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  1. #1
    david's Avatar
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    Question Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    I have been wondering about the feasability of using a gaschomatograph to recreate one of those lost legends,
    say for example Patou Pour Homme, or the old formula Tabac Blond. To test, only a small amount is needed and the gaschromatograph breaks down every ingredient/compound and tells very accurately the ratio of the ingredients.
    Not with a view to producing the fragrance commercially, (for obvious legal reasons) but simply to be able to create a small amount for private use; assuming that the synthetic and natural compounds are still available.
    I believe that this is the way that some very accurate copies of original perfumes are achieved.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Well, my knowledge in chemistry is limited, but a chromatograph doesn’t tell you about the ingredients but the molecules in the liquid.

  3. #3

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    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    a chromatograph doesn’t tell you about the ingredients but the molecules in the liquid

    Exactly. The gas chromatograph -- or liquid chromatograph -- can tell you what molecules are in the finished product. But, these tools do not show you how to create a finished product with that exact combination of those ratios of those molecules.

    If I leave Portland on an east-bound flight, I can get to New York. If I leave Portland on a west-bound flight, I can also get to New York; it's a longer route, less efficent, but I end up equally in New York either way. So, once the ratios and molecules are known, the fragrance can be re-created. The direct approach of just measuring out those molecules may be a longer, less efficient route.

    In reality, chromatographic analysis can tell you the destination you want to get to, fill in the New York of the puzzle. With that, the challenge remains of finding the best way to get to that destination.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Yes, but the hindrance to the equation is an unfortunate period on the fragrant timeline:

    the IFRA years.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Maybe it would be more realistic, in case of Tabac Blond e.g., to take the current extrait and "play around" with castoreum and whatever is available and opportune to achieve the desired effect. Not a scientific approach, I know...

  6. #6

    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    A good and reasoned question, but I suspect the answer is more complicated than one would expect at first blush. I'm not a fragrance chemist, but I am a chemist who has operated GCs for many years. GCs and LCs can tell you the chemical composition and relative amounts of fragrance molecules, but cannot tell you their origin. For example, eugenol is a common fragrance molecule that is present in many (if not the majority) of fragrances. It is available to the perfumer in both pure synthetic form and indirectly as a component of natural extracts. So when a GC reports the presence of eugenol, it can't tell you whether it was added as a single component or as a component in, say, clove extract. Pattern recognition might provide a clue, but then you get into the problem of deconvoluting multiple patterns, many of which may contain common ingredients. In short, GC and LC are good starting points for reverse engineering a fragrance, but It's only just that - a start.
    Perhaps one of the fragrance industry pros on Basenotes can provide more insight on how fragrances are reverse engineered.
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts. Daniel Moynihan

  7. #7

    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Snafoo View Post
    A good and reasoned question, but I suspect the answer is more complicated than one would expect at first blush. I'm not a fragrance chemist, but I am a chemist who has operated GCs for many years. GCs and LCs can tell you the chemical composition and relative amounts of fragrance molecules, but cannot tell you their origin. For example, eugenol is a common fragrance molecule that is present in many (if not the majority) of fragrances. It is available to the perfumer in both pure synthetic form and indirectly as a component of natural extracts. So when a GC reports the presence of eugenol, it can't tell you whether it was added as a single component or as a component in, say, clove extract. Pattern recognition might provide a clue, but then you get into the problem of deconvoluting multiple patterns, many of which may contain common ingredients. In short, GC and LC are good starting points for reverse engineering a fragrance, but It's only just that - a start.
    Perhaps one of the fragrance industry pros on Basenotes can provide more insight on how fragrances are reverse engineered.
    This is why I love BN.

  8. #8
    Redbeard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    I'll throw in my two cents as a chemist and basically agree with Snafoo's explanation. As Gollnick suggested, even knowing ratios of a group of the major, identifiable components would just get you to a rough recipe, at first just trying to reproduce the mixture at that level of detail. Then you'd have to play around with the ratios and think about what minor components may have been in there that you'd like to add, based on what plant extracts you think were actually used.

