Why Does A Cashmere Fragrance Smell Different?
With winter very much on its way, cashmere clothes have become more popular than ever as a light, soft, delicate way to keep warm during chilly winter nights.
The cosy, cuddly reputation of cashmere has spread considerably, to the point that the word itself has connotations of luxurious comfort and is used to describe almost anything that is meant to carry that feeling.
Probably the most popular and most unusual examples of this, but one that is also increasingly popular around the winter period is cashmere fragrances, which are used in perfumes, candles, wax melts, cosmetics and anything that people want to add a smell to.
However, despite this, it does not actually smell like cashmere. Why not, and what are the differences between cashmere the smell and cashmere the fabric?
A Tale Of Two Cashmeres
Cashmere, on its own, is like wool in the sense that it smells faintly earthen unless you have a particularly sensitive nose, but unlike other fabrics, it does not pick up body odours due to its natural antibacterial qualities.
By contrast, cashmere fragrance, known officially as either indomuscone or Cashmeran, has quite a complex scent to it, with notes of vanilla, balsamic, fruit, spice and a few less perceptible rich and citrusy notes.
The vanilla spice is often the most noticeable, but the mix of scents is often used in combination with other notes that contrast its warmth in order to create a variety of different aroma profiles depending on the type of product it is added to.
This, rather pointedly, does not in any way smell like a cashmere garment, nor is it really meant to be. Instead what it attempts to do is take advantage of a sensory association.
Cashmere feels warm, inviting, comforting, luxurious and soft, and so a cashmere fragrance attempts to simulate that feeling and condense it into a scent that gives you the same cuddly sensation.
Theoretically, you could douse a cashmere jumper in a perfume or product with a cashmere fragrance, although in practice few would want to risk their cashmere like that.
However, whilst the softness of cashmere was historically prized and exceptionally natural, cashmere fragrance is very modern and very synthetic.
Where Did It Come From?
In the early 1970s, International Flavours and Fragrances had a huge research division, and a team of researchers were exploring potential chemical transformations that could come from pentamethyl indane and tetramethyl naphthalene.
John Hall was involved in this project and whilst looking at impurities from the transformation process in a chromatogram, a particular hydrocarbon intrigued him. After oxidising it, he created “6,7-dihydro-1,1,2,3,3-pentamethyl-4(5H)-indanone”, quickly shortened to DPMI.
DPMI was an unsaturated ketone that immediately showed potential as a potential fragrance and further study revealed its potential as a warm base for wintery fragrances, ultimately leading to its renaming to Cashmeran.
During a time when cashmere was almost inaccessible outside of the rich and connected, cashmere had a particularly potent reputation, and the name has stuck ever since for any similarly vanilla, woody musks that feel as comforting.