Flavor Bites: Ethyl Salicylate

At first sight, ethyl salicylate, also sometimes known as ethyl 2-hydroxy benzoate (FEMA 2458, CAS# 118-61-6), seems the poor relation to methyl salicylate (FEMA 2745, CAS# 119-36-8). The relative volumes in which the two chemicals are used strongly reinforce that perception; the latter being the more popular. Both esters are found fairly widely in nature, so that does not explain the discrepancy.

In reality, much of the high volume of methyl salicylate used is simply a reflection of its being the key component in wintergreen, and consequently root beer, flavors. Further, considering the more subtle contribution of a wintergreen note to a wide range of non-wintergreen flavors, the dominance of methyl salicylate is much less obvious or justified.

Both chemicals are instantly recognizable as wintergreen but the methyl ester has a slightly harsh, phenolic undertone, which can intrude unpleasantly in many non-wintergreen flavors. In contrast, the ethyl ester is softer, slightly balsamic, and integrates rather more generously in a wide range of flavor categories, described as follows.

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