  9. #9
    PerfumeCollector's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    I have a doctorate in Chemistry, major in Biochemistry, and my doctoral thesis was in Mass Spectrometry and worked all my life in the chemical analysis area so I can tell you with knowledge of the subject that not only you can tell the components, but also de origins of most complex mixtures by the technique known as chemical fingerprinting. Using chemical fingerprinting, analytical chemists can tell you, for instance, if an oil tarball found in the Gulf of Mexico came from the BP blown oil well, or from other spill etc and can tell you if an attar came from India, or China, etc. The problem is that components in a perfume have different volatility, so the ratios may change with time, therefore a 40 years old perfume could be replicated identical as how smells today, not how it smelled originally.
    Anyhow, it seems like a great idea to try to reproduce the old classics, I have the know how, so if anybody is interested and willing to look for investors, I would be willing to start an enterprise with the purpose of bringing back those espectacular fragrances of yesteryears.
    Last edited by PerfumeCollector; 16th October 2010 at 09:29 PM.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    ok - let's play .... what would your ballpark cost estimate be just to analyze and list the componenets and their origin for a fragrance ?


    Quote Originally Posted by PerfumeCollector View Post
    I have a doctorate in Chemistry, major in Biochemistry, and my doctoral thesis was in Mass Spectrometry and worked all my life in the chemical analysis area so I can tell you with knowledge of the subject that not only you can tell the components, but also de origins of most complex mixtures by the technique known as chemical fingerprinting. Using chemical fingerprinting, analytical chemists can tell you, for instance, if an oil tarball found in the Gulf of Mexico came from the BP blown oil well, or from other spill etc and can tell you if an attar came from India, or China, etc. The problem is that components in a perfume have different volatility, so the ratios may change with time, therefore a 40 years old perfume could be replicated identical as how smells today, not how it smelled originally.
    Anyhow, it seems like a great idea to try to reproduce the old classics, I have the know how, so if anybody is interested and willing to look for investors, I would be willing to start an enterprise with the purpose of bringing back those espectacular fragrances of yesteryears.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Exciting...

  12. #12
    PerfumeCollector's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Quote Originally Posted by SoGent View Post
    ok - let's play .... what would your ballpark cost estimate be just to analyze and list the componenets and their origin for a fragrance ?
    First, you have to have the instrumentation, but if I go to a laboratory for such a test, the bill would range between 500 to 1000 bucks.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Quote Originally Posted by PerfumeCollector View Post
    I have a doctorate in Chemistry, major in Biochemistry, and my doctoral thesis was in Mass Spectrometry and worked all my life in the chemical analysis area so I can tell you with knowledge of the subject that not only you can tell the components, but also de origins of most complex mixtures by the technique known as chemical fingerprinting. Using chemical fingerprinting, analytical chemists can tell you, for instance, if an oil tarball found in the Gulf of Mexico came from the BP blown oil well, or from other spill etc and can tell you if an attar came from India, or China, etc. The problem is that components in a perfume have different volatility, so the ratios may change with time, therefore a 40 years old perfume could be replicated identical as how smells today, not how it smelled originally.
    Anyhow, it seems like a great idea to try to reproduce the old classics, I have the know how, so if anybody is interested and willing to look for investors, I would be willing to start an enterprise with the purpose of bringing back those espectacular fragrances of yesteryears.
    The problem is that you don't have a single fingerprint, you have multiple fingerprints superimposed on each other, at least with regard to perfume ingredients derived from natural products. A more accurate example would be a tar ball from the Gulf that drifts around the world, accreting tar balls from the North Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and half a dozen other locations. The resulting tar ball will share a number of common constituents with each contributing tar ball, so deconvoluting the combined chromatogram might prove difficult. Back to fragrance, consider a perfume that is composed of, say, 15 natural products, and each natural product is itself composed of 50 individual chemical compounds - many of which are common to more than one natural product. I have to think that the resulting gas chromatogram would be formidable to reverse engineer - not in terms of identifying individual compounds (that would be straightforward), but rather in terms of identifying the sources of the compounds. You might be able to take advantage of the uniqueness of some compounds to a specific natural product, but I think it would still be a tough road. Identifying the individual components in a fragrance would be very straightforward, divining their source would be a challenge. Synthetic aromachemicals, or at least those that have no natural source, don't apply to this argument; it would be trivial to reverse engineer a fragrance made entirely of synthetic compounds.

