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molecules

I wanted to list some products I especially used, or even discovered in 2014. I picked up the rarest, most strange/exotic, or simply very useful raw materials, synthetics or naturals.

Cassie absolute (Acacia farnesiana): the key ingredient in a true-to-nature leather accord. Extremely powerful. Smells green, foliage (with hints of cabbage on topnotes), then it dries down on a powdery, dry, acidic, fatty hearth. Reminiscent of tanned leather. It is quite difficult to dose as the material has tendency to give off unpleasant topnotes (my personal opinion), difficult to mask in a simple composition.

Musk Z4 (IFF): the same molecule as Exaltenone (Firmenich), but slightly more animalic, less sandalwoody, more close to Exaltone, with its metallic, extremely fine powdery facets. Quite powerful, more than Exaltone. Interesting to note that Musk Z4 solidifies at room temp (20° C), while Exaltenone is in the liquid state.

Styrax resinoid: solvent, toluene, styrene-like topnotes, sweet and sharp. Slightly leathery (oldfashioned “cuir”), mineral, cinnamic, rubbery heartnotes. Sweeter, incensey upon drying. Interesting with floral notes (rose, orange flower).

Cypriol essence: a nice replacer for agarwood (aquillaria spp. extracts), with bitter, green terpenic topnotes, rhubarb, vetiver-like, leathery. Quite powerful and longlasting, powdery, incense, sandalwood-like in the dryout. You can smell this orange, amber-coloured product in certain oud blends.

Mate absolute: a beautiful green, tea topnote. Bitter, dark, dense, smokey, very close to cured tobacco leaves upon drying. In the dryout it nicely resembles oakmoss absolute, with salicylate tones.

Fatty acids esters: oily odour, at times slightly rancid, very interesting in leather accords and floral reconstitutions (mimosa, for instance). They are: Methyl/Ethyl linolenate, Ethyl laurate, Ethyl ricinoleate.

Muskrat glands: in the 60s Arctander explained how this material was suggested as a musk deer replacer during WW II in the USA, but lacked the power of the original product. I wanted to try out this one and ordered some from a Russian supplier. Well, it doesn’t resemble musk deer in any way that could encourage its use as a replacer. It lacks the civet-like, animalic, skatolic notes found in the more prized material. It lacks its fine, well rounded, rich, powdery body. It smells less dirty, more fleshy, quite unpleasantly fatty and dry. It is more sebum-like. I am planning another order and I would like to suggest a different drying method.
Muskrat glands are said to contain Exaltone (a molecule very close to muscone). I am not so sure to smell it in my product, but I can guess it is there.

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Silvanone Supra (Givaudan): a mixture of cyclopentadecanone and cyclohexadecanone
Romanone Extra (ACL Aromatics)

synonyms: nor-muscone, apo-muscone

Natural identical (found in muskrat).

Not to be confused with Exaltenone or Exaltolide.

White crystals.

Warm, diffusive musky, extremely fine, faceted, powdery, animal, greasy, natural musk-like odour.

Quite similar in odour to muscone, but more powerful and animal.

Nitromusks are sometimes defined as “animal”. While I quite agree on the fact that they possess a musk deer facet (they are warm and powdery, but also radiant, with some musky floralness) they don’t possess a truely dirty, greasy character.

Exaltone strikes with its greasy, warm animal musky odour.

@10% it is less dirty, more nuanced, somewhat metallic and much more similar to his brother muscone, or to exaltolide.

@1% finer. Best dilution. Every facet blooms and one can fully appreciate its elegant details: quite powdery, sort of ‘metallic’ (in a way that it recalls me of exaltolide), but still quite greasy and softly animal.

It is quite pricey, but is worth its weight in gold. I definitely love this molecule. And actually it costs about 3 times more than muscone (about the price of a jasmine absolute). This is the most astounding musk odourant I’ve ever smelled.

It was first synthesized in the 20’s (1926 patent, Chuit & Naef, Firmenich today) by L. Ruzicka, in an attempt to find a good substitute for natural musk. Exaltone is chemically very close to muscone; it only has one methyl function less.

