Monday, October 22, 2012

Why does tiger urine smell like basmati rice? Why does the drydown of ground coriander seed smell like bergamot?

Someone asked me a question on one of my Facebook page, and since I often get asked similar questions, I thought I'd post my answer here and refer folks back to this blog post in the future.

Question:
  
Hey you're probably the right person to ask! I ground some coriander by hand last night for a recipe. it went through several scenty stages, beginning with an almost minty/herbal scent and ending up smelling very much like bergamot. Are the two related?

Answer:

Coriander is in the Umbelliferae family, and bergamot (mint) is in the Labiatae. Unless you mean bergamot citrus, which smells like the bergamot mint - confused? I'm going to make you a little more confused, but I bet you learn something that'll stick with you, even though it doesn't answer your question directly:

1. All aromatics are made up of levels of scents, much like the top/middle/base notes we're familiar with with perfumes.

2. I'll admit I don't know the name of the particular aromachemical that those two have in common, 'cause my brain can only fit so much in, and I'm too lazy to go look it up.

3. Here's the kicker: things don't have to be related to have a similar scent. What's the link between the smell of tiger urine and cooked basmati rice? http://www.semiochemica.org.uk/articles/tigertext2.html



Mama, smells like the villagers are cooking basmati rice, or, did Papa 'go' near here recently?
 White Copal or Fried Flounder filet?

I was recently gifted with some fresh, beautiful white copal resin.  Cupped in my hands, I inhaled deeply of the beautiful chunk.  Ah, I got the lemony peppery scent of elemi, and then.......a scent memory from my childhood.  Every Friday my Catholic neighborhood was filled with the scent of fresh filets of flounder, lightly breaded and deep fried.  Ok, I thought, this is one of those tiger urine/basmati connections.  A perfumer came to visit me a week or so later, and I offered her the chunk, asking what her scent impressions were.  She got the lemony and peppery, and then I said the fried flounder was obvious to me.  Her eyes widened, and she say yes, I wouldn't have noticed it until you said that.  She grew up in the midwest, and perhaps wasn't formed by the cultural forces I was, in a Eastern coastal city full of Catholics (at least my neighborhood.)  It's a very clean, fresh fish scent, and the fried breadcrumbs are there too.  Strange but true.

There are many, many aromatics that have singular components within their complex chemistry that can smell identical to a fragrance of something different, even if it makes the jump from animal to vegetable world - and for some the smell of blood smells like iron, or metallic. It could be a life's work just to compare all of them, me, I'm just a perfumer who makes accords and mods ;-)

And yes, perfumes are mentioned in the article, which is fascinating, and should be read by all perfumers.

3 comments:

  1. WOuld it be linalool, the bergamot/coriander connection?

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  2. I am very curious about the lipid molecule that prolongs the scent.....

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  3. Fascinating article, especially since my childhood was spent in Pakistan & India... LOVE basmati rice! Am a great admirer of tigers. As well as a fledgling perfumer.

    ReplyDelete

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