The development of organic chemistry, which has led to the discovery of synthetic products for the fragrance industry, began in the XIX century and has enriched and continued to enrich the perfumer’s “amphitheatre”, giving him the possibility to confer greater originality to his compositions. In fact, the discovery of a great molecule often corresponds to the creation of a great fragrance.
There are different origins and inspirations. There are those isolated from plants, such as cumarin (1868) isolated from the tonka bean, linalol (1919) isolated from rose wood and eugenol (1939) isolated from cloves, to cite just a few. Those which are completely “abstract” such as the aldehydes which marked an important stage in the evolutions of women’s fragrances with the creation of “cult” fragrances such as Chanel n°5, Arpège, L’Interdit by Givenchy, Rive Gauche, First, White Linen. Just as important were the development of marine molecules which opened up new olfactory horizons in the beginning of the 90’s and the creation of white musk, a true revolution in the area of sensuality and ecology.
Because, on the contrary to widely believed popular opinion, synthetic molecules do not constitute an economic reproduction of nature, they have in fact become an indispensable finishing touch to natural substances and a compensation of what nature offers in a variable and discontinuous way, with full respect to the conservation of the environment. The production of each new molecule represents continuous investment for years of research, often followed by long and complex production processes, toxicology testing and the registration of costly patents before obtaining a substance which allows the expression of new emotions. Nothing to be surprised at if the companies reserve the most innovative ones for the exclusive use of their creators for a few years as a “corps captifs”, a prerogative practiced in specialised companies: Firmenich, Givaudan, Symrise, I.F.F., Takasago.
And the research doesn’t ever stop. New horizons are being profiled with the results obtained by chiral chemistry, founded on the process of asymmetrical synthesis, which allows the isolation and the production of innovative molecules (enantiomers), such as some fruity notes and musk, with elevated olfactory performances. In order to develop such methods, Professor Ryoji Noyori, member of the Board of Administration of Takasago Japan shared the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2001 with William S. Knowles and K. Barry Sharpless