    I agree that age throws another variable into the mix that would probably be at least as challenging as determining the source of the constituents.
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts. Daniel Moynihan

  14. #14

    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Quote Originally Posted by PerfumeCollector View Post
    First, you have to have the instrumentation, but if I go to a laboratory for such a test, the bill would range between 500 to 1000 bucks.
    Good luck with that. I estimate the bill for a full reverse engineering of a fragrance would be at least 10 times that amount, if not more, and will depend largely on the analyst's expertise in the field of interest. $500-$1000 will get you a printout of the chemicals in a fragrance, but not much more.
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts. Daniel Moynihan

  15. #15
    PerfumeCollector's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Snafoo: Nobody said it would be easy, if it was easy to do, somebody would have done it long long time ago, but being difficult does not mean it is impossible. And I do have the experience in fingerprinting using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. It seems that you are refering to simple gas chromatography and you are right in that respect, GC by itself will not cut the cake, but when you add mass spectrometry, and triple quadropole mass spectrometry, then things are different. By the way, tell me about your fingerprinting experience, I am profesionally very interested in hearing your experience in the field.

  16. #16
    PerfumeCollector's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    That is your estimate, OK, it is your estimate and I respect that. But, I have done fingerprinting and charged $750 for the full test not only giving the list of the components, but also including the interpretation, so mine is not an estimate, it is the actual price I charged for doing the test.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Quote Originally Posted by PerfumeCollector View Post
    That is your estimate, OK, it is your estimate and I respect that. But, I have done fingerprinting and charged $750 for the full test not only giving the list of the components, but also including the interpretation, so mine is not an estimate, it is the actual price I charged for doing the test.
    If you can reverse engineer Patou Pour Homme for $750, I commend you, sir.
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts. Daniel Moynihan

  18. #18

    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Quote Originally Posted by PerfumeCollector View Post
    Snafoo: Nobody said it would be easy, if it was easy to do, somebody would have done it long long time ago, but being difficult does not mean it is impossible. And I do have the experience in fingerprinting using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. It seems that you are refering to simple gas chromatography and you are right in that respect, GC by itself will not cut the cake, but when you add mass spectrometry, and triple quadropole mass spectrometry, then things are different. By the way, tell me about your fingerprinting experience, I am profesionally very interested in hearing your experience in the field.
    Principal Chemist, 34 yrs experience in environmental and forensic chemistry, 5 yrs Mass Spectrometry Facility Manager, including GC/MS, LC/MS/MS, HRMS. CV on request. I'm not questioning your credentials, PC, I'm arguing the challenges in recreating a fragrance solely from chromatographic data. And yes, my earlier comments assumed MS as the detection method.
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts. Daniel Moynihan

  19. #19

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    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Snafoo View Post
    $500-$1000 will get you a printout of the chemicals in a fragrance, but not much more.
    That is all that a GC -- or LC or NMRS -- can give you for any price.

    The real challenge is in the interpretation -- and application -- of those data.

