The sense of smell is powerful. It calls up memories and can transport us to other places and times. Fragrances can be exotic, comforting or soothing. When we experience a fragrance, it’s an appreciation of the finished product, but what casual consumers of fragrance don’t understand is all the work, science and skill that goes into blending components into harmonious fragrances.
We checked in with our very own Fragrance and Product Developer here at Agilex, Nancy Telencio, who explained some of the challenges of combining raw materials into a fragrance consumers will love. Nancy knows the fragrance business inside out – she develops fragrances for some of the largest consumer brands in the country. She has put some time in product development and marketing. In short, Nancy is the expert here at Agilex.
Nancy explained that combining raw materials into a signature fragrance requires both science and creativity. Fragrances are classified into basic olfactive categories like fruity, floral, musk, woody, citrus, spice and marine. “If perfumery is creating a tropical fruity fragrance, notes from other categories are utilized to create a finished fragrance.” So even if your finished fragrance smells just like a juicy, ripe pink grapefruit, there could be dozens of ingredients that all work together to create that heavenly aroma. Nancy sums it up perfectly: “Each material that comprises a formula has a purpose. If that material is reduced or increased, it changes the entire dynamic of the fragrance formula.”
A fragrance accord pulls together a whole range of ingredients and fragrance components to create a finished product that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
Of course, there are fragrance components that pose particular challenges for fragrance designers, and Nancy was able to give examples of a couple of particularly difficult raw materials. Pyrazines are the perfect example of this. They are a category of components used in “gourmand fragrances for a ‘baked’ impression.” For example, acetyl pyrazine lends a creamy chocolate note, while 2-3-5 trimethyl pyrazine provides a roasted, nutty aroma. While the names might not be sexy, the finished products they go into certainly are.
Nancy also mentions sulfurous materials used for “fruity tropical notes that are favored by many consumers.” She explains that thiomenthones are powerful fragrance ingredients used in small quantities to achieve tropical mango, peach, blackcurrant and slight grapefruit notes.
So what makes pyrazines and sulfurous ingredients difficult to work with? They both cause stability issues in finished products, a challenge that must be resolved. Scientists in our very own lab work hard to resolve stability problems with these ingredients because “although there are replacements for these materials, they never quite achieve the baked gourmand or sparkling fruity tropical impression,” Nancy explains.
It’s easy to find a delightful fragrance and get lost in the emotions it creates, but taking the time to learn about the hard work, science and creativity that goes into the design and production of that fragrance gives us a fuller understanding of just how complex and delightful the world of fragrance can be.