Radiant Aldehydes. Your presence in a fragrance is like bottling the sun in the flask. You illuminate the other essences from your bright energy and make them shine. You are the smell of a citrus orchard in summer, fresh linen, a hot terrace of Andalusia, a dry and stony trail in an olive grove in Tuscany.
The German scientist Justus von Liebig, considered the founder of organic chemistry, coined the name aldehyde in 1835, from the nature of the compound he discovered in the process of oxidizing ethanol: dehydrogenated alcohol. Aldehydes are in fact a wide family of molecules with different characteristics and uses, and different smells as well.
Most natural essential oils contain aldehydes, and well-known components such as vanillin, the main note of vanilla, is actually an aldehyde. In perfumery, the bright aldehydic notes are created by aliphatic – also commonly called “fatty” – aldehydes. These molecules are long carbon chains terminated by the aldehyde group.
Chemists later found that by adding a methyl group in the chain, the molecules were smelling stronger, nicer and less fatty. The most common aldehydes used in perfumery today are known by the length of their carbon chain and simply coded as C9 (i.e. for a chain with 9 carbon atoms), C10, C11, and C12.
The very first commercial fragrance to use aliphatic aldehydes is Floramye from the renown house of L.T. Piver, created by the nose Pierre Armingeant. Chanel No.5 is however the one that propelled the magic molecules in front of the scene. Coco Chanel declared that “Women do not want to smell like a bed of roses” and commissioned Ernest Beaux, another famous french nose, to create something unique, at her image.
Beaux formulated a batch of samples for Coco, all identified by a number. She chose the sample number 5, because of its attractive aldehydic smell and also because 5 was her lucky number, the story says. Chanel No.5 was born in 1922 and entered quickly in the pantheon of cult fragrances. It is still a best-seller for Chanel today. Chanel No.5 contains not one, but a “bouquet” of aliphatic aldehydes: C10, C11 and C12, each with a distinct aromatic spectrum.
Other remarkable classic fragrances with a high content in aldehydes are Dune from Christian Dior, Arpège de Lanvin, Rive Gauche from Yves Saint Laurent, L’Interdit de Givenchy, and many more. These fragrances would probably not have passed the test of time without the sunny note of their aldehydes.
Niche fragrances are perhaps more modest in their use of aldehydes, as the quality of natural essences is high and does not always requires such solar enhancers. Try Laine de Verre (glass wool) from Serge Lutens, an original citrus-musky fragrance that uses aldehydes to give some shadow to the synthetic and woody cashmerean molecule.
Vraie Blonde, from Etat Libre d’Orange is combining a champagne note with aldehydes and peach, in a very sparkling night-club fragrance.
I might be suspected to be favoring Andy in my posts, but besides his No.14 Noontide Petals, from Tauer Perfumes, blending powerful aldehydes with Bergamot and Bourbon geranium in a subtle feminine blend, very few other of my favorite art perfumers seem to favor these outstanding molecules.
Radiant Aldehydes, your warm rays will ever continue to illuminate the beauty of our youth and carry to the alcove their intense passions.