Synthetics in Perfumery : Hedione Part 2

As a counterpart to the first series of Synthetics in Perfumery, here is the second part. The material I cover today is hedione. I explain how and by whom it was discovered, what led up to the experiments with hedione and what makes it such an important material. Hedione, which is the Firmenich tradename for methyl dihydrojasmonate, occurs naturally in jasmine. While its quantity in jasmine essence is quite small, it provides a unique radiant effect–and that is what Edmond Roudnitska discovered when he used it to create Dior’s Eau Sauvage. While on its own hedione doesn’t have a particularly strong character, the luminosity and radiance that it lends to compositions are striking.

Without hedione, Eau Sauvage would have been a well-crafted but not particularly memorable cologne. Without hedione, we wouldn’t be able to experience a variety of sensations and textures. It’s one of the most versatile perfume materials and today it’s hard to find a fragrance that doesn’t include it.

If you’ve liked my video and want to learn more about hedione, here is another article: Hedione Luminous Jasmine. It includes a number of perfume examples and mentions the doses of hedione used in them.

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23 Comments

  • Tourmaline: Dear Victoria,

    Thank you for this fascinating post and video. How interesting that, like frankincense in the previous post, hedione is very versatile.

    I liked hearing your account of leaving the blotter with hedione on your desk and then returning later to discover the ingredient’s beauty.

    I can see that I shall have to take my 10ml bottle of Eau Sauvage from the fridge, where it has languished for about 30 years, and try it on my skin. I received it in a gift-with-purchase sample kit, along with 10ml bottles of Miss Dior and Diorissimo, about 35 years ago. I didn’t consider wearing men’s fragrances back then, and I can’t even remember how it smells.

    I do recall smelling Kenzo’s Flower when it first came out, and liking its fresh scent very much. I almost bought a bottle.

    Merry Christmas to you and all my fellow readers! December 21, 2020 at 8:16am Reply

    • Victoria: The beauty of Kenzo Flower is in its soft powderiness combined with radiance. It’s lovely. December 22, 2020 at 11:40am Reply

  • Andy: I was on something of a hedione kick the last couple weeks, looking for fragrances with clarity and light to counterbalance the sensory overindulgence of the holidays (especially pronounced when you’re stuck home all day and the seasonal decor and your favorite gingerbread are near…). Thé Vert is probably my favorite example of this material (surprise, surprise), and seems a good example of the material used to its best effect. Though, I also notice and enjoy it in fragrances on the other end of the spectrum, in rich blends like Aromatics Elixir. The first time I smelled hedione, I too was disappointed, and did the same thing—left the room, and when I returned found it filled with this beautiful radiant scent that smelled to me like pink clouds. December 21, 2020 at 9:47am Reply

    • Victoria: The Vert is also my favorite. The way Ellena weaved that tea accord is unrivaled. December 22, 2020 at 11:40am Reply

  • Elizabeth Rush: Thank you, Victoria, for such an interesting blog! Your recent videos are so charming and well presented and both vehicles have opened my eyes to the lovely world of fragrance.
    I wish I had more access to all the lovely perfumes you mention but I try regularly to take in the nearby aromas of my kitchen spices and other natural fragrances around me. Much appreciated! December 21, 2020 at 10:15am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Elizabeth! To learn to smell, your pantry is more than enough. Spices are my favorite way to sharpen my sense of smell. December 22, 2020 at 11:41am Reply

  • Fazal: Vintage Eau Sauvage is brilliant and timeless in the true sense of the word. I smelled vintage Eau Sauvage Extreme first and then vintage Eau Sauvage few years later so I am a little more biased towards the vintage extreme version but I do think that vintage Eau Sauvage is the better composition and also more versatile than the Extreme version. Extreme is quite a different composition rather than being an ‘extreme’ version of the original Eau Sauvage as the name may imply. December 21, 2020 at 10:30am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, the vintage version was special, since Roudnitska’s harmony and balance were there. Today, it’s good, but it’s hard to be impartial when one knows the original. December 22, 2020 at 11:42am Reply

  • Peter: Mahalo Victoria, for the next layer of the building blocks of synthetics. I agree with Tourmaline that the story of the blossoming hedione was fascinating. Andy had the same experience.
    I would also like to echo Tourmaline and wish everyone Happy Holidays. December 21, 2020 at 9:02pm Reply

    • Tourmaline: Victoria and Andy’s experience with hedione obviously stayed with me, because last night I dreamed that I was at perfume school and was given a vial of hedione. I put some on a blotter and left it in a closed room in my unit, and then for some reason I dabbed some on my wrist and added Oscar on top, to see what difference it might make. Frustratingly, I woke up before I experienced the result of either experiment! December 21, 2020 at 9:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Peter! Happy holidays to everyone. December 22, 2020 at 11:42am Reply

