What Is the Smell of Benzaldehyde?

May. 24, 2022

Among the aldehydes, benzaldehyde (almond aroma) and vanillin are the most important and widely used in the food industry. Benzaldehyde is used in aromatic compositions for its bitter almond odor and as a starting material for a large number of aliphatic flavors and flavor substances. It has a sweet, floral, and spice-like odor. It is naturally present in many products such as bitter almonds, peaches, apricot kernels, cheese, and black tea. This compound can be obtained in its natural form, by extraction and distillation from plant sources, or synthesized from benzyl chloride.


In a study on the extraction of benzaldehyde from bitter almond oil, the natural molecules could be easily distinguished from their synthetic counterparts by using gas chromatography-pyrolysis-IRMS (GC-P-IRMS). The δ 2 H values of benzaldehyde from natural sources (cassia seeds, bitter almond oil, nuts, fruits, or leaves) range from -83‰ to -189‰, while the δ 2 H values of toluene synthetic benzaldehyde range from + 420‰ to + 668‰. More problematic is the benzaldehyde synthesized from benzaldehyde, which shows values between -78‰ and -85‰. Semi-synthetic raw materials produced from cinnamaldehyde (from cinnamon oil) are also in the range of natural benzaldehyde (δ2H = - 136‰).




Since the production of natural vanilla beans cannot meet the global demand for vanilla by food manufacturers, synthetic vanilla flavors are widely used. Fully synthetic vanilla shows relatively distant isotopic ratios to natural molecules, which makes their identification easy. However, new sources have been developed through semi-synthetic natural precursors such as lignin from the paper industry, eugenol from clove, and ferulic acid from rice bran.


The main aldehydes found in Camembert are 2-methyl butyraldehyde, 3-methylbutyraldehyde and benzaldehyde. Most of these compounds are present at trace levels, as early as the first week of ripening, in cheeses ripened by surface molds, such as Brie and Camembert.


Benzaldehyde has been described as having an aromatic odor reminiscent of bitter almonds. 2-Methylpropionaldehyde, 2-methylbutyraldehyde, and 3-methylbutyraldehyde are also present in cheeses, including moldy cheeses, with detection thresholds of 0.1, 0.13, and 0.06 mg kg -1 in malt media, respectively. these compounds can be oxidized to isobutyric, 2-methylbutyric, and isovaleric acids, which have been described as having a mild odor that is reminiscent of sweat.


Aldehydes are derived from amino acids, either by amino transfer to produce α-keto acids that can be decarboxylated, or by chemical degradation. This last reaction is simple and occurs without enzyme catalysis during ripening. Aldehydes are temporary compounds in cheese because they are rapidly converted to alcohols or corresponding acids. Yeast contributes to the production of acetaldehyde when the activity of ethanol dehydrogenase is lower than that of pyruvate decarboxylase. 

The biosynthetic pathway of benzaldehyde was recently determined by Nierop-Groot and de Bont. The results indicate that the chemical breakdown of phenylpyruvate is catalyzed by divalent cations, such as Mn 2+. This pathway also seems to be used for other amino acids, such as methionine, to produce 2-(methylthioacetal) with a green apple flavor.

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