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  1. #1

    Exclamation Synthetic = Natural?

    Last night I was sleeping when some sentence hit my brain.
    Here it is:
    Modern chemical perfumers are seeking for the one molecule that will give natural feeling to any synthetic perfume.

    I`m sure that this thought was born after reading Mandy Aftel`s Perfume & Alchemy book. She wrote about vital force of natural ingredients, their complexity and liveliness. You know.

    But anyway - are there any synthetic molecules, that has odorous profile of such a complexity that could serve for mimicking a natural?
    Molecule with a great number of isomers?
    Or?
    Vetiver The Great!!!

  2. #2
    David Ruskin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Synthetic = Natural?

    I don't think it possible for a single aroma chemical to mimic the complexity of even the most simple Essential Oil. An Essential Oil contains many (hundreds of) individual chemicals, each of which evapourates at a different rate, each one smelling different, each one combining with the others to create a complex and ever changing odour profile. I also don't think that "Modern chemical perfumers are seeking for the one molecule that will give natural feeling".

    Could you expalin what is a "synthetic perfume"?

    And as for the "vital force of natural ingredients"; I thought that the concept of Vitalism died out in the 19th Century!

  3. #3

    Default Re: Synthetic = Natural?

    OK, I need to be more specific.
    This sentence is not truth. It`s just some words that by chance came to my head in this order. well, fantastic it is.

    synthetic perfume here means perfume that feels not natural. 100% artificial creature that even could not try mimics nature.

    essential oils and absolutes consists of a lot of single molecules, I know. But I wonder - is there any synthetic material that could be so complex that it could feels like natural?

    I found that Iso E Super is racemic mixture of different molecules, and it has rather non-linear scent. Are there more?
    Vetiver The Great!!!

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    David Ruskin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Synthetic = Natural?

    OK, I'll be more specific too. I do not know of any fragrance that is 100.0% synthetic ( my definition of "Synthetic" is not occuring in a Natural Extract), but if there was; so what? Why is it important to be "natural"? And what do you mean by "feels not natural"? I'll ease off a little. You mention iso E Super, which is a racemic mix of different isomers of the same chemical structure . True, it does have a complex smell and performance. I'll mention others; Ambroxan, Ambrocenide, Ambrinol, Cosmone. All complex smells which change over time, none having the complexity of an Esential Oil evaporating over a few hours. And once again, I askl; so what?

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    Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Synthetic = Natural?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Ruskin View Post
    I don't think it possible for a single aroma chemical to mimic the complexity of even the most simple Essential Oil. An Essential Oil contains many (hundreds of) individual chemicals, each of which evapourates at a different rate, each one smelling different, each one combining with the others to create a complex and ever changing odour profile.
    Agreed. It's an interesting idea, I will admit, but I think the impossibility of it really says something about the essential beauties of both natural mixtures and synthetic singletons.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Ruskin View Post
    I also don't think that "Modern chemical perfumers are seeking for the one molecule that will give natural feeling".
    I agree completely. It's true - I often see components where one of the attributes is something in the way of "adds naturalness to the composition". But this is really just (to my mind) something of a contradictory attribute, because the real beauty of synthetics - and one of the primary purposes - is to take the composition where nature can't go easily, or at all.


    To my way of thinking, a "holy grail synthetic component" might be:
    • novel
    • reminiscent of existing pleasant odors, but not identical
    • at the used dilution, not reminiscent of "bad" odors
    • has some complexity, but not muddled or unbalanced
    • economical
    • plays well with others
    * * * *

  6. #6

    Default Re: Synthetic = Natural?

    If a synthetic scent is not reminiscent of some scent found in nature, or some similar synthetic scent which we have smelled in our past, I think it could take years for it to generate within our ranges of perception to become something desirable or evocative. The brain needs memory to elicit interest, and new synthetic molecules usually are paired with natural components or used as modifiers of those, instead of stand-alone scents.

