Today’s perfumery is often referred to as artificial, as opposed to the classics of yesteryear, which are shrouded in naturalness. A false belief, since it is with the advent of synthesis that modern perfumery was born… at the end of the 19th century. Explanations.
The synthetic molecules do not date from yesterday. It is their discovery, in 1860, which makes rock the perfumery in a new era. In a society in full technological expansion, this one knows unprecedented progress in organic chemistry, synthesizing artificial materials, isolated from a plant. Like vanillin, the main component of vanilla, which can replace the vanilla bean or increase its presence in a formula. But also coumarin, with its smell of cut hay, vanilla and almond, extracted from the tonka bean, or C-12 aldehyde, which exists naturally in citrus peel.
These ingredients enriched the perfumer’s palette with new effects and sketched out, in the Belle Epoque, an avant-garde perfumery. La Fougère Royale d’Houbigant (1882) combines coumarin with lavender, inaugurating the “fern” family. The brand innovated again with Quelques Fleurs (1912), in which a bouquet of flowers is dressed in the metallic and powdery nuances of aldehydes. It was this same molecule, giving rose and jasmine a new radiance, that made N°5 (1921) a success.
Very modern for its time, Jicky by Guerlain (1889) is the first perfume to leave a purely figurative style, to evolve towards more abstraction, thanks to the massive use of synthetic notes.
A complex, sophisticated formula, based on a bergamot-lavender-vanillin and coumarin axis, that Jacques Guerlain will expand with a new molecule, ethyl-vanillin, for Shalimar (1925).
Since then, perfumers’ creativity has not stopped evolving with the discovery of new molecules. Research is still innovating today, creating ingredients from green chemistry with low carbon impact.
Crédits : @Dina Nasyrova – Eva Bronzini – Vladimir Gladkov