  20. #20
    PerfumeCollector's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    I did not say I can recreate the fragance for $750, I think that it was clear. I was asked by SoGent "what would your ballpark cost estimate be just to analyze and list the components and their origin for a fragrance ?" Note the words "just to analyze", not to recreate, that is a completely different ball game.
    My experience:
    Doctorate in Chemistry majoring in Biochemistry from the American University in Washington DC
    Doctoral thesis at the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST).
    Manager of GC/MS lab at National Institutes of Health (NIH)
    Research chemist at NIST
    VicePresident of Research and Development at Biochemical Marketing Corporation
    Technical Director of Coast to Coast Analytical
    Technical Director of BC Laboratories
    Laboratory Director of Halcyon Laboratory.
    Laboratory Director of Central Environmental Laboratories in Kuwait working in the assesment of the environmental impact of the war.
    Laboratory Director of Coachella Valley Water District Water Quality Laboratory.
    Plus a few more not worth to mention

  21. #21
    PerfumeCollector's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gollnick View Post
    The real challenge is in the interpretation -- and application -- of those data.
    and there is where my experience counts INTERPRETATION!!!

  22. #22

    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Quote Originally Posted by PerfumeCollector View Post
    I did not say I can recreate the fragance for $750, I think that it was clear. I was asked by SoGent "what would your ballpark cost estimate be just to analyze and list the components and their origin for a fragrance ?" Note the words "just to analyze", not to recreate, that is a completely different ball game.
    I humbly stand corrected - a simple GC/MS analysis and printout of results should cost no more than $1K. As Gollnick stated, the real cost lies in the interpretation of those results. However, I think we can all agree that a list of chemical components would not be sufficient to recreate a fragrance, at least in a practical sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by PerfumeCollector View Post
    My experience:
    Doctorate in Chemistry majoring in Biochemistry from the American University in Washington DC
    Doctoral thesis at the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST).
    Manager of GC/MS lab at National Institutes of Health (NIH)
    Research chemist at NIST
    VicePresident of Research and Development at Biochemical Marketing Corporation
    Technical Director of Coast to Coast Analytical
    Technical Director of BC Laboratories
    Laboratory Director of Halcyon Laboratory.
    Laboratory Director of Central Environmental Laboratories in Kuwait working in the assesment of the environmental impact of the war.
    Laboratory Director of Coachella Valley Water District Water Quality Laboratory.
    Plus a few more not worth to mention
    This is pointless. What began as a thought exercise is devolving to a CV shout down. Simple answer to the OP's question: chromatography (coupled with whatever detection method you choose) is insufficient to recreate a fragrance. How closely a recreated fragrance approximates the original will depend as much or more on the skill of the perfumer than of the analytical chemist.

    Nice CV, by the way.
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts. Daniel Moynihan

  23. #23
    PerfumeCollector's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Snafoo View Post
    I think we can all agree that a list of chemical components would not be sufficient to recreate a fragrance, at least in a practical sense.
    Nobody questions that, I was just answering the price of the cost of the analysis.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Thanks to everyone for your help here, especially Snafoo and PerfumeCollector. It seems like you both have great knowledge in this field, (I wouldn´t have a clue!). The last thing I want here is to create conflict....please guys !
    Back to the costs of such a project. Basenotes has tremendous people power. If a 1000 members were to say ok, I´m willing to risk $ 10 for such a project, eg. to recreate Patou pour Homme, $10,000 would go quite a long way to toward the finished product - including the raw materials.
    I am sure that a VERY accurate end result is VERY achievable......look at all the copies of brand perfumes out there, (not all - but the majority are remarkably accurate. In most cases my nose cannot tell the difference between a good copy of Fahrenheit and the real thing. I must emphasise here that there are cpoies and there are copies, and I am referring to the better copies. So it is very do-able. Also, I am sure that it is done with the help of some sort of machinery, not just a nose tinkering about on a perfumers organ. After all, as soon as a new fragrance is released, the copy is there on the shelves too. Perhaps the answer is to ask the firms that make the copies how it is achieved, and also to ask them the cost of copying a discontinued perfume and supplying a small batch ?

  25. #25

    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    i have a question tho: how did some of the semi-fake perfume industry like onedrop perfumes and another oil-based perfume manufactorer who is able to reproduce popular scents but in oil form? did they manage to have access to formulas of Shalimar, CK etc?

