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November 30, 2022


Indole In Perfumery: Fecal Florals



November 28, 2020

What gives florals their seductive power? Let me introduce you to a compound called indole.


Indole is, by definition, an aromatic heterocyclic compound which contains a six-membered benzene ring, fused to a five membered nitrogen-containing pyrrole ring.


aromatic heterocyclic compound 芳香族複素環式化合物
six-membered benzene ring 六員ベンゼン環
five membered nitrogen 含窒素5員環
pyrrole ringピロール環

If that doesn’t mean much to you, here’s the what you need to know; it smells.


But, perhaps poop isn’t the best description for indole. In its pure, isolated form, Indole is more like a musty, wet, yet also a penetrating sharp-clean smell. A sort of odd combination of wet-dog, stale hot breath and moth balls all rolled into one. Yes, this compound does contribute to the smell of feces ( mixed together a cornucopia of other things ) but trace amounts are also founds in “White” florals, like Jasmines, Tuberose, Neroli, Orange Blossom Gardenia, etc. What really creates the signature aroma of #2 is really when high concentrations of indole are mixed with humidity and the surrounding decaying molecules found in poop.

しかし、インドールには、うんこという表現は似つかわしくないかもしれない。インドールは、純粋な単体の状態では、カビ臭く、湿ったような、それでいて、鋭い清潔感のあるにおいである。濡れた犬、臭い息、蛾の巣を1つにまとめたような、奇妙な組み合わせだ。 しかし、この化合物は、ジャスミン、チュベローズ、ネロリ、オレンジブロッサム、ガーデニアなどの「ホワイト」フローラルにも微量に含まれている。 2の香りは、高濃度のインドールが、湿度やウンコに含まれる腐敗した分子と混ざり合ったときに発生するものだ。

Poop うんち
Musty かび臭い

Here’s the interesting part – In trace amounts ( around >1% ), the stench of pure indole actually mellows, losing the mustiness and becoming more “floral”, more ambient. In perfume, natural oils that contain indole are often used to bring intrigue and a seductive edge to a scent. Providing an indescribable, underlying “animalic” note that allures to the primal senses, similar in a way to how pheromones work.


When it comes to perfume, indole serves a new purpose… It seduces.


I am a little embarrassed to write this, but poop can be sexy. It’s similar to being in a public restroom and having the unfortunate experience of smelling someone else’s last ‘performance’. It’s repulsive and visceral, but at the same time a small part of you is extremely curious, a little intrigued in a primal way- a “what IS that? What did they eat? Do I smell like that?“- sort of way. It’s biological- look at animals. Anyone who has ever lived with dog will tell you that they sniff poop. This helps them gain information about who this dog is, what they ate, are they healthy enough to mate with, etc. This sort of poop-information-finding technique rings true though many mammals.


White Florals are dirtiest.


White florals are just that – white. Gardenia, Jasmines, Hyacinth, Tuberose, Orange blossom all fall into this category of being extremely rich in indoles. However a few other friends in the flower kingdom also hold trace amounts of the compound, such as rose, lilac and honeysuckle.


Jasmine, however, might be the dirtiest.


The essences of Jasmine, particularly the variety Jasmine Grandiflorum, is notorious for having a noticeable, STRONG indole note ( most jasmine oils contain around 2.5% of the pure stuff ). By no means do it smell like sniffing a toilet, but when faced with a pure jasmine oil, indole does bring a very noticeable wet- mustiness aroma, much like dirty, sweaty skin mixed into the narcotic floral-sweetness of fresh jasmine blooms. It can be unnerving in a way- it really makes you question you perception of scent and what is true. But this is where dilution makes things interesting.

ジャスミンのエッセンス、特にJasmine Grandiflorumという品種は、顕著に強いインドールノートを含有することで有名です(ほとんどのジャスミンオイルは、純粋なものを約2.5%含んでいます)。決してトイレの匂いを嗅ぐようなものではありませんが、ピュアなジャスミンオイルを前にしたとき、インドールは非常に顕著な湿ったかび臭い香りをもたらし、新鮮なジャスミンの花の麻薬的なフローラルな甘さの中に汚れた、汗ばんだ肌のような香りを混ぜます。それは、ある意味で不安なもので、香りの知覚と何が真実なのかを本当に疑わせるものです。しかし、これは希釈が物事を面白くする場所です。

Jasminum grandiflorum ジャスミン 和名オオバナソケイ
科名:モクセイ科 ソケイ属
原産地:南アジアのインドや、パキスタンのSalt Rangeという山とラワルピンディ地区500-1500mの標高に自生

As mentioned above, pure jasmine oil is roughly 2.5% pure indole. That’s a noticeable amount to any nose. But, think of the last time you’ve walked by blooming jasmine ( or even smelled a white lily or wild honeysuckle ). The scent is very pleasant, sweet, floral, seductive. Indole is in there, but in such a limited amount, that it only adds a seductive, “alive” quality that you come to associate with florals. There’s nothing toilet-y about it.

前述したように、純粋なジャスミンオイルは、およそ2.5%の純粋なインドールです。それは、任意の鼻に顕著な量です。 しかし、最後に咲いたジャスミン(あるいは、白ユリや野生のスイカズラの香り)のそばを通ったときのことを思い出してください。その香りはとても心地よく、甘く、華やかで、魅惑的だ。インドールがありますが、そのような限られた量では、それだけで魅惑的な、「生きている」品質、フローラルを関連付けるに来るを追加します。それについてトイレのようなものは何もありません。

Now take about 10,000 lbs of those jasmine flowers, and distill them into 2.2lbs of oil. All the same fragrant molecules are there, just much more concentrated. With indole being present at a more condensed level, the sexy-sultry edge of fresh flowers, now becomes muddled with a much mustier, dirty undertone. The key to indole’s seduction is in dilution.


Indole and Serotonin


Perhaps the most interesting thing about Indole is its relationship to Serotonin. Indole is an intermediate that helps compose the the amino acid Tryptophan. Tryptophan is a precursor to the calming neurotransmitter serotonin. In short, the “indole ring”, as described in the beginning of this article, is found in the calming/happy serotonin chemical, also found in anti-depressants and foods like chocolate, dairy products and pumpkin seeds.


Not without controversy, Indole can be a polarizing scent. While some love the sometimes sharp, animalic edge it provides, others find it to be troublesome and cause headaches. For the indole-adverse crowd; There are non-indolic white floral scents out there- however they are generally not always natural. Synthetics fragrances can be synthesized without the indole compound or naturals can be fractionated to have it removed. All equally floral in their own right, however they can be a little flat and dry. That special, sparkling, life-like quality that REAL flowers exude is lost without the inclusion of our peculiar friend, Indole. So let’s appreciate this molecule for all the life that they bring to the party.

インドールには賛否両論がありますが、 インドールは好みが分かれる香りです。ある人は、時々、インドールの、鋭い、動物的なエッジさを愛するが、厄介で頭痛の種になる人もいます。インドール嫌いな群集のため;非インドールの白い花の香りがある-しかし、一般的に常に自然ではないです。インドール化合物を含まない合成香料や、インドール化合物を除去した天然香料もある。すべて同じフローラルの権利で、しかし、彼らは少しフラットと乾燥することができます。インドールという特殊な化合物が含まれていないと、本物の花々が放つ特別な輝きや生命力が失われてしまうのです。だから、この分子がパーティにもたらすすべての生命に感謝しよう。

Dirty, musty, and full of life. Thank you, indole.


This post originally published on MIZUbrand.com




Indole is an essential molecule for plant interactions with herbivores and pollinator



Indole biosynthesis and catabolism






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