Sunday, June 10

Hedione 50 years - anniversary perfume & scent chemistry


Hedione 50, a molecule, some very old papers & scents from the 1920's
(my collection)

Several months ago Firmenich invited me to join the team preparing the anniversary of Hedione, one of the most celebrated and known molecules of the XXth century. In the anniversary DVD, along with François Demachy (for Eau Sauvage) and Firmenich specialists, I spoke about the impact of this molecule on the art of perfumes since one of the most unexpected historical perfume, retracing the source of the ideal freshness from the earliest Eau de Cologne (XVIIIth century) to Eau Sauvage (1960's),  Acqua di Gio for Men and CKOne in the 1990's. Thanks to Acqua di Gio for Men, a miracle, I understood Hedione before I knew what this molecule is. The perfume has an impressive aura and the 90's were basically these two perfumes for men floating all over around. A perfume is a masterpiece when you can remember it after a decade without any "private" souvenir. Hedione contributed to this magic like Lyral did for feminine flowers and of course a salicylate which is beauty par excellence.
All started several centuries ago in Italy with a perfume formula who knew many variations and names but the same spirit - an ideal freshness - the most known today being the Feminis, Farina and 4711 versions, updated since their first creation.
In the original Italian formula there are two special ingredients of the outmost importance. One is jasmine, the other is orris, they are all present in traces in a time when modern powerful extracts (absolutes) were not known. Italians did other type of extracts, let's say more original. Smelling the original old italian formula I remade this year it is impossible to detect them in the drydown because their purpose was not the odor but the trace effect. They were not used for their characteristic facets (sensual jasmine or powdery orris notes), but for special effects often brought by under dosed ingredients. The mysterious nose who invented the sparkling freshness was searching for a Hedione like material and another special orris component. After 200 years, Chuit and Firmenich solved the XVIIth century mystery and gave to perfumers what they were dreaming since the first formula was imagined in a monastery - jasmone and methyl jasmonate plus an entire collection of jasmine jewels. When natural jasmine is used in trace inside a lemony composition (citron composé), you get the jasmone-jasmonates effect. Every single intuition in perfume design is explained by chemistry which is essential to this art, to understand nature and to conceive new perfumes. Today, every perfumer knows that Eau Sauvage (1966) was immediately followed by the trend of Eau Fraîche where the orris-beta ionone plays a strategic role as it plays in many natural scents, often under dosed. 
The last developpement of the 19th was Eau de Bulgari which is nothing else than the translation of a chemical relation found in Nature, the XVIIIth century principle transposed from lemon to bergamot. Earl grey tea odour is based on bergamot flavoring while the organoleptic principle of Ceylon tea is represented by methyl jasmonate (and other characteristic jasmine elements) plus molecules related to the ionone-damascone family. This is why the odour of tea was already used in perfumery in the XIXth century as I showed in the past.
This desire for abstract freshness which characterized the invention of a new type of "Acqua" appears in 1708 in a letter written by Jean Marie Farina to his brother Jean Baptiste where he describes his creation with these terms (my translation):
"I created a perfume whose odor is the reminiscence of a spring morning where the odors of  wild daffodils and orange flowers are mixed shortly after a rain shower. This perfume refreshes, stimulates my senses and my imagination."
This pursuit for a wild freshness inspired Eau Sauvage where Edmond Roudnitska made the XXth synthesis of three families - the freshness of the original Cologne, the earliest coumarine-lavender tonality of new mown hay and fougère plus the chypre, in its most purist form as it was perfected by Houbigant in the 30's (when the "archaic" labdanum Coty facet was underdosed). 
With Aqua di Gio pour Homme, the ideal freshness, transparent and immaterial, but radiating with a strong sillage, was pushed in a new dimension adding the new watery elements because water itself became available for perfumers - it is Calone, but many other notes which play a major role in the transparent green freshness. They were all discovered by Chuit Naef (now Firmenich) since early 1900's when the company started to investigate the freshness and the "watery transparent" element present in every plant. Every single complex plant odor has its "water/air/sap" molecules which do not smell necessarily like "plain marine water" but act as a fluid giving the true to life dimension in a reconstitution. For instance, Firmenich developed the green watery sometime fruity violet notes, used from Le Parfum de Thérèse to l'Eau par Kenzo. I call these molecules "Odeur Sève" because they refer to the "fluid" of the fragrant plant, which is not necessary green like the crushed leaves, and can be understood once you study "the aesthetics of fluids" related to human body, a concept which belongs to philosophy and art history. 
Hedione belongs to a very complicated and rich family of molecules present in the jasmine like flowers. These jasmonate family might be described as the quintessence of jasmine. Decomposing the natural odor of jasmine into its myrrhiad of facets and molecules, you will discover that some smell jasmine, other are not at all characteristic to this flower, while other have a little contribution to the odor. What makes a jasmine a jasmine, or the inner soul of the flower, has been at the core of the perfume art for many decades. For some it was just a pursuit to make cheaper jasmine versions of the absolute, but for creative perfumers it was the abstract input to play and master a jasmine tonality inside a complex perfume where notes tend to overlap.
A detailed article about the chemistry of Hedione and the modern jasmine molecules from Firmenich can be found in Perfumer and Flavorist 
The Chemistry and Creative Legacy of Methyl Jasmonate and Hedione ( (+)-paradisione, Methyl cis-jasmonate, Hedione and splendione), 
Chapuis, Christian - Perfumer & Flavorist 36/12, 12/2011, p.36-48
"Edouard Demole discovered methyl jasmonate in 1957, accomplished a synthesis of Hedione  in 1958, synthesized methyl jasmonate in 1959, placed both materials under intellectual protection in 1960, and published these discoveries in 1962. "

