An (old) book accord

On 31 December 2014 one of my readers asked me:

Do you have any recommendations for a papery/dusty isolate? Brand new to this, and all I want is to smell like a library!

I replied:

Hi, Thank you for commenting. I think you should try Vetyrisia (Firmenich), a beautiful orris-vetiver base which features ionones, powdery, cardboard-like notes (similar to Chanel N19). There is also orris butter, indeed, and amyris oil: sawdusty, cardboard-like. Between the different vetiver qualities, the one from Haiti is the most dry, papery. Gentiana absolute should also be quite interesting in small amounts for its powdery, earthy, fresh paint-like, fatty, leathery, tobacco notes. Thinking about synthetics, I recommend you to work on acids which, generally speaking, have dry, powerful, dusty, sometimes fatty notes. Citronellic acid posesses a dusty, dry, rose petal-like, pollen-like character. 9-decenoic acid is more fatty, waxy, truly reminiscent of an unscented candle (not beeswax), or an old soap tablet. I don’t know if orris synthetics could work: Orivone for instance, while possessing a nice dry, orris-like odour is too fatty for a paper accord. Cedrol and cedryl acetate should be useful. Other interesting synthetics may be ethyl laurate, methyl/ethyl linolenate, ethyl ricinoleate as modifiers. I would start building the accord on an amyris backbone, cedrol, adding traces of citronellic acid, vetyrisia/orris butter, and then play around the products listed above: ethyl laurate, ethyl ricinoleate, 9-decenoic acid, traces of gentiana absolute. Hope this helps! Andrea

Now, quite intrigued by this amusing request, I wanted to actually test my suggestions. So I came out with this accord. It took me only one essay. I wanted to share it with you:

# Supplier #
AMYRIS OIL commercial 100,00
                                                                 Tot: 930,00 grams

old bookAs you can see, amyris oil is in much less quantity than originally thought, it is more of a modifier and a topnote, than the backbone. Cedrol plays a very interesting role adding a refined, sweet, velvety, powdery effect, and some consistency to the composition, along with amyris oil (which, however, is more of a topnote). But the core of the accord is undoubtedly Citronellic acid. Books, and old books in particular possess an odor that I could describe as: acidic (a choking effect), fatty (linseed oil-like, for instance), powdery, (and animalic, costus-like, especially in old books).

  1. Lethe said:

    Just stumbled upon your blog, and I actively encourage you to post more!

    With that said, how do you deal with using acids in perfumery? This is the first time I’ve encountered any mention of acidic materials in general. Wouldn’t the acids react with other compounds, forming hemiacetals, and even acetals? I see no aldehydes in your current composition, and esters/alcohols are stable. Unless the pKa is reallly small or the solution is buffered, I don’t see a way to mix your intriguing accords with other less stable materials.

    I haven’t tried mixing your accord yet, but you’ve got me interested.

    • Andrea said:

      Hi Lethe, thank you for commenting. Yep, I should post more! It’s been more than 1 year since my last post!!
      I think that the pKa of the acids commonly used in perfumery are quite high, so they don’t react easily with other molecules in the perfume. Moreover, you don’t usually overdose such products in a perfume, unless you are working on a base (accord), so they end up being very diluted in your perfume formula.
      Sure it would be interesting to further explore the subject. Unfortunately, I am not able to provide you with a more “scientific” answer. I can tell you I have never experienced any major change in the odour upon maceration, and yes there were aldehydes in the formula. Furthermore, I think that if hemiacetals and acetals do form, they are usually weaker than the corresponding aldehye so you’ll have a mellower effect.
      I’ve worked on an iris butter reconstitution, there were a lot of myristic acid (like 60%), and a little trans 2 nonenal (0.2%). I haven’t registered any change in odour.

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