What do aldehydes smell like?

theUntrainedNose

Active member
Aug 2, 2014
Hi,

I have heard a lot about aldehydes and cannot understand what do they smell like. I have read things like: sparkly, bubbly, soapy, and fatty.

How do aldehydes actually smell?

Thanks
 

Kaern

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Apr 2, 2008
They come in different types -- fresh-floral, green-floral- woody floral, aromatic, etc

Generally they sharpen or brighten up a fragrance
 

David Ruskin

Well-known member
May 28, 2009
Aldehydes are a class of carbon based chemicals which all share a common functional group ( a bit of the molecule's structure is the same in all Aldehydes). Many Aldehydes are used in Perfumery; Vanillin (main chemical in Vanilla), Cinnamic Aldehyde (Cinnamon and Cassia), Cumin Aldehyde (Cumin) and Citral (Lemongrass oil and Lemon oils) are all Aldehydes, and all smell very different. When we refer to an "Aldehydic fragrance" we are usually talking about a sub-set of Aldehydes called "Straight Chain Aldehydes". Those most common found in Perfumery are Aldehyde C8 (8 carbon atoms in a row), Aldehyde C9, C10, two sorts of C11 and two sorts of C12. As the chain lengthens so the smell changes. Aldehyde C8 smells fatty, and reminiscent of Mandarin, C10 smells more sour and reminiscent of Lemon, the longer chained Aldehydes smell more floral. They all have a fatty quality, the longer the chain the more metallic and "fizzy' they become.
 

theUntrainedNose

Active member
Aug 2, 2014
Thanks.

I think I can understand the "fatty soap" reference. There are some perfumes that smell like a traditional soap we have here, "yellow soap". which is probably some kind of local version of Castille soap (the brands that make it all belong to vegetable oil or olive oil companies), and I do like them.

I am still confused on the "metallic and fizzy" part. Do you mean like bubbly white wine, that tickles in the nose?

Sorry, English is not my first language.
 

cacio

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Nov 5, 2010
The easiest way to check the stereotypical aldehyde is to smell the first 10 seconds of Chanel No 5. Most of what one gets is aldehydes. But as david was saying there are several aldehydes and they all have slightly different odor profiles.

cacio
 

David Ruskin

Well-known member
May 28, 2009
Thanks.

I think I can understand the "fatty soap" reference. There are some perfumes that smell like a traditional soap we have here, "yellow soap". which is probably some kind of local version of Castille soap (the brands that make it all belong to vegetable oil or olive oil companies), and I do like them.

I am still confused on the "metallic and fizzy" part. Do you mean like bubbly white wine, that tickles in the nose?

Sorry, English is not my first language.

"Metallic" like the smell of metal; cold and hard. "Fizzy" like sharp and sour, and yes, it tickles the nose. As has been mentioned Chanel 5 is the original Aldehydic fragrance. Others you could look at are White Linen, and Chanel 22. Pretty well all soap fragrances will contain some aldehydes as they work so well in soap. If you smell enough "aldehydic" products I think you will get the idea.
 

theUntrainedNose

Active member
Aug 2, 2014
Thanks.

Interestingly, I have smelled Chanel 22 before and according to my notes found both "Marseille soap" and "metallic" notes.

Have to go on an aldehyde perfume smelling expedition :) My nose seems to be identifying them after all.
 

TipsyTopnotes

Well-known member
Oct 19, 2016
On me, it smells like soap and blood -- like you cut yourself shaving and tried to clean it up. Chanel No 5 does not play well with my skin, nor does any perfume listing "aldehydes" as a note. :(
 

The Islands

Well-known member
Jun 27, 2015
To me it smells like those perfumes your old aunt used to wear. Comme des Garcons 2 was the biggest offender for me, it smells like an old lady.
 

