When smelling Hiram Green’s Shangri-La I was struck by the powerful note of gamma-undecalactone , a molecule first introduced in perfumery in 1908 by its discoverers, Russian chemists Zhukov and Shestakov. Hiram Green describes his fragrances as all-natural, so I wrote to ask what this archetypal synthetic was doing in there. He kindly explained that this was EU Natural undecalactone. A little searching revealed that EU Naturals are defined as molecules that “must have been entirely derived from a source material that is vegetable, animal, or microbiological in nature.”
In other words, instead of an organic chemist mixing stuff in a great big vat to make lactones, you have a biotechnologist mixing stuff in a great big vat to get bacteria to make lactones. The molecules are the same, but the “natural” one comes out in far smaller yields and needs a great deal more purification. As it happens, it is the (+) enantiomer of undecalactone that is made by this process, but it smells pretty much the same as the (-). Let me recap: in order to appease the most moronic kind of superstition, you pay 10-100 times over the odds for the same molecule at the same degree of purity simply because it is made by an enzyme rather than a nonenzymatic organic reaction.
This, to me, exemplifies how the Dark Green end of the the environmental movement is a nest of cretinous Luddites and arguably the most conservative force in all of politics today.
Categories: off topic