Firmenich tower when Hedione was made available in 1962
(my collection)

Synthetic jasmine notes are more useful than the expensive absolute because they bring its characteristic notes to light and the concept of jasmine can be manipulated at will. In fact, despite their "chemical" name, they are natural constituents. Jasmine is at the heart of fragrance chemistry at Firmenich for more than 80 years. Ruzicka determined the structure of jasmone in 1933, a compound much used by Roudnitska in his perfumes. Demole made jasmolactone and methyl jasmonate in 1962. Further, these jasmonoids were discovered in other plants as well, sometime in the most unexpected places. In some plants they act as hormones, for some butterflies they are pheromones. 
Many details about the science behind the jasmine notes can be found in the magnum opus Scent & Chemistry (p.259-266). The natural constituent is (-)methyl jasmonate, while Hedione is  methyl dihydrojasmonate (cca 1,8% in Eau Sauvage). Its cis isomer is considered at least 70% more powerful leading to commercial qualities with an increased amount of this isomer like Hedione HC (75% cis). Another commercial quality gives the special cachet to a Cartier perfume I adore. Hedione is present in all modern perfumes, in some it contributes to the amazing quality: First, Cristalle, Anais Anais, Ysatis, Pleasures with Hedione HC, Carita with Paradisone. The amount is 8-20% in these perfumes.  
Hedione, made available in 1962, brought even a more complex dimension - air. The molecule, delicate at first time, is incredible radiant and tenacious having an impact from 0,02 to 20% and more in a perfume. With Hedione the perfumes started to dance and diffuse.  The natural jasmine absolute, the delicate yet characteristic green note studied by Roudnitska, the presence of Hedione and other memories from the early 60's were briefly presented during a conference last year by perfumer Raymond Chaillan. The perfumer would later co-sign my two favorites from the 70's with a floral jasmine note among many other forgotten products.
It is difficult to say which perfume used Hedione for the first time since it was made available for perfumers in 1962. Eau Sauvage (1966) made it famous as a single ingredient, but we should not forget it was made to be used in jasmine bases. 

A floor at the new Firmenich Lab in 1957 when Hedione was made
(from a Max Stoll presentation in my collection)