  26. #26

    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Quote Originally Posted by david View Post
    Thanks to everyone for your help here, especially Snafoo and PerfumeCollector. It seems like you both have great knowledge in this field, (I wouldn´t have a clue!). The last thing I want here is to create conflict....please guys !
    Back to the costs of such a project. Basenotes has tremendous people power. If a 1000 members were to say ok, I´m willing to risk $ 10 for such a project, eg. to recreate Patou pour Homme, $10,000 would go quite a long way to toward the finished product - including the raw materials.
    I am sure that a VERY accurate end result is VERY achievable......look at all the copies of brand perfumes out there, (not all - but the majority are remarkably accurate. In most cases my nose cannot tell the difference between a good copy of Fahrenheit and the real thing. I must emphasise here that there are cpoies and there are copies, and I am referring to the better copies. So it is very do-able. Also, I am sure that it is done with the help of some sort of machinery, not just a nose tinkering about on a perfumers organ. After all, as soon as a new fragrance is released, the copy is there on the shelves too. Perhaps the answer is to ask the firms that make the copies how it is achieved, and also to ask them the cost of copying a discontinued perfume and supplying a small batch ?
    Don't worry about the professional squabbling, David. Put two scientists in a room together and there's bound to be disagreement. That's the nature of science.
    Despite my ramblings about how challenging it would be to recreate Patou Pour Homme, yes, it's theoretically doable - to a point. I suppose it would depend on how closely one wants to approximate the original. As I said earlier, fragrances based primarily on synthetics should be relatively easy to copy, and I suspect those in the business of making copies of popular fragrances use the methods we're discussing here. I also suspect that the devil is in the details, in other words, how to capture the nuances that make a fragrance such as PPH a masterpiece. For example, a perfumer may have a particular supply of Mysore sandalwood oil at his/her disposal which an oil from another supplier may not precisely match. Would a substitute be "good enough"? Possibly - and this is where my limited knowledge on the subject fails me. Perhaps someone from the DIY forum could provide more insight.
    As for getting 1000 BNers to pony up $ for a reverse engineering project - half the time we can't seem to be able to decide what to wear from the selection we already have. Not sure how you'd manage to get 1000 guys to agree on a single fragrance.

    Later: I Googled "reverse engineering fragrances" and found several sources for more information on this topic. Wikipedia has a brief section under "Perfume" devoted to reverse engineering that corroborates pretty much everything we've said here (only more eloquently). There are also numerous companies that offer the service. One such is Aroma Alternatives in Austin TX., which quotes a price of $95/hour, with the following disclaimer: "Depending on the level of difficulty of the product hours and time frame can vary widely and until the development of reverse engineering toward said product starts there will be no idea how long or how many hours it will take to develop said product."
    Last edited by Snafoo; 17th October 2010 at 01:17 PM.
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts. Daniel Moynihan

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Perhaps hiring a great nose or two and if possible sniff the original, experiment and ultimately re-create might be even better?
    These things cannot be long hidden: the Sun, the Moon, the Truth--Buddha
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  28. #28

    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    lol this thread is becoming a place to show off :P Keep it simple and straight to the point guys.
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  29. #29

    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Fascinating chat--I assume that copying a fragrance in this way is legal ?? --after all this not an interpretation but a copy.Like taking an iphone to bits, sourcing your own parts ,making it yourself and calling it a Nexus (joke) !!

  30. #30

    Default Re: Does a gaschromatograph = possible rebirth of a lost legend ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stalliano View Post
    Fascinating chat--I assume that copying a fragrance in this way is legal ?? --after all this not an interpretation but a copy.Like taking an iphone to bits, sourcing your own parts ,making it yourself and calling it a Nexus (joke) !!
    Interesting article in Fashion and Apparel Law Blog that provides an overview on the legal status of copycat fragrances:

    http://www.fashionapparellawblog.com...common-scents/
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts. Daniel Moynihan

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