Camerynn

Active member
Feb 3, 2019
Aldehydes are a class of carbon based chemicals which all share a common functional group ( a bit of the molecule's structure is the same in all Aldehydes). Many Aldehydes are used in Perfumery; Vanillin (main chemical in Vanilla), Cinnamic Aldehyde (Cinnamon and Cassia), Cumin Aldehyde (Cumin) and Citral (Lemongrass oil and Lemon oils) are all Aldehydes, and all smell very different. When we refer to an "Aldehydic fragrance" we are usually talking about a sub-set of Aldehydes called "Straight Chain Aldehydes". Those most common found in Perfumery are Aldehyde C8 (8 carbon atoms in a row), Aldehyde C9, C10, two sorts of C11 and two sorts of C12. As the chain lengthens so the smell changes. Aldehyde C8 smells fatty, and reminiscent of Mandarin, C10 smells more sour and reminiscent of Lemon, the longer chained Aldehydes smell more floral. They all have a fatty quality, the longer the chain the more metallic and "fizzy' they become.

I know this on an older thread, but David can you explain a little how these aldehydes were created? My understanding is that they are not necessarily naturally derived. I'm totally ignorant in this area... Do you literally take a natural occurring molecule and put it through a chemical reaction to change the structure? If so, how do you isolate them?

Forgive my ignorance, I work in finance haha
 

Zilpha

Well-known member
Aug 7, 2008
I know this on an older thread, but David can you explain a little how these aldehydes were created? My understanding is that they are not necessarily naturally derived. I'm totally ignorant in this area... Do you literally take a natural occurring molecule and put it through a chemical reaction to change the structure? If so, how do you isolate them?

Forgive my ignorance, I work in finance haha

David no longer posts much on basenotes. Perhaps you could ask this question in the DIY section.
 

Devon

Well-known member
Feb 18, 2019
Soapy champagne, just popped, fizzy-metallicky, is about the best I can give you in the way of a description
 

parker25mv

Well-known member
Oct 12, 2016
Well of course it depends what aldehyde exactly. Aldehydes often smell good, kind of sweet and pleasant, yet maybe a tad bit harsh at the same time.
Think of the smell of artificial cherry, or artificial green apple, or cucumber fragrance.
They're all kind of pungently sweet and sharp.

However, normally when referring to aldehydes in fragrances there are more specific aldehydes being referred to that give a sparkling effect, perking up a natural perfume to make it feel more like something in a department store. Kind of adds a bright sharpness on the surface.
 

Devon

Well-known member
Feb 18, 2019
Well of course it depends what aldehyde exactly. Aldehydes often smell good, kind of sweet and pleasant, yet maybe a tad bit harsh at the same time.
Think of the smell of artificial cherry, or artificial green apple, or cucumber fragrance.
They're all kind of pungently sweet and sharp.

However, normally when referring to aldehydes in fragrances there are more specific aldehydes being referred to that give a sparkling effect, perking up a natural perfume to make it feel more like something in a department store. Kind of adds a bright sharpness on the surface.

Green apple! That's hitting the nail in the head for me: a green apple fizz is what I generally get out of aldehydes. Thank you for that!
 

painted_klown

Well-known member
Jan 5, 2019
The easiest way to check the stereotypical aldehyde is to smell the first 10 seconds of Chanel No 5. Most of what one gets is aldehydes. But as david was saying there are several aldehydes and they all have slightly different odor profiles.

cacio
Came in to post Chanel 5, as that it what I think of when I think aldehydes. Having said that, I was not aware that there were so many different aldehyde smells. I will have to keep my nose out for more andehyde smelling fragrances. I quite like the smell personally. My GF...not so much...LOL!
 

maksidrom

Well-known member
Dec 30, 2003
I love the smell of CDG2, I suspect it's the aldehydes because I get this chemical syrupy inky metallic vibe, but I don't get the "old lady" "old school" other people refer to. And my mom's and grandmom's perfumes didn't smell like that, I would have remembered.
What other aldehyde-based perfumes smell like CDG2?
 

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