With Hedione alone, perfumes became a presence, something not easy to obtain in perfume creation. Any composition has a note and the aura of the note, the most difficult to obtain, you can smell it on the blotter or you can smell it around like a real presence in the room. Not all molecules and not all combinations generated in the past 150 years have this amazing property, the ultimate goal of any perfume - pure abstraction and auratic presence.
A perfumer who sought all his life for this unusual property, the perfect balance between "fixed note" and "volatile note", was Ernest Beaux. He passed away in 1961, he didn't had a chance to work with Hedione and all the other swiss jasmine jewels. I was redoing the other day a floral Rallet perfume with 12+ intricate accords which give an impressive result, highly tenacious and highly diffusive in an abstract jasmine context (but not No5). Chuit Naef was very Chanel in terms of style. Their classic compositions since 1920's were so beautiful and abstract. Also, some of them were used in the classic Chanel formulae, both for perfume extracts and the eau de toilette - for instance their collection of roses and many other fantasy flowers which entered in the formulae signed by Beaux I have in my collection. 
Hedione event comes with the anniversary coffret made by Firmenich, a CD with the history (and my picture), an amazing perfume composed by Alberto Morillas and a collection of perfume specialties. Some of the modern Hedione jewels, modern jasmine molecules developed by Firmenich, are present in the anniversary coffret.
The perfume Hedione 50 was composed by Alberto Morillas and represents the lifetime quest of a perfumer for the ideal freshness - the air of a garden, the naturalness and the light. The ideal place where everything is in peace and harmony like several hundred years ago when Farina moved from Italy to North and recomposed the "water" of the new genesis - a new chapter in the history of perfumes.
I was wearing for several months the first version of Hedione 50 (the one presented in the coffret is a modified version). It is hard, if not impossible to speak about light in perfumes as it has no direct olfactory reference and pure white light defies even visual description, it is something beyond, the ultimate sparkle. But the first Hedione 50 translates this sensation of water and light, the rain,  the ocean (a special aldehydic oceanic note), the dew of a garden and the sparkle of water on a rock. Of course it is a woody ambery strong molecule used in touches and the shadows of many ingredients I recognize but not necessary to be used for a description. It has the vibe of Aqua di Gio, Omnia, CKOne, Eau par Kenzo, not their clear, understandable and recognizable "odor shape", but the abstract principle which vibrates through these modern perfumes.
The perfume Hedione 50 is based on a selection of Firmenich jewels, incredible molecules or compositions which are part of global scent culture.
12 key ingredients, like the 12 key accords in the old perfume Ernest Beaux was working for Rallet in Moscow 100 years ago, stand in the anniversary coffret from Hedione.
Hedione, Hedione HC, Delphone, Delphol HC, Splendione and Veloutone (powerful molecules for white flowers discovered during a lifetime jasmine research), Mandarinal, Grapefruit and Tamarine (amazing sparkling citrus notes, compositions with original notes of a bitter, cold and arctic freshness), Cassis (the most famous modern specialty and the global standard for this fruity note in the past 30 years), Sandalwood (the opulence and sparkle of this particular note with mud&Jungle like notes using almost the same combination Beaux did in the woody facet for Rallet with the ingredients available in 1912) and Wardia, the crown jewel of all roses. I love Delphol HC with its pêche de vigne touch, Splendione for its magnificence, Hedione HC and Wardia, all because magnolia makes me dream and mainly the lost Beaux Magnolia for Chanel.
The perfume itself consists of many other intricate notes which contribute to its richness, naturalness and long-lasting freshness - a "water" for the future or maybe the air and morning dew on flowers. The modern bergamot dominates with touches of wood and musk evoking the original accord of CKOne, underlined by a lemon aldehydic grapefruit facet while green galbanum-pineapple notes are mixed with a faint suggestion of rose-tobacco-dried fruits and a sensual woody drydown, so characteristic in sport perfumes with sparkling cocktails. It can be modified in many directions, for instance with Thé Noir Extrait Firmenich, bergamot, touches of guaiac and beeswax 0,1% or a magnolia-narcisse abs 0,1% touch. 
Not a perfume for the market, but a creation for pleasure and joy, Hedione 50 represents the endless Swiss quest for beauty and lightness, a form of youth and resurrection. Not a single obvious reference to the past, except the own perfumes of Alberto Morillas like an abstract code or heart of his creations.

Hedione 50, new molecules and old specialties
(my collection)

What is perfume creation? A future projection and future memory in uncharted lands where the best and new molecules serve for the invention of a new dawn. The past is always the fragrant moment "seen" by the creator, a fiction, as if he had to rebuilt the world once again from pure water - Aqua Admirabilis.
Because perfume is like time machine, two molecules in particular would please Ernest Beaux when he was working in 1912. This is precisely what I did, adding them to the old formula I remade for my pleasure, plus the amazing vanilla CO2 Firmenich I love, regretting that I still haven't found an equivalent for the forbidden musk molecule vibrating in the drydown of Aimant and original No5.
Every good formula from the past can be resurrected when it is understood and when new ingredients are available to make it bloom once again at dawn in the natural cycle of Beauty.

PS: The original Italian formula and Hedione 50 (first version in the big bottle) make a perfect perfume, I couldn't resist the temptation to update the Aqua, adding something even older than the Italian formula because past and future can meet only in perfumes.
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