Hedione

While I’m astonished by the beauty of natural products, I’ve never been against using something that comes out of a lab. Though natural substances contain an infinity of compounds and so-called chemicals only one, I’ve never hesitated to use something that smells good. It was with this attitude that I set out on my first forays.

Before long, I ran into the word “Hedione,” an almost mythical substance with the unique ability to transform perfumes. 

Hedione wasn’t hard to find, but I was looking for Hedione made by Fermenich, its inventors—first synthesized in 1966—and, according to one writer, is better than the others. When it finally arrived, I tore the package open, dislodged the small aluminum canister, and went right over to the lab. In one test tube, I put only patchouli; in the other, I put in half patchouli and half Hedione. I dipped a smelling strip in each one, gave the patchouli a good sniff, and then moved on to the one with Hedione. Smelling strip in hand, I couldn’t wait for the revelation of Hedione’s marvels.

As I took in a deep whiff, I registered nothing. I frantically ran around the lab, pulling out naturals, chemicals, old perfumes, and performed the same experiment.

Nothing.

It took months to realize that it wasn’t Hedione’s very faint aroma I was after but, rather, what it did to other things. My inability was not due to anosmia but, more akin to first-time marijuana users who feel nothing. It’s as though I was looking in the wrong place.

Hedione changes perfumes from figurative to abstract and creates a radiance that wasn’t there before. It confers lightness and sparkle, but instead of turning a perfume evanescent, it does the opposite and acts as a fixative. While miraculous, its effects are not always to my taste. Sometimes I crave the rich opulence of something dense and opaque, whereas Hedione renders perfumes vibrant, transparent, and unmistakably modern.

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