Olfactory Chemistry: Stemone- Find Your Fig Leaf

When I began really expanding my perfumed horizons one of my earliest discoveries were the fig-based fragrances done by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti.  Over the course of three fragrances: L’Artisan Premier Figuier, Diptyque Philosykos, and L’Artisan Premier Figuier Extreme. Though all three of these fragrances there was one aromachemical at the center of Mme Giacobetti’s compositions, Stemone.

stemone

Stemone is an interesting class of chemical called an oxime. Oximes are defined by a double bonded nitrogen(N) which is also bonded to an alcohol(OH), highlighted in red. It is a derivative of the more common fragrance ingredients known as ketones. In the figure above you see Stemone next to the ketone from which it is synthesized, 5-methyl-3-heptanone. As I like to demonstrate in this series even a simple change like you see above has a dramatic effect on the scent profile. 5-methyl-3-heptanone has a sweet herbal scent at a concentration of 10%; at 100% it becomes citrusier. It is not a common fragrance ingredient and it found its uses more as a flavoring to bring that citrus aspect to food products.

When it is converted to Stemone it stops being herbal and goes very green. It is a lighter stand-in for galbanum. It can also be used at higher concentrations to form a fresh-cut grass presence. Its most common usage is as a leafy component so much so that it is called “leafy oxime” by many perfumers.

When it comes to making a fig accord Stemone stands front and center usually representing the fig leaves. It is then left to the perfumer to form the fruit part of the accord from a selection of different lactones depending on the ripeness level of the fig the perfumer is attempting to achieve.

olivia-giacobetti

Olivia Giacobetti

The three perfumes by Mme Giacobetti are fabulous examples of how to tune this accord in different ways. In Premier Figuier the Stemone level is much higher and the lactone Mme Giacobetti employs is also creamier representing a ripe fig still on the tree. When she would move forward to Premier Figuier Extreme she adds to the lactones while pulling back on the Stemone; ripening her fig. For Philosykos she takes the Stemone down to a much more transparent level. This is the beginning of what will become Mme Giacobetti’s evolution to her signature style. It still smells like the fig leaf but an abstracted version. She again changes the lactones to less creamy versions elucidating a greener fig accord while keeping the volume at the same level as the Stemone.

Stemone has continued to be a key building block when a perfumer wants a green effect especially when looking for alternatives to the stronger green ingredients like galbanum. Fig leaves might have been the first clothing for Adam and Eve but in perfumery Stemone makes sure fig leaves have much more of a presence.

Mark Behnke

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