Honeyed notes in perfumery

honeyed notes in perfumery bring a regressive but also sensual aspect to compositions

Sweet and regressive substance par excellence, honey manages to bring us back to childhood in a few spoonfuls. If its taste reminds us of our past after-school snacks, its characteristic smell also evokes many memories. And this gourmand and sensual scent has inspired many perfumers who have integrated honeyed notes into their compositions. Discover how this olfactory facet is created and with which ingredients to match it.

Honey and the bees

History and origin

Honey is a sweet substance that bees make from the nectar of certain flowers. Depending on the plant species foraged, honey will be light or dark, thick or liquid and will have different taste and properties. It is the very first sweet condiment that man has consumed. In fact, cave paintings found in Spain and South Africa show that our ancestors were already harvesting wild honey in prehistoric times. From the Middle Ages onwards, it was used in a thousand and one ways: as a candy or to flavor wine and dishes, but also as a remedy or even in cosmetics for its soothing virtues.

It is only decades later in the 17th century, that we begin to be interested in this natural phenomenon. Thanks to the invention of the microscope, bees were studied more closely. This allowed to understand the process of manufacturing this liquid gold. The harvest of wild honey will decrease more and more, and the man will manage to control the production in the 19th century by domesticating the bees.

The appearance of honeyed notes in perfumery

Some honeyed notes revealed by certain flowers took place in many compositions as soon as perfumery was modernized in the 19th century. The heavy and animalized scents of previous years gave way to softer floral notes. The use of this round and sweet facet then allowed to accompany or soften opulent or too floral perfumes. But it was not until the golden age of French perfumery at the beginning of the 20th century and its great names such as Coty or Guerlain, that honeyed notes were really used in the formulas. The progress of synthetic chemistry will also allow perfumers to find other alternatives to create this so particular note.

Honeyed notes: a sensual and regressive perfume

How to put honey in a bottle?

It is important to know that there is no essential oil of honey. But in perfumery, honeyed notes can be brought into a fragrance in several ways. The first is to integrate beeswax absolute into a formula. This wax is produced by bees to build their hive to store honey. After extracting all the honey, the wax is treated with volatile solvents. This process allows to obtain a product which is then washed with alcohol to finally deliver an absolute. Some flowers also allow to reveal honeyed facets in a perfume. This is the case of honeysuckle, mimosa or cassia. Notes of blond tobacco or hay absolute can also produce natural honeyed notes.

On the synthetic side, perfumers also have the choice! Honeyed notes can be reproduced in the laboratory thanks to synthetic molecules like phenylacetic acid. There are different bases, sometimes honeyed-leathery or more floral, or very gourmand, that the nose can incorporate directly into the formula.

Olfactory description

The honeyed notes are interesting because they bring a very round and soft olfactory sensation. Its regressive scent tickles our olfactory memory with its sunny and enveloping nuances. It is an odor that is both “mellow” but brings a boost of naturalness to a composition. This note also reveals multiple facets with herbaceous and fruity accents, which also evoke tobacco and more animalized and leathery notes. Beeswax absolute develops a waxy wake, with notes of hay and grass, rather unsweetened. It is an ingredient that is quite difficult to work with because it can give a raw and animal scent that is too pronounced or recall encaustic products. The synthetic compounds, according to their assemblies, will reveal honeyed aspects of course, with more woody or even vinegar tones.

The scented accords of honeyed notes

The smell of honey can be associated with many combinations of ingredients. Thanks to its various nuances, it will offer a panel of notes that will match with all olfactory families, or almost! This ingredient is not usually the one that is the most highlighted, nor the key note of a fragrance. Perfumers use it more to soften floral bouquets or to bring a warm and animalized touch to oriental or chypre accords. Honey notes are also found in woody compositions where they reveal their herbaceous side. Honey is also often used to bring tenacity to a fragrance while giving a natural effect.

Do you like that characteristic honeyed smell?


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