When we talk about ingredients in perfumery, we tend to think of flowers, woods or resins. But now, thanks to the progress of synthetic chemistry and to the creativity of noses, other raw materials are being used in the composition of fragrances. And this is notably the case of alcoholic notes, as surprising and bewitching as they may be… Let’s discover these liquorous and spirituous essences that make our noses turn!
The appearance of alcoholic notes in perfumery
These bold notes have appeared fairly recently in the perfumers’ palette. And for good reason, several decades ago, it would have been rather frowned upon to create fragrances with intoxicating materials. Indeed, at the beginning of the democratization of perfume, the ingredients of predilection of the noses are rather fresh and light. Citrus, floral and clean scents were in vogue. But over the years, social changes and olfactory discoveries, desires evolved. The 80’s saw the return of strong and assertive compositions. And the gourmand wave of the 90’s will contribute to push alcoholic notes to the forefront.
But it is especially the advent of niche perfumery that will “promote” the use of these bewitching ingredients from the 2000s. Perfumers dare to reveal liquorous, astringent or even sparkling nuances. Just as we enjoy a fine wine or a glass of brandy, perfumes seek to fill our nostrils with aromas. Peaty scents, the power of malty aromas or the flavors of oak barrels become real sources of inspiration for the nose. And it is easy to understand why when you realize the olfactory richness of these addictive nuances.
The ingredients of the alcoholic notes
In the perfumer’s palette, we find different types of alcoholic raw materials that can be integrated to sublimate accords. Sometimes round, bitter or syrupy, let’s take a look at these precious ingredients:
This French alcohol made in the region of the same name, is a wine brandy obtained from white grapes. Distilled twice and aged in oak barrels for at least two years, cognac has sweet and powerful aromas. The essential oil of cognac, obtained by hydrodistillation, is used in perfumery. This raw material reveals multiple facets with floral nuances of jasmine but also notes of gourmand and candied fruits. This digestif also gives off vanilla smell that goes perfectly with oriental fragrances. It is a sensual and enveloping note which brings a lot of character to a composition.
The wine lees is the residue that settles at the bottom of the vats after the fermentation of the wine, the stage that precedes the bottling. There are white or green wine lees, but also cognac or brandy lees. It is possible to extract this precious and very concentrated nectar by steam distillation. This essential oil will reveal aromas specific to the origin and terroir of the raw material. Despite these differences, the common denominator of these essences remains their fruity and sensual character. The most widespread essential oils of wine lees are the green and the white which reveal warm fruity facets.
Before being an alcoholic drink, absinthe is first and foremost a heady plant species. Native to Europe, Asia and North Africa, wormwood grows in regions with a temperate climate and on dry land. This aromatic plant is much more known for its liquor than for its therapeutic or olfactory virtues. However, in a composition, the essential oil of wormwood diffuses a green scent with a slight bitterness. Obtained by the distillation of the leaves and stems, its perfume is very airy and aromatic. It brings a lot of dynamism, lightness but also more floral facets and almost mentholated notes.
Whisky is a spirit made from malted cereals, such as corn, barley, wheat or rye. Even today, it is not really known if the drink originates from Ireland or Scotland, each claiming to be its country of birth! In perfumery we generally use pure malt whisky, an alcohol elaborated exclusively from malted barley. It is then necessary to proceed to the distillation of the alcohol to obtain an essence with a complex and racy scent. Its perfume deploys woody and peaty nuances, with accents of fresh flowers and cut grass. It also evokes more sweet aspects of honey, dried fruits and sometimes red fruits and citrus.
Originating from America, rum is a sugar cane brandy of which there are hundreds of varieties and qualities. Still little used in perfumery, rum nevertheless develops a rare aromatic complexity with great potential. After an extraction with volatile solvents, rum can be incorporated into compositions to bring them gourmand nuances of hazelnut, vanilla or honey. We also detect spicy tones of ginger and cinnamon and sometimes even an aspect of burnt leather that makes it very smooth. Whatever its variety, rum exhales powerful aromas that can be associated with all types of ingredients or almost. The festive notes of white rum can be found in the incenses agité, alongside sweet and oriental ingredients.
Champagne is a festive drink par excellence, and its effervescence is a delight to the taste buds. It is possible to obtain an essential oil by distilling the lees of champagne wine. But most perfumers reproduce its sparkling accord by combining several raw materials such as ambrette, juniper or lactone molecules. Champagne brings fruity notes to a fragrance with facets of nuts, red and citrus fruits. It also blows nuances of licorice but also a woody side of mushrooms.
Perfume and alcohol notes
Despite the diversity and richness of the nuances of alcoholic notes, these olfactory facets are still little used in today’s perfumery. However, they are beginning to be integrated into daring compositions or to be revealed more timidly to enhance certain accords. Indeed, these notes have the particularity of being able to marry with a large number of creations. In fresh and floral juices, they bring roundness and relief. In oriental accords, they reveal themselves in subtlety to underline amber, spicy and vanilla nuances. They make a fragrance even more “velvety” and mysterious. These unusual ingredients evoke both the thirst-quenching freshness of alcohol, like a shot of vivacity… But also the rounder side of a tasting of a thousand flavors.
alõ, our sea view cocktail
At Carrément Belle, the eau de parfum alõ is built like a festive and invigorating cocktail. In this shivering composition, the aromatic scent of gin is recreated through a combination of juniper berries, pink pepper and citrus. These citrus and spicy notes are combined with a fresh marine heart and conclude on a much warmer and woody base note thanks to vetiver. A real olfactory contrast between freshness and soothing…
Did you know the ingredients of the alcoholic notes?
Discover the fragrances mentioned in the article