Comparing Notes: Formulating with Coumarin, Sandalwood and Ethyl Linalool

Contact Author Jeb Gleason-Allured
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This month’s Comparing Notes is the latest in a continuing series in which perfumers exchange insights into raw materials, formulation techniques, fi nished fragrances and their experiences in the fragrance industry.

Coumarin is present in a wide variety of natural sources, from grass to hay to citrus peel, says perfumer Kevin Verspoor, seated in drom’s New York fragrance studio. Its character, he adds, is such that even synthetic coumarin imparts a natural effect. As Verspoor talks, he passes around blotters of coumarin. “It’s one of the great, premier fragrance materials of all time,” he says. “It works so well in almost any construction. Not only is it the backbone of the fougère [fragrance family], but it’s also used in chypres, orientals, fl orals and citrus blends. It’s really almost a universal material that lends itself to all fragrance constructions.”

Verspoor’s colleague, perfumer Pierre Gueros, adds, “It’s a bit like patchouli for me,” noting that the material’s addition or subtraction in a formula has huge hedonic consequences. “If you add a hint of vanilla to a fragrance, it would be a twist, but you will recognize the fragrance. But if you add coumarin, most of the time it [becomes] another fragrance.”

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