Scented Advent, December 4

Scented Advent, December 4

Day 4’s Advent SOTD is an odd one: it is Monoscent G, from A Lab On Fire. It is literally a wearable version of a synthetic scent molecule, Galaxolide S, in a denatured alcohol solution. A Lab On Fire first launched it as a stand-alone fragrance in 2015 or 2016, then re-launched it in 2019 with different packaging and in a larger size. Galaxolide S is an IFF “captive molecule”, i.e. IFF created it and owns the rights to it (as well as the original Galaxolide). I really can’t explain it any better than A Lab On Fire‘s website:

The original Galaxolide® was discovered by IFF’s Dr. Beets in 1957. Trying to simulate the odor of Nitro-musks it took many years of research to get from an idea to a commercial ingredient. The resulting Galaxolide® proved to be an outstanding musk with a very good price performance ratio.

The 1990s launch of Trésor, which marked a turning point for the personalization of perfume, kickstarted galaxolide’s worldwide success.

Introduced internally at IFF in 2007, the Galaxolide S molecule is an evolution the long-lasting and clean properties that made the original the most popular fragrance in the world. It boosts product quality by offering tremendous performance in all categories. Particularly in fragrance, it is able to fill out fragrances.

Interestingly, Fragrantica quotes a study as saying that about 3 in 10 people are anosmic to this molecule, i.e. they can’t smell it. I’m not one of those people, I can smell it on my wrist. Apparently it is used to add “bloom, lift, and longevity” to a wide range of fragrance accords.

I’m actually quite happy to try a sample of this, because I’ve been somewhat curious about these so-called molecular scents, but I’m afraid I don’t really get it. I’ll have to wave my wrist around my husband’s nose to see if 1) he can smell it, and 2) he perceives it as an appealing scent. I may also try layering it with something else, maybe one of the light Zara Emotions line, to see if it has any effect.

Have you tried any of the scents that are basically a captive molecule in solution? What do you think of them?

Molecular structure of IFF molecule Galaxolide
Galaxolide molecule, by IFF; image from
May Muguet Marathon: Sense of Smell

May Muguet Marathon: Sense of Smell

This week, the New York Times printed an article called: “You Will Never Smell My World the Way I Do”.  It opens with this statement:

The scent of lily of the valley cannot be easily bottled. For decades companies that make soap, lotions and perfumes have relied on a chemical called bourgeonal to imbue their products with the sweet smell of the little white flowers. A tiny drop can be extraordinarily intense.

If you can smell it at all, that is. For a small percentage of people, it fails to register as anything.

The article is about a newly published research study that confirms what many of us know, i.e. that different people perceive different scents in different ways, and also identifies one reason why that is: our genetic make-up, specifically a single genetic mutation, in many instances. This is a scientific breakthrough, one that the researchers themselves did not expect, according to the New York Times:

The work provides new evidence of how extraordinarily different one person’s “smellscape” may be from another’s. It’s not that some people are generally better smellers, like someone else may have better eyesight, it’s that any one person might experience certain scents more intensely than their peers

“We’re all smelling things a little bit differently,” said Steven Munger, director of The Center for Smell and Taste at the University of Florida, who was not involved in the study.

The scientists who conducted the study looked for patterns in subjects’ genetic code that could explain these olfactory differences. They were surprised to find that a single genetic mutation was linked to differences in perception of the lily of the valley scent, beet’s earthiness, the intensity of whiskey’s smokiness along with dozens of other scents.

Fascinating! And now we know why one person’s Diorissimo is another person’s cat pee. This is also why there is no point in arguing with another perfumista about what they smell in your favorite fragrances; it may very well be entirely, and legitimately, different from what you smell.

Bourgeonal is not the only option available to perfumers and noses, however. It is only one of many “muguet” fragrance molecules, which have to be created synthetically because it isn’t possible to extract fragrant essences from lilies of the valley the way one can with flowers like roses and lavender. Other synthetic molecules used to create a “muguet” scent include: hydroxyc­itronellal, Lilial, Lyral, Cyclosal, Heliopro­panal, and a relatively new introduction from Symrise, Lilybelle. For an in-depth professional article by a Firmenich chemist on the evolution of muguet fragrances, go here: Beyond Muguet. Chemist Mat Yudov also wrote a terrific article about the chemistry of muguet fragrances two years ago on Fragrantica: May Greetings: New Lily of the Valley Aromachemicals.

I’m glad to know that there is a new generation of aromachemicals available to support one of my favorite notes in fragrance, regardless of IFRA restrictions. Bravo, chemists! Do you have any fragrance notes that you know you simply don’t smell? Has your perception of any perfume been affected by that?

Featured image from Fragrantica.