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Delightful δ-Lactones

By: Judith Michalski
Posted: December 14, 2009, from the January 2010 issue of P&F magazine.

The first time I ever encountered a lactone was eons ago and was, I believe, so-called aldehyde C-18, the misnomer for γ-nonalactone. I was captivated by its coconuttiness and knew at that moment that I was in for a long relationship with anything that ended with “lactone” or “olide.” In fact, I’ve never met a lactone that I haven’t liked, at least not yet. There are many reasons why I like working with lactones as much as I do. Some are purely practical and some a little subjective:

1. They’re ubiquitous in nature. Over the years I’ve encountered lactone citations in everything from ants to zabaglione. Because they’re so widespread, I take their use into consideration when I’m creating a fl avor—if not as a main note, certainly as a contributing note.

2. Many are available as naturals, though rather pricey.

3. They’re powerful, meaning a little goes a long way.

4. This power makes them cost-effective, sometimes.