Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Rose Oxide: The materials I use to make perfume No 3

Rose Oxide: the scent of shiny metal roses

The things I use to make scents: number 3

Rose oxide, also known as Tetrahydro-4-methyl-2-(2-methylprop-1-enyl)-pyran, is one of the natural chemicals* that make roses smell the way they do.
Somes roses have no scent and are bred merely for visual beauty. That seems a shame to me. The ones bred for scent are picked by the million and turned into rose absolute - which is expensive - and rose essential oil - which is even more expensive.

Natural rose oil and absolute are made up of hundreds of different molecules.  Some smell and some don't. Some do other things, like giving you a feeling of calm and peace Rose oxide is one with a very distinctive scent.

The rose oxide I use is synthetic. It's the same molecule with the same smell as the one that comes from rose petals, but it's made in a factory, and it exists on its own. And it really does smell like metal roses would, if you could grow them. You just have to use your imagination.

Each variety of rose contains different amounts of the molecules that make it smell, including geraniol, linalool, citronellol and natural adlehydes.
So in modern commercial perfumery, where scents are made by the 100s of litres, natural rose can be too unpredictable. Batches of rose absolute from different countries, fields, levels of sunshine or rainfall, or years, will all smell slightly different from each other. It's the task of a skilled perfumer to reformulate final fragrances so they smell identical to the previous batches. This all takes far too long for many of the high street brands. The top dogs like Chanel and Guerlain do go to the trouble. Others can't afford it.

That's one good reason why perfumers will choose synthetic materials and recreate the smell of roses from its individual parts. Once they have a formula they can use it forever (regulations permitting) and it will always smell the same.

Rose oxide has a shiny brightness to it. Add a little to a boring flower blend and it will wake up; it brings some life to the olfactory party.

I use it in a light airy rose blend of my own. I also use it in an accord I call Shiny Bicyles. Inspired by the 2012 Tour de France, I developed a scent called Time to Draw the Raffle Numbers, to celebrate the moment Bradley Wiggins (Sir Wiggo) led the peloton into the Champs Elysees to help Cav win the final sprint. I used rose oxide and an essential oil that I think smells like wax polish to give me the scent of racing bikes. 

Next we'll have to make a Tour of Britain scent, the scent of a cloudy day on London's Embankment, the Thames in full tide. It could be called Just Glad It's All Over Really. That's a joke for anyone who was watching ITV4.

*Natural chemicals:
Roses are made of chemicals, as are human beings, everything we eat, drink and use. Some chemicals are synthetic - made in factories - and some are natural - found in nature. They are still chemicals, and as a science geek and proud of it, I'm not going to pretend otherwise. More on this later...

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