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What influence do new fragrance materials have in perfumery?

Contact Author Anthony F. Morris
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It would be illogical to talk about perfumery matters with which I am not personally familiar, so I am restricting my discussion to developments since the late 1950s. The big events in the perfumery industry from the late 1950s through the 1960s were the beginning of takeovers and mergers, and technological advances in the commercialization of two very important chemical processes. One wonders how the perfume industry would have developed if these takeovers had not been so drastic--after all, what had been a fairly large number of medium and small size companies was transformed into fewer and very much bigger conglomerates. Some people lamented these changes; some still do. Others saw the opportunities in the time of change. Whatever one’s views, it was a great upheaval. The new world did not take place overnight, as was dreamed, and it is still being molded.

This period was a time of change too from the perfumers’ point of view. Chemicals such as geraniol, citronellol, linalool, and hydroxycitronellal had been made from natural oils, and we saw the first samples of materials available from the Roche and Pinene processes. They were rather different from those already known. What are your memories, remembering having used the sweet full-bodied fruity geraniol from citronella or its rather truer quality from palmarosa, and then suddenly using the new synthetic wonder geraniol, far purer chemically but smelling like rusty old tin cans? Similarly, the contrast of the floral linalool ex Bois de Rose to the purer, less floral, somewhat green metallic synthetic Iinalool. Or hydroxycitronellal ex citronella, smooth and wonderfully floral, to the new grade smelling of the gasworks. It seemed that “progress” was moving backwards! There are always times with a new technology when the fundamentals of perfumery are seemingly under attack--in this case the idea seemed to be “that chemical purity is more important than odor, ” but the cycle passes. The perfumer helped by insisting on the development of qualities wholly acceptable to his use. Of course the “natural” grades continued to be available and still are today, the new qualities did not replace them. Looking back, how did you judge the synthetic hydroxycitronellal, citronellol, and geraniol? Did you quickly discover their merit and their weakness, and apply your creativity to take maximum advantage of their development?

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