In the 1927 “Notice sur l’Exaltone et autres produits à odoeur de musc”, it is explained why the name ‘Exaltone’ was chosen:

L’effet produit par l’exaltone dans une composition est le même que celui provoqué par le musc : son odeur s’allie merveilleusement à celle des autres produits de la composition et, contrairement à ce qui se produit avec l’emploi du “musc artificiel”, le résultat forme un ensemble des plus harmonieux; c’est justement en raison de sa propriété heureuse non seulement d’affiner, mais également et surtout d’exalter le parfum des compositions, que nous lui avons donné le nom d’exaltone.

Exaltone is capable of ‘exalting’ a composition and this property seemed to make this product a valuable candidate for replacing natural musk.

Reading this booklet one could get the feeling that natural musk extracts were not much prized for their “animal” odour, they would also have introduced unwanted, ammoniacal, rotting notes. The interest was in the smoothing, exalting effect coming from their musky odourants (such as muscone or civettone). A feeling that I also get when working with civet. However I am convinced that animal, greasy, dirty notes are sometimes really wanted and synthetical musks wouldn’t suffice alone (I am thinking about cuir, leather fragrances, or old chypres).

muscone-exaltone

Muscone and Exaltone seem at first quite different products, olfactively. The odour of muscone when pure is almost difficult to perceive (as many other musks). Exaltone, on the other hand, is a solid at room temperature and its odour when smelled pure is strongly musky, animal and greasy and quite powerful.

However, upon dilution the differences are smoothed down. They are quite similar, indeed. Muscone is rounder and, obviously, more true-to-nature. Exaltone, very similar to muscone, powdery, musky, rather sweet, has darker tones, a greasy accent and nice projection.

Interesting enough, Exaltone was eventually found in nature in the muskrat glands.

Very viscous (glucose-like consistency), colourless liquid.

Very often sold diluted at 50% in DEP, DPG, IPM, BB, etc. (hence the specification in the title)

Standard musk smelling, soft, long-lasting. Without any particular complexity, very linear.

Often used at very high % in perfume compositions: from 10-50% in the fragrance concentrate, in some cases even more), for its good performance (long lastiness, projection) and low cost. Its olfactive transparency explains pretty well how easy is to overdose this product.

Olfactively it is the kind of musk that smells “clean”, not surprisingly, since it is very much appreciated in functional perfumery (to a lesser extent today, when biodegradability concerns arise for this musk).
Indeed, it doesn’t possess any “animal”, dirty facet (unlike the surprisingly beautiful Exaltone, aka Romanone Extra or Silvanone Supra). But I think that the “clean” adjective is still quite misleading. I invite you to thoroughly study civet absolute (@1%) and compare it with the “clean” smelling civettone (the musky molecule found in civet). You will understand how, a part from the faecal, skatole-like accents of civet, the interesting and animalic notes are built upon the shining muskiness of civettone. Musks really add a third dimensions to animal odours and are a part of them.

It also doesn’t fit into the “powdery” musk category.

It is more close to the ambrette seed-like musks, like ambrettolide, Helvetolide, Romandolide, ethylene brassylate etc. with his sweet floralcy and velvety seedy woodiness.

In my essays I was often surprised how good this product performs in alcoholic perfumery, from 5% to 20%. It adds depth, wearability, without changing too much the odour profile of the composition. Surely, it is quite a “cheap”, boring choice in fine perfumery, were high price should account for quality or inventivness (some more interesting and original musks are available, but they can be pricey).

Needless to say, it blends perfectly well with almost any fragrance material. In my personal experience (the exception that proves the rule): I found it ugly and hard to blend with ambery-labdanum compositions, where an old-fashioned richness, opulence, thick sweetness is required. In this case Galaxolide (and similar musks) are to be used cautiously at low %, in order not to introduce a transparent, light verticalness that doesn’t fit very well (nitromusks, Muscenone, would fit better).


It has been suggested that Romandolide could replace Galaxolide.

I very much enjoy Romandolide and think that it closely resembles Galaxolide under various aspects.  Romandolide is slightly powdery, more ambrettolide-like, whereas Galaxolide bears some resemblance to Exaltolide. Romandolide has a particular green-bitter and metallic topnote that I find rather interesting for a musk, while Galaxolide is more neutral.

