Colin’s Beauty Pages is a science blog as well as a beauty blog. Think of it as a sort of social media two in one shampoo. And so it is always great to get a question in from a scientist. This comes from my friend David Bradley, the man behind the blog http://www.sciencebase.com (which incidentally, I thoroughly recommend.)
“Do you happen to know what additives are used in Timotei that supposedly make it smell like a meadow of Timothy Grass?”
The smell of Timotei, like that of all mass market products comes from a fragrance added to it. This is an important part of the development process. Fragrance creation is a very specialised job carried out by firms who have developed their expertise in the area over a very long time. When a brand is created a brief is sent out to one or more of these fragrance houses. They’ll make some submissions and the one that best meets the needs of the product is chosen.
The selection of the fragrance is a big deal and is taken very seriously because it is one of the strongest elements in the brand identity. Fragrances are described by a set of agreed terms that helps the people involved in the project discuss them. So in the case of Timotiei the fragrance is predominantly a green one. Some chemical families have strong fragrance identities. The one that most chemists know is that aldehydes have a tendency to smell fruity – but there is a lot more examples that a good perfumer would know. I think that long chain alcohols are associated with green smells, but it really isn’t my area of expertise. So the answer is that what we think of as a green fragrance note is reminiscent of the smell of a meadow full of timothy grass. I don’t know if the name of the product’s similarity to the name of the grass is intentional, but it isn’t impossible.
But what I can say is that to know how to put a fragrance together takes years of practice, a good nose, a good knowledge of chemistry and a big dose of creativity. It is very much an art and a science. The people who do the actual blending and creation are often called ‘noses’. I think it must be quite an enjoyable job.