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Discussion: Natural and Synthetic Ingredients in fragrance: Part 2: An example of Oud

November 22, 2017

The advantage of synthetic in perfumery: nature-identical

At perfumery, one of the major technological innovation was the discovery of synthetic compounds known as nature-identical which the main advantages are:

  • The security of supply
  • Lower cost
  • Environment friendly

For example, Agarwood (Oud) for example, supply relies on hunters and mainly the nature of several decades ago. The popularity of oud causing over-harvested making it near the brink of extinction. Therefore, to make a sustainable future of Oud, agarwood plantation has been started decades ago

The challenges are variation in plant species of Aquilaria (Crassna, Malaccensis, Sinensis, Beccariana, Microcarpa, and many more) weather conditions, the method of planting, inoculation will vary the chemical composition which making the scent profile completely different. The good news is, we have more Oud scent to experience with joyfully.  Each Oud oil is unique and that may cause inconsistency 

Another challenge with natural ingredients would be the weather. Any natural disaster such as earthquake, drought or flood will wipe out many plantations 

Psychologically, when consumers purchase their favourite perfume again, usually expect the same scent profile which is difficult  to achieve with natural ingredients due to the above factor, but easy with synthetics

Think about safety, below are perfect example showing that natural chemicals may not be good for you 

Resser (2010):

Butterbur are plants that contain an anti-inflammatory compound calledpetasin, which is a natural remedy for migraine treatment and prevention. Unfortunately, butterbur plants also contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) that can cause severe liver damage, and thus it’s important that butterbur extract is purified to remove PAs." 


If chemical compounds could be synthesised, why aromatic botanical plants still being planted?

According to Speciality Chemical Magazine (2013)

" Diterpenoids, a group of some 7,000 compounds, exhibit antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activity, but they are naturally produced in only very small amounts and are difficult to synthesise chemically, due to their complex structures."

In case of agarwood  (oud) oil as an example, its compounds are mainly made up from terpenoids, which means per the above, a challenging task to extract or copy the exact same scent of oud from the lab. There are 2 popular synthetic Oud versions which are being used in several perfumeries: Firmenich and Agarbois. They are made in commercial quantities to meet the demand of Oud scent.

However, if you have tried genuine agarwood (Oud) oil, you would be surprised that the 2 compounds Firmenich and Agarbois, are not complicated in the scent at all. People want real Oud smell with different varieties, some only enjoy pure Oud alone because it is sufficient or complete by itself without any other blend.
Below is table extracted from 
The scent profile of a particular oud oil depends on its chemical compound and as it can be seen, very complicated making it is hard to synthesise
Better yet, Agarwood Oil is quite safe on skin

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