Romandolide also is quite cost-effective. Unfortunately, I am not able to speak about its performance in functional perfumery (where it could be an interesting asset), since this field requires a particular experience I don’t have.

I will test thoroughly the differences and similarities between the two musks (in alcoholic media) and post my thoughts in some months.

Heliotropyl acetone

Heliotropyl acetone

Not to be confused with: heliotropyl acetate.

White crystals.

Easily soluble in ethyl alcohol @10%.

Mild smelling, sweet, fruity, long-lasting raspberry-like odour.
I was expecting some resemblance  with heliotropine (sweet, powdery floralcy), but this one has a quite different odour profile.

It has very much in common with raspberry ketone: it possesses a jammy, red fruit-like character. Somewhat dry and woody, not much powdery. Rose ketone nuance.

It shuold be interesting in jasmine imitation bases. As suggested by S. Arctander for raspberry ketone, I think that Dulcinyl would also fit very well in a synthetic jasmine composition, bringing a realistic and elegant fruity juiciness very characteristic of some absolutes.
In his work he reports some resemblance with “the sweet-floral notes in Mimosa and Cassie“. Interesting to note that this product is called “Cassione” by Firmenich.

Colourless crystals.

Not ready soluble in ethanol (@2,5% only) or DPG (it forms a cloudy solution).

Floral, warm animalic (civetty), sweet honeyed, thickpowdery, sharp, slightly urinic smell.

Superior to any other p-Cresyl derivative in my opinion. Rounder and much floral than p-cresyl acetate (“horsey” notes) or p-cresol (jasmine-like): it bears a closer resemblance to narcisse, jasmin and violet. Also sweeter, higher-boiling (greater tenacity) and more delicate than the former.

It can easily mimic the violet with the sole addition of indole and ionones. The same for narcisse, being careful in replacing the ionones with methyl anthranilates and a hint of greeness. On paper and diluted, it is almost like smelling a dried out strip of jasmine absolute.

Interesting in a rose-jasmin complex: a warm animalic side married with a powdery phenylacetic acid (dirty honeyed) suggestion.
A short digression on an old perfume: JOY, Jean Patou. Warm and powdery, slightly harsh, intensely floral and jasmin, quite linear. I bet this molecule along with phenylacetic acid was used there (and a lot of Musk Ketone, rose and jasmin absolute, of course).

In jasmine reconstitution I would prefer p-cresol over p-cresyl acetate: it is sweeter and floral; in narcisse and tonkin musk imitation p-Cresyl acetate is my choice; while p-Cresyl phenylacetate elegantly and quite discreetly (in low dosage) fits in both (slightly too much floral for a musk accord, but nice in civet).

Definitely the richest, most floral, animalic, lively, nuanced and smooth p-cresyl derivative out of the three (I didn’t mentioned here p-cresyl methyl ether since it is the most different: thin, low-boiling and ylang-like).

Surely one of my favourite “floral” chemicals, along with indole, linalool and methyl anthranilate.

Molecular structure reference: S. Arctander works. Image created using ChemSketch.

Molecular structure reference: S. Arctander work. Image created using ChemSketch.

White flakes.

Warm, honeyed, metallic, sweaty odour, resembling rose with an animalic (castoreum) and jasmine-like nuance. Dry, medicinal, sweeter on dilution.

In traces it could lend interesting effects in jasmin, rose, cuir type fragrances, tobacco or animal accords.

This product doesn’t resemble civet on its own (in my opinion) but, as suggested in some works, I understand its use in civet imitation bases. Somehow dirty (not fecal): it is waxy, fatty, sweet and slightly acrid (tanned leather, vinegar, feet-like odour) and it could bring texture and roundness to the stronger skatole or indole.

What is surprising about this material is that it lasts forever on paper or tissue. According to S. Arctander’s Perfume and Flavor Chemicals, phenylacetic acid is

[…] one of the most tenacious odorants of all known and used perfumery materials. It will outlast Vanillin on a ‘blotter test’ and a 5% solution of Phenylacetic acid may last more than 3 years on a blotter […]

Text printed on graph paper. The blurred effect was obtained with an alcoholic solution of phenylacetic acid and a tracing paper. Surely, you can't smell it, but the odour really adds something to it.

