Flavor Bites: alpha-Methylbenzyl acetate

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alpha-Methylbenzyl acetate (FEMA# 2684, CAS# 93-92- 5) may be a contender for the largest number of widely used synonyms amongst flavor chemicals. The most common synonym is methylphenylcarbinyl acetate. 1-Phenyl ethyl acetate, styrallyl acetate and gardenol are also frequently used in the trade.

This confusing profusion of nomenclature is matched by a similarly complex aroma character. The chemical is only found in nature in gardenia flowers and, indeed, the aroma profile bears more than a passing resemblance to gardenia. For a flavorist, the obvious initial impression is of rhubarb rather than gardenia. The dominant rhubarb note carries with it strong nuances of pleasant, fresh, green characters, together with hints of berries and bitter citrus rind. There are now many more modern, effective, green notes available for use in flavors, and it is tempting to feel that this ingredient has been superseded. In reality, the green note is very useful because it bears a resemblance to the distinctive character of cis-3-hexenal, a superb chemical that is somewhat restricted in use because of limited stability.

alpha-Methylbenzyl acetate is the cornerstone of virtually all rhubarb flavors, despite the fact that it’s not found in rhubarb in nature. At much subtler levels, it’s also extremely useful in a very wide range of other flavors.

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