In the 1920?s Coco Chanel challenged the view that “nice girls” should smell like flowers with her now iconic fragrance. At a time when women were cutting their hair and raising their hemlines the combination of flowers, vanilla and musk in a perfume may have gone unnoticed. It was the overdose of fatty aldehydes in the top notes of Chanel No.5 that made women sit up at take notice. This was something much more daring and modern than a classic floral. Ironically many people now describe this type of fragrance as a bit “old lady”.
Aldehydes are a group of materials most famous for their use at overdosed levels in Chanel No.5 but they were used in perfumery at low levels way before then. They have a powerful aroma and are perceived as waxy, fatty soapy and clean. On their own they would be considered too harsh and chemical but in combination with floral notes of rose, jasmine and ylang they impart sparkle and radiance. As well as C8 Octonal, C10 Decanal, C11 Undecylenic, C12 MNA and C12 Lauric; Hydroycitronellal, Citral, Citronellal and Benzaldehyde are also included in this group.
The term aldehydic is one many people are confused by and the best way I’ve found to explain how they smell is to use a very vivid image.
Imagine an ironing board with a clean white table cloth draped across it. Now imagine spraying it with starch and pressing down on the cloth with a steam iron. The smell that lifts off – that’s how I see aldehydes.
This floral sub-family came into existence with the creation of Chanel N°5 but other fragrances soon followed including Coty L’Aimant, Arpege, Calandre, White Linen and First by Van Cleef & Arpels. Independent perfumer Andy Tauer’s Noontide Petals is a great niche fragrance to try in this category.
For more info on aldehydes Fragrantica has a great article here http://www.fragrantica.com/news/Aldehydes-in-Perfumery-Mythology-7836.html
What are your favourite aldehydic perfumes? Let me know in the comments below.