What does the word "aldehyde" mean?
The word "aldehyde" comes from the union of two scientific terms. The prefix "al-" is derived from alcohol, while "dehyde" comes from dehydrogenated acid. This combination refers to the characteristic chemical structure of aldehydes, which are organic compounds with a functional group consisting of a carbon atom linked to a hydrogen atom and an oxygen atom by a double bond.
In the beginning...
The history of aldehydes goes back several centuries, but their true understanding and use in organic chemistry began in the early 19th century. The term "aldehyde" was first proposed in 1835 by the German chemist Justus von Liebig, who studied these compounds containing a carbonyl group, made up of a carbon atom linked to a hydrogen atom and an oxygen atom by a double bond.
The first aldehyde to be isolated and studied in depth was formic aldehyde (or methanal), an irritant gas naturally present in red ants. In 1779, French chemist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac first isolated it from ants and named it "formic acid".
Over the decades, other aldehydes have been discovered and studied, including acetic aldehyde (or ethanal), benzoic aldehyde (or benzaldehyde) and cinnamic aldehyde (or cinnamaldehyde), which is responsible for cinnamon's characteristic fragrance.
Aldehydes have also played a crucial role in the development of perfumery. In the early 20th century, synthetic aldehydes were first created in the laboratory, enabling perfumers to produce bright, fresh and sophisticated notes in their compositions. Aldehydes C10, C11, C12, for example, were used to create the famous Chanel N°5 fragrance, which has become an icon of the perfume industry.
Today, aldehydes continue to be widely used in perfumery and organic chemistry for their aromatic and reactive properties, helping to enrich our olfactory experience and our understanding of the chemistry of organic compounds.
The creation of aldehydes molecules
The creation of synthetic aldehydes marked a major turning point in the history of perfumery at the beginning of the 20th century. Prior to their discovery, perfumes were mainly composed of natural essential oils extracted from plants and flowers.
However, these natural ingredients were expensive and their availability limited, making luxury perfumery inaccessible to many people.
Synthetic aldehydes were developed to reproduce the bright, sparkling notes found in citrus zest and flowers, but at a much more affordable cost.
What do you know about aldehydes in perfumery?
Synthetic aldehydes have a particularly interesting olfactory profile in perfumery, and belong to the aldehydic olfactory family. They are often used in perfumery to add a bright, sparkling and distinctive touch to compositions. Their characteristic odor is often described as clean, metallic smell or even slightly soapy.
Aldehydes are versatile and dynamic notes in perfumery, capable of amplifying and enhancing a wide range of olfactory accords. They therefore combine particularly well with floral notes, amplifying their luminosity and adding a touch of freshness. White floral accords, such as jasmine, lily of the valley, rose and orange blossom, are often combined with aldehydes to create classic, elegant fragrances.
In addition, aldehydes marry well with fruity notes to add brightness and radiance to lighter, more playful compositions. Citrus fruits such as bergamot, lemon and mandarin combine particularly well with aldehydes to create sparkling, refreshing fragrances.
Finally, aldehydes can also be combined with woody notes to add dimension and depth to a composition. Woods such as sandalwood, cedar and vetiver work well with aldehydes to create warm, elegant fragrances.
The most famous aldehyde in perfumery is C-10 aldehyde, also known as decenal. This aldehyde was first used in the iconic perfume "Chanel N°5", created in 1921 by perfumer Ernest Beaux for Coco Chanel. It was one of the first perfumes to use synthetic aldehydes to bring a sense of freshness and radiance to the fragrance.
Some popular aldehyde perfumes …
• Chanel N°5 (Vintage) by Chanel is an iconic fragrance, a true masterpiece of perfumery. Launched in 1921 and created by Ernest Beaux, it embodies the very essence of the timeless aldehyde floral fragrance. In the top note, aldehydes add a luminous, powdery touch, accompanied by notes of ylang-ylang, neroli, lemon and bergamot, creating a sparkling, refined opening. The heart unveils a bewitching bouquet of rose, iris, jasmine, iris root and lily of the valley, adding sophisticated floral elegance. Rich, opulent base notes of civet, amber, sandalwood, musk, vanilla, oakmoss, patchouli and vetiver bring sensual, captivating depth to this legendary composition. Chanel N°5 (Vintage) is a timeless fragrance, a symbol of elegance and sophistication, which continues to charm and seduce perfume lovers the world over. Moreover, it’s suitable for both spring and summer season due to its fresh accords.
• Blanche by Byredo is an aldehyde floral scent for women, launched in 2009. This creation opens with luminous notes of aldehydes, rose and pink pepper, offering a delicate, refined opening. The heart of the fragrance is a magnificent floral bouquet of peony, violet and African orange blossom, evoking a soft, elegant femininity. The base notes of musk, woody notes and sandalwood add a touch of sensuality and warmth to this fragrance, making it an elegant and timeless composition you may like.
• Liu by Guerlain is an aldehyde floral fragrance for women, launched in 2021. Created by Jacques Guerlain, it opens with luminous aldehyde notes, bringing a touch of freshness and radiance. The heart of the fragrance reveals a magnificent blend of jasmine and rose, offering timeless floral elegance. Finally, the base notes of iris, vanilla and wood add a sensual, refined dimension to this fragrance, making it a seductive, sophisticated creation.
• Metallique by Tom Ford is an Aldehyde Floral fragrance for women launched in 2019. Its top notes feature luminous aldehydes, pink pepper and bergamot, creating a dazzling opening smell. Its heart unveils a bewitching blend of heliotrope, hawthorn and lily of the valley, bringing floral elegance. Finally, base notes of vanilla, ambrette, Peruvian balsam and sandalwood add a warm, sensual touch to this creation, making it a seductive, modern fragrance.
• Lazy Sunday Morning by Maison Margiela is a unisex woody-musky scent launched in 2013. Created by Louise Turner, this fragrance evokes the softness and tranquility of a lazy Sunday morning. Top notes of aldehydes, lily of the valley and pear bring a delicate freshness. The heart reveals an elegant bouquet of rose, iris and orange blossom, adding a bewitching floral touch. Base notes of white musk, ambrette and Indonesian patchouli leaf give this fragrance a soft, woody sensuality, creating a soothing, comforting olfactory experience for all.
• White Linen is a classic Estée Lauder fragrance known for its crisp, clean and green floral notes. It opens with aldehydes, which give the fragrance its sparkling and effervescent quality. The aldehydes blend seamlessly with the floral bouquet, creating an elegant and timeless scent.
Other famous fragrances featuring aldehydes include Calèche by Hermès, Arpège by Lanvin, First by Van Cleef & Arpels, Madame Rochas by Rochas, Rive Gauche by Yves Saint Laurent, Calandre by Paco Rabanne.