyacinth close-up view from http://commons.wikimedia.org
A Grand Damme asked me if I knew a chemical formula of hyacinth. Her question made me curious and I looked into the wise perfumery books as I found it time to make acquaintance with hyacinth. Its freshly green floral scent is what everyone needs now when spring is on its way. I haven’t complete my jasmine series yet there is no harm to start something new in between.
First of all it was interesting to find out that there is a natural source of hyacinth smell – unlike the lily of the valley, it’s possible to yield a hyacinth absolute by solvent extraction from fresh flowers. Although the pure absolute seem to posses a sharp unpleasant smell that becomes reminiscent of hyacinth only when diluted up to 0.1% and lower. Of course it’s nice to have a bottle of this curiosity for some experiments, but it’s not really easy to get one. Wise books mention Netherlands as one of the important producers of hyacinth absolute (as well as the most important hyacinth bulbs supplier). But I couldn’t find any Dutch supplier by searching for “hyacinth absolute” in goole. I couldn’t find it in assortment of two another reliable foreign suppliers – Liberty and White Lotus. Of course I’ve got some links where I could buy the hyacinth absolute, but adulteration of this product is very common and that is why it’s important to get a reliable supplier. So, if you know one who sells hyacinth absolute for a reasonable price, please, let me know.
According to the wise perfumery books the synthetic hyacinth is one of the easiest formula in perfumery. Technically you get a reminiscent of hyacinth when you mix rose, jasmine, lilac and lily of the valley components with some green notes. That is why I got a hyacinth note in my previous experiment almost automatically. The formula I was working with contained Lyral (lily of the valley), benzyl acetate (jasmine), phenyl ethyl alcohol (rose) and terpineol (lilac) and I mixed it with green notes of leaf alcohol, galbanum and other components.
I’d like to make an important notice here. Although I juxtapose aromachemicals and the floral smells in a previous paragraph to simplify my story, but it doesn’t give a good image of how those aromachemicals really smell. Terpineol doesn’t really smell like lilac flowers, benzyl acetate has a sweet pungent smell reminding of a solvent and phenyl ethyl alcohol smells like a decaying rose petals you’d like to throw away. But still those aromachemicals are the main building blocks for the corresponding floral smells when surrounded properly.
And to make it more complicated and to intricate it all (in the best traditions of perfumery) I should add, that there are eight basic aromachemicals that you can mix together in different proportions to get a skeleton of several different floral formulae. So, by mixing of phenyl ethyl alcohol, hydroxycitronellal, benzyl acetate, hexyl cinnamic aldehyde, citronellol, terpineol and indole you can get either jasmine or rose or lilac or lily of the valley. I think you can even get a rose (especially white rose) if you don’t use too much of benzyl acetate and indole.
The very first main components of hyacinth were bromstyrol and phenylacetic acid. Nowadays the phenylacetic aldehyde is the most important one. Its other name is Hyacinthin for it’s a little sharp green and fresh smell reminding of hyacinth flower. It is used in combination with cinnamic alcohol, benzyl alcohol and terpineol. Styrax, heliotropin and galbanum are used as fixatives. As I already mentioned the synthetic components of jasmine, rose, lilac and lily of the valley also may be used in hyacinth formula as well as natural oils or absolutes of jasmine and rose. One of the favorite naturals used to enrich the hyacinth formula is a precious and expensive narcissus absolute.
In a perfumery book I found two simple formulae of a hyacinth bases suggested to be used in a hyacinth perfume. The bases are simple, but the perfume suggests using amber and musk tinctures together with jonquil (narcissus) absolute. I have ordered the last one together with cetalox – one of the nicest modern amber substitute. Let’s see what I finally get.
By the way – if you have a good picture of hyacinth to illustrate this entry, please, let me know – I’d like to use it instead of a random goolge image.