  7. #7
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    Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Synthetic = Natural?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nymphaea View Post
    If a synthetic scent is not reminiscent of some scent found in nature, or some similar synthetic scent which we have smelled in our past, I think it could take years for it to generate within our ranges of perception to become something desirable or evocative. The brain needs memory to elicit interest, and new synthetic molecules usually are paired with natural components or used as modifiers of those, instead of stand-alone scents.
    Yes, this is a very interesting point. One of the reasons that I gravitated toward organic chemistry in the beginning of my chemical studies was the strange and wonderful smells of the different substances. They were often quite unusual, and varied in "goodness" or "badness", but in many ways were very hard to describe. It was like seeing new colors - impossible to describe, but they were there, right before my nose. But I will swear that they had goodness and badness to them. In some cases, I grew to like or dislike things. In other cases, the reaction was immediate, if there was a strong similarity to something I knew already and to which I already had an emotional response.

    Those same smells, years later, would bring back fond memories of my early laboratory experiences.
    * * * *

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    David Ruskin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Synthetic = Natural?

    Despite my earlier definition, I'm not really sure what "Natural" means, other than coming from Nature, and in the context of fragrance I'm at a loss. On the very crudest level, a fragrance or perfume can be defined as a mixture of chemicals that you can smell. Does it matter where the chemicals come from? I really don't know what a "Natural smell" is. When we creat perfumes we use any means to achieve the result we want. There are some odour areas (Muguet for example) where there are no natural materials, so we use chemicals that have been made in a lab.

    Smell is evocative, and unless we recognise it and can describe it, it is very difficult to appreciate it. How can something be described if you do not have the vocabulary to do the job? Often the evocativness is the only means of description; "It smells like school" etc. However I do not agree that the only role of a synthetic is to modify naturals. Each material in a fragrance has its own job to do; there is no one more important than the others.

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    Default Re: Synthetic = Natural?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Ruskin View Post
    Despite my earlier definition, I'm not really sure what "Natural" means, other than coming from Nature, and in the context of fragrance I'm at a loss. On the very crudest level, a fragrance or perfume can be defined as a mixture of chemicals that you can smell. Does it matter where the chemicals come from? I really don't know what a "Natural smell" is. When we creat perfumes we use any means to achieve the result we want. There are some odour areas (Muguet for example) where there are no natural materials, so we use chemicals that have been made in a lab.

    Smell is evocative, and unless we recognise it and can describe it, it is very difficult to appreciate it. How can something be described if you do not have the vocabulary to do the job? Often the evocativness is the only means of description; "It smells like school" etc. However I do not agree that the only role of a synthetic is to modify naturals. Each material in a fragrance has its own job to do; there is no one more important than the others.
    Well, if youve smelled all-natural perfumes lacking the molecules engineered to create crispness, durability, structure etc. you'll find they behave differently in terms of their development through time, the way materials interact, dimensionality...which some people will perceive as a deficiency, others as a liberation from certain established practices of modern perfumery, while yet others may not care either way. But the empirical distinction is palpable and has been discussed here ad nauseam, e.g. in the threads on profumo.it. For all the conceptual difficulty of bipolarizing natural and synthetic, I think these terms are acceptable as shorthand for a rather more complex relationship.

    As to the moonfish's suggestion, aren't synthetics frequently about hyperreality, e.g. to enable the fragrant representation of a freshly cut dewy rose which a natural rose otto could never accomplish? This is not accomplished by single molecules, of course, but by blending.
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  10. #10

    hirch_duckfinder's Avatar
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    Default Re: Synthetic = Natural?

    Well I think it has to do with frames of reference. We have concepts of what natural smells like (agrestic, green, leafy, flowers etc etc) and our noses are generally evolved to natural tolerances. We have concepts of what "synthetic" smells like - things which could never occur in the environment without human endeavour and engineering. To me "synthetic" smells jump out like an electric guitar in an orchestra. That is not always a bad thing, and often leads to interesting smells which I love to sniff. at the same time, it often doesn't lead to smells which I wish to wear on my body (i.e. to smell "of"). That isn't to say that "natural smells" (i.e. things my nose thinks could come from nature) always have to be built from natural materials. It depends on how the individual perceives these concepts. The more I hang around natural perfume materials the more I become acutely aware when something isn't.
    A case in point is leather notes. They are created by synthetic aroma chemicals but I don't mind (good ones) because they smell like something natural which I recognise. I can tell they are not natural as they still have that chemical harshness (lack of complexity) but i can enjoy them. Generally though, I like natural smells from natural sources much more than synthetic ones, even if it means a compromise on structure, longevity and silage.
    "Don’t try to be original. Be simple. Be good technically, and if there is something in you, it will come out. ” - Henri Matisse.

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