Aroma compound

Aroma compound

An aroma compound, also known as odorant, aroma, fragrance or flavor, is a chemical compound that has a smell or odor. A chemical compound has a smell or odor when two conditions are met: the compound needs to be volatile, so it can be transported to the olfactory system in the upper part of the nose, and it needs to be in a sufficiently high concentration to be able to interact with one or more of the olfactory receptors.

Aroma compounds can be found in food, wine, spices, perfumes, fragrance oils, and essential oils. For example, many form biochemically during ripening of fruits and other crops. In wines, most form as byproducts of fermentation. Odorants can also be added to a dangerous odorless substance, like propane, natural gas, or hydrogen, as a warning. Also, many of the aroma compounds play a significant role in the production of flavorants, which are used in the food service industry to flavor, improve, and generally increase the appeal of their products.


Aroma compounds classified by structure


Compound name Fragrance Natural occurrence Chemical structure
Methyl formate Ethereal
Methyl formate.svg
Methyl acetate Sweet, nail polish
Methyl acetate.png
Methyl butyrate
Methyl butanoate
Fruity, Apple
Ethyl acetate Sweet, solvent Wine
Ethyl butyrate
Ethyl butanoate
Fruity, Orange
Ethyl butyrate.png
Isoamyl acetate Fruity, Banana
Banana plant
Isoamyl acetate.png
Pentyl butyrate
Pentyl butanoate
Fruity, Pear
Pentyl butyrate.png
Pentyl pentanoate Fruity, Apple
Pentyl pentanoate.png
Octyl acetate Fruity, Orange
Ocyl acetate.png

Linear terpenes

Compound name Fragrance Natural occurrence Chemical structure
Myrcene Woody, complex Verbena, Bay
Myrcene beta straight acsv.svg
Geraniol Rose, flowery Geranium, Lemon
Geraniol structure.png
Nerol Sweet rose, flowery Neroli, Lemongrass
Citral, lemonal
Geranial, neral
Lemon Lemon myrtle, Lemongrass
Geranial structure.png
Citronellal Lemon Lemongrass
Citronellol Lemon Lemongrass, rose
Linalool Floral, sweet
Woody, Lavender
Coriander, Sweet basil
Nerolidol Woody, fresh bark Neroli, ginger

Cyclic terpenes

Compound name Fragrance Natural occurrence Chemical structure
Limonene Orange Orange, lemon
Camphor Camphor Camphor laurel
Camphor structure.png
Terpineol Lilac Lilac, Cajuput
Terpineol alpha.svg
alpha-Ionone Violet, woody Violet
Thujone Minty Cypress, lilac


Compound name Fragrance Natural occurrence Chemical structure
Benzaldehyde Almond Bitter almond
Eugenol Clove Clove
Eugenol acsv.svg
Cinnamaldehyde Cinnamon Cassia
Zimtaldehyd - cinnamaldehyde.svg
Ethyl maltol Cooked fruit
Caramelized sugar
Ethyl maltol.png
Vanillin Vanilla Vanilla
Anisole Anise Anise
Anethole Anise Anise
Sweet basil
Estragole Tarragon Tarragon
Estragole acsv.svg
Thymol Thyme Thyme


Compound name Fragrance Natural occurrence Chemical structure
Trimethylamine Fishy
Trimethylamine chemical structure.png
Rotting flesh Rotting flesh
Cadaverine Rotting flesh Rotting flesh
Pyridine Fishy Belladonna
Indole Fecal
Skatole Fecal Feces
Skatole structure.svg

Other aroma compounds






  • gamma-Decalactone intense peach flavor
  • gamma-Nonalactone coconut odor, popular in suntan lotions
  • delta-Octalactone creamy note
  • Jasmine lactone powerful fatty fruity peach and apricot
  • Massoia lactone powerful creamy coconut
  • Wine lactone sweet coconut odor
  • Sotolon (maple syrup, curry, fenugreek)


  • Ethanethiol, commonly called Ethyl mercaptan (added to propane or other liquefied petroleum gases used as fuel gases)
  • Grapefruit mercaptan (grapefruit)
  • Methanethiol, commonly called Methyl mercaptan (Durian or leek)
  • 2-Methyl-2-propanethiol, commonly called tertiary-butyl mercaptan is added as a blend of other components to natural gas used as fuel gas.

Miscellaneous compounds

  • Methylphosphine and dimethylphosphine (garlic-metallic, two of the most potent odorants known)[1]

Aroma compound receptors

Animals which are capable of smell detect aroma compounds with olfactory receptors. Olfactory receptors are cell membrane receptors on the surface of sensory neurons in the olfactory system which detect air-borne aroma compounds.

In mammals, olfactory receptors are expressed on the surface of the olfactory epithelium in the nasal cavity.


'Fragrance' was voted Allergen of the Year in 2007 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society. The composition of fragrances are usually not disclosed in the label of products, hiding the actual chemicals of the formula, which raises concerns between some consumers.[2]


  1. ^ a b D. Glindemann, A. Dietrich, H. Staerk, P. Kuschk, (2005). "The Two Odors of Iron when Touched or Pickled: (Skin) Carbonyl Compounds and Organophosphines". Angewandte Chemie International Edition 45 (42): 7006–7009. doi:10.1002/anie.200602100. PMID 17009284. 
  2. ^ Toxic chemicals linked to birth defects are being found at alarming levels in women of childbearing age

See also

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