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Molecule of the Month: 5-Isopropyl-2-methylphenol

By: Michael Zviely, CIC
Posted: September 17, 2009, from the October 2009 issue of P&F magazine.

5-Isopropyl-2-methylphenol, also known as carvacrol, is one of the three isomers of isopropylmethylphenol. It is a transparent, colorless to pale yellow liquid and the main constituent of origanum oil (see F-1). Carvacrol also occurs in some essential oils of the Labiate family such as azov and thyme oils, beer and cranberry. Its odor profile is aromatic, somewhat medicinal, phenolic, spicy, herbal and woody. The other two isomers of isopropyl methylphenol are thymol and meta-thymol; all three isomers differ in their organoleptic properties (see F-2).

Carvacrol possesses a penetrating, dry-medicinal (phenolic) and herbaceous odor with a spicy undertone; the lack of sweetness is the differentiating factor between carvacrol and thymol, the former being relatively tarrier. It finds application in aromatic flavorings; spicy and meaty nuances; dill, clove, caraway, smoke and mint notes; oral care products; and tutti frutti. It is used as a flavoring agent in feed, and also possesses antibacterial roperties. In addition, carvacrol is used in perfume compositions such as industrial fragrances, certain types of heavy-duty household fragrances and soap perfumes. Despite belonging to the hydroxyl group, this material is powerful and fairly stable in ordinary soaps.

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