Molecule of the Day

Another member of the unusual collection of decent-smelling thiols (take a look at the previous entries on diallyl sulfide and ethyl thiolactate) is furfuryl mercaptan:

Furfuryl mercaptan smells of coffee. You’d expect it to smell awful, but it doesn’t. Fragrance and flavor people talk about this stuff to no end in trade mags like Perfumer and Flavorist:
(See here and here for the article refrenced below)

“… I have smelt
Corruption in the dish, incense in the latrine, the sewer in
the incense, the smell of sweet soap in
the woodpath…”
— T.S. Eliot, “Murder In The Cathedral” (1934)

Eliot’s words, spoken to reflect the tension and mounting
horror of the people of Canterbury as the murder of Archbishop
Thomas Beckett approaches, convey the powerful
sense of “wrongness” that our sense of smell can evoke.
Some odors are inherently repulsive, while in other cases a
sense of revulsion occurs when incompatible odors are
mixed. At Oxford Chemicals, we put together a listing of
“off-odors” that we are familiar with in the aroma chemicals
business. While we are proud of the quality of our products,
we occasionally have problems with off-notes that lead to the
material going back for further purification. We take the
view that if a supplier claims they never detect any off-notes
in their products, this means that the customer is doing their
quality control for them From these off-notes we devised the
Devil’s Flavor Wheel (Figure 24).

Want to see the Devil’s Wheel? Of course you do:

Biscuity, farty, ammoniacal (contrast this to the usual comparisons perfumers draw, like “cassis” and “neroli.”) The thing I like about reading about perfumery is you’re never sure whether the person writing this stuff would rather be a chemist or a poet. See you Monday.


  1. #1 Snarfevs
    October 1, 2006

    Any idea on what Furfuryl Furfurate smells/tastes like?

  2. #2 Adam
    October 6, 2006

    I remember seeing furfuryl furfurate on the molecules-with-funny-names webpage and being very amused. It sounds like one of Daffy Duck’s insults.

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