Text printed on graph paper. The blurred effect was obtained with alcohol and a tracing paper.

Mild smelling butyric, iso-valerate-like odour. It should be classified as fruity and classical plum-like. It exhibits a certain fresh sweeteness similar to some linalyl esters, but here a distinctive woody, dry, tobacco-y facet dominates the overall aspect. 

There might also be a rosey, green-metallic nuance. It is quite persistant, an heart note I would say.

Very nice in fruity accords: together with iso-amyl iso-valerate, bergamot eo or bergamot smelling chemicals (ethyl linalyl acetate), cassis absolute (or labienoxime 10%, cassyrane or other foxy, cat urine-smelling chemicals) and aldehyde c18/c14, it forms a sweet peachy bouquet.

In a fancy tobacco accord (preferably with tobacco absolute) it may constitute the plum-like note distinctive of some aromatised blends (plum juice concentrate).

Here’s a simple ambroxy/woody/burnt tobacco accord you can try with/without Datilat:

TOBACCO ABS
MOUSSE DE CHENE IFRA (with patchouli and ambroxid to form an easy and pleasant accord)
BENZYL SALICYLATE
ETHYL VANILLIN
COUMARIN/BICYCLONONALACTONE
BIRCH TAR (trace)
HEDIONE (for diluting and mellowing effects)
CIVET ABS (recalling some strong tobaccos)
AMBROXID (to make the all thing wearable)
PATCHOULI COEUR (I usually don’t like messy top-notes, this one I prefer)
COSMONE (nice velvety effect)
GUAIACWOOD EO
CLOVE (as a modifier)
+DATILAT and/or ISOAMYL ISOVALERATE (if using iso-amyl iso-valerate be sure to add some top-notes like mandarin or bergamot in order to round its effect. It is quite volatile and it could unbalance the accord)

Not sure if it is a panteted molecule (IFF).

It is piercing, woody, resinous, musty and rosy in some ways. It is peculiar and interesting, not sure to have smelled anything that resembles this until now. Not at all ozonic (like Floralozone or Precyclemone B) nor marine, as stated in some descriptions; it has no lily of the valley-melon-like nuance. A little bit salty, maybe.
It is the odour you could find in a cellar, quite thin and volatile. This has not much body but is quite long-lasting. I very much appreciate its extremely dry, woody, musty, cork-like undertones.
It is quite powerful, difficult to use at more than 5%.

Sweet, tonka, almond-like, dry, woody odour. Lactonic nuance.

Its strength is better understood when properly diluted (usually at 5 or better 1%, in ethyl alcohol; anyway it will not dissolve at more than 8%). I usually keep it at a maximum concentration of 1% (fragrance concentrate), otherwise, it will grow and tend to overwhelm other notes.

It is a standard ingredient in chypres and fougères. It forms the classic ambrein accord together with vanillin, civet-like notes and bergamot.

Tonka bean absolute is quite obviously more complex and refined, it has soft, woodier, bitter, creamy, hay-tobacco-like, dark facets.

I have not yet found a good replacer for coumarin at this time. It could be Acetanisole (but it is thinner, sweeter, heliotropine-like in character). I really like Bicyclononalactone (closer to tonka, hay and hyraceum).

Powerful, thin, sweet, fresh, lavender-like, fruity, metallic, citrusy (linalyl acetate-like), clary sage-like, well recognizable odour.

Used in almost any manly fragrance, classic fougère accord, modern sweet-musky-chypré accord. From fine fragrances to functional products.

@ 100% intense, sweet, fruity, peary, green, ananas, oily, slightly waxy, fresh.

@ 10% pleasant, fresh, sweet, fruity, peary, metallic.

Used to introduce a modern fresh-fruity topnote. It blends well with iso e super and dihydromyrcenol in fougère accords.

Real nitromusk: warm, sweet, musky, dry, powdery, fruity, soft odour. Most polycyclic and macrocyclic musks lack that beautiful sweet-powdery undertone. Tends to discolor.
iso-Muscone and Velvione are examples of nitromusk-smelling non-nitromusks. They are safer than nitromusks but do not perfectly mimic that nuance.

Sandalmysore core
Santaliff

Medium-smelling, sweet, oily, slightly aromatic (dry fennel), sandalwood, musky, vibrant, woody odour. Effective in small amounts, it gives a natural milky, creamy, sandalwood-like nuance.

