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.
5. Lactones can bring depth to a composition without skewing the main profile, unless one oversteps the dosage line.
6. They can improve and/or prolong aftertaste in a flavor.
7. They imbue the flavor profile with richness, especially in the presence of the higher fatty acids.
8. Many times they can be decreased in a formula—up to 30%, I’ve found—without any major detectible sensory differences.
9. They smell nice. From coconut to musk to an imagined whiff of something (δ-tetradecalactone).