  • Peter: What a fun dream. Maybe you’ll get to revisit your experiment. December 21, 2020 at 10:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: I was thinking the same thing. December 22, 2020 at 11:43am Reply

  • rickyrebarco: I love hedione and I enjoy a mix of synthetics and natural ingredients in perfume. Some of the new brands like Hermetica, I am also really enjoying. These new brands often rely more on synthetics for ecological reasons. December 21, 2020 at 11:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: True, there is that aspect too. December 22, 2020 at 11:43am Reply

  • Hana: Hi Victoria, thank you for another video. I’m learning a lot and feeling like if I was in one of your classes.
    I’d like to know what you think about health concerns connected to synthetics in perfumery. The molecules are fairly new and I’m not sure if they’re always safe in longterm. I understand the environmental benefit of not relying on agriculture but what happens when synthetic molecules end up in water? I don’t have enough information to have an opinion on this but I’d like to know what other hard core perfume lovers think. December 22, 2020 at 6:23am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a very good and valid question. The issue is less with the fine fragrances than with fabric softeners and detergents. The amount of perfume one typically wear is still small, but imagine the amount of fabric and dish detergents that we use. Materials are repeatedly reviewed for safety, however, and many have been banned. Are the ones that are currently in use safe? I don’t know, but I haven’t seen any data showing that they are not safe. So, I personally keep on trusting the research and using the materials that are allowed for consumer products. December 22, 2020 at 11:49am Reply

    • Silvermoon: Hello Hana! I think you ask an excellent question, even if the answer is extremely complex. Also, it would vary from item to item – balancing synthetic and natural with heavy emphasis on sustainability should always be a consideration (by both producers and consumers). Natural ingredients are attractive to our minds, oftentimes because they also sustain cultural traditions, etc. However, synthetics could mean perfumes are more accessible (because they are often more affordable). Moreover, we need to think of sustainability in its deepest and widest sense. For example, sometimes a natural ingredient may even be environmentally safe, but not socially so (workers’ conditions, production processes, trading practices). I don’t think there is an easy solution, but perhaps being aware of these matters is already a great start for making informed choices. December 22, 2020 at 1:11pm Reply

    • Silvermoon: Hana! I think you ask an excellent question, even if the answer is extremely complex. Also, it would vary from item to item – balancing synthetic and natural with heavy emphasis on sustainability should always be a consideration (by both producers and consumers). Natural ingredients are attractive to our minds, oftentimes because they also sustain cultural traditions, etc. However, synthetics could mean perfumes are more accessible (because they are often more affordable). Moreover, we need to think of sustainability in its deepest and widest sense. For example, sometimes a natural ingredient may even be environmentally safe, but not socially so (workers’ conditions, production processes, trading practices). I don’t think there is an easy solution, but perhaps being aware of these matters is already a great start for making informed choices. December 22, 2020 at 2:35pm Reply

  • Silvermoon: Fascinating video, Victoria. Also read the accompanying article. By chance, I am wearing a jasmine perfume today, Ortigia’s Sicilian Jasmine. A lovely lingering perfume that seemed the perfect choice for a crispy cold sunny winter’s day. I wonder if it uses hedione (if yes, how much)? December 22, 2020 at 12:54pm Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: How fascinating! This, in a way, is new to me. I obviously read a lot about synthetics in perfumery—say the early Chanels—yet somehow when smelling the classics, I think „natural“. Okay come to think of it, aldehydes might not smell particularly natural (No. 22 or Arpège anyone?).
    Synthetics to me are those vile, overbearing, howling „wood“ notes of the last 8 or so years. Nothing luminous or radiant there, more likely a sledgehammer! December 22, 2020 at 1:15pm Reply

  • Nina Z: Victoria, this was just wonderful! You explain everything so simply and beautifully. I love learning from you how to understand perfumes at a more fundamental level. I can see now how hedione would help perfumes smell lighter and more radiant as opposed to the more dense and flat qualities that many all natural perfumes have. I’m super excited about the rest of this series because you make understanding these concepts so easy and I love deepening my understanding of perfume. I think I have a sample of Kenzo Flower somewhere, so I’ll try to track that down and sniff it for research purposes. Does Love and Tears from By Killian have a lot of hedione?

    I’m very curious about what you said about the percentages of hedione used in perfumes. Of course, vintage Eau Sauvage was so balanced and perfect, with its 2 percent of hedione. Is it typically only modern perfumes that use a much larger percentage of hedione? And, if so, is the same true about vintage vs. modern regarding the percentages of other individual synthetics? December 22, 2020 at 7:04pm Reply

What do you think?

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