Powerful, sweet, milky, lactonic, coconut, coumarinic, powdery odour.
I used this in an imitation rum fragrance, where it surprisingly well mimics the effects of oak aged liquor: it provides a refined sweet, mellow, lactonic, woody, dry, musty nuance, and gives tenacity.

“Methyl Laitone 10% is one of the new “spiro”-lactones developed and patented by Givaudan. It is extremely powerful and very effective in all accords where a creamy, fruity volume is required. It provides “cosmetic” body to white flower notes such as jasmine, gardenia, tuberose and ylang ylang, and to fruity accords like peach and osmanthus. In sandalwood accords it provides milkiness. Coupling with coumarin and hay notes makes it extremely interesting and polyvalent. Its dry note is very noticeable, especially on humid and dry fabric.” (http://tinyurl.com/mlaitone10)

Medium smelling, sweet, powdery, milky, dry, typical vanilla odour, without any complexity, or dark shades. Useful in any composition. @ as little as .1%, whitout being perceptible as a single note it rounds off and mellows any fragrance.

gamma-Nonalactone

Intensely sweet, creamy and coconut-like odour. Oily, waxy and metallic undertones. Useful in many florals.
“Its intense sweetness and tenacity is often utilized along with that of Undecanolide (…) in Gardenia, Tuberose, Honeysuckle, Stephanotis, Plumeria, Jasmin and many other heavy floral types.” (Arctander)

gamma-Undecalactone

Medium-smelling, fruity, lactonic, peachy, sweet, oily, powdery. Effective in low concentrations, otherwise it tends to overwhelm other notes and give ‘opacity’. It may also be used in floral compositions, tuberose for instance.

Semisolid-viscous intensely yellow, blue fluorescent, mass.

Similar in odour to methyl anthranilate, but more sweet, oily, waxy, powdery and floral.
Useful for the same purposes as methyl anthranilate, where more tenacity and sweetness is desired. It is also more stable.

@ 100% pungent, chemical, thin sweet, heavy-flower, ylang, fruity, musty, grape.
@ 5% sweet, floral, ylang, orange blossom.

Useful in low concentrations in floral compositions, in imitation orange blossom, neroli, jasmine, tuberose, narcissus…
It reacts with aldehydes, forming condensation products (Schiff’s bases). Aurantiol is hydroxycitronellal+methyl anthranilate.

Very mild, almost non-smelling, nondescrpit, oily, sweet, floral odour. It tends to oxidize to benzaldehyde, which is strong-smelling and easily ruins its floral profile.
“Used in perfumery as a blender, in some florals quite extensively, Jasmin, Gardenia and Lilac may often be composed using Benzyl alcohol although this material is really dispensable in most cases.” (Arctander)

Quite powerful, similar to eugenol, but more fruity, floral, delicate, less woody-spicy. It strongly resembles carnation and it is usually found along with benzyl salicylate to form a classic accord.

Strong smelling, clove, spicy, woody odour. Bitter in too high concentrations, natural spicy, woody effects if properly diluted (usually @ around .1%). More refined, less woody, musty, green than natural clove oil.

Powerful, green, leafy, fresh, sweet, woody odour. It easily reminds of freshly crushed leaves, cut grass, green branches. In dilution it is more sweet and almost fruity. It gives a natural impact to fruity and floral compositions, imparting a realistic green effect.

Poweful, predominantly green, sweet, waxy, citrusy odour. Used in traces for an herbe coupée effect. It is less natural, more powerful than cis-3-hexenol, but it is more rounded and blends better with fruity-floral notes. 

Sweet, soft, pleasant, fresh, nondescript-flowery odour. It may resembles jasmine for its fruity-juiciness aspect. It is less refined, stronger than hexyl cinnamal. It is useful in any white-floral composition.

Extremely powerful material
@ 1% Pungent, warm, sweet, dark, faecal, animalic, civetty odour. Less naphtolic, more refined odour in comparison with indole. More woody, dry, animalic, masculine, less floral.
More pleasant in extreme dilution (.1, .01, .001%).
Very useful in civet reconstitution, tonkin musk accord.