Infographic: Table of Esters and their Smells

Table of Esters and Their Smells

Click to download (1.1Mb JPEG)

I love esters. This infographic is totally self-explanatory to any chemist. (Or email me if you have any questions.) Enjoy! 😉

  • Esters are made by reacting alcohols and carboxylic acids together in a condensation reaction.
  • Different combinations of alcohols and carboxylic acids give rise to different esters, and each ester has a unique aroma.
  • These esters are found naturally in fruits and vegetables and are also used in perfumes.
  • You can now look up an ester in the table above and find its aroma by referring to the picture.
  • Ambiguous or “mixed” smells are indicated by the presence of multiple images in each box.
  • Benzyl salicylate is amazing: some people can perceive it while others can’t. However, people who can’t perceive benzyl salicylate can tell that it alters the overall aroma of perfume to which it’s been added! Magic!
  • You can make any of these relatively safely in the kitchen or at school.
  • All of these esters are edible in minuscule (microgram) amounts and are found naturally in all fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.
  • That said, though,
      never eat anything you make in the lab!

32 thoughts on “Infographic: Table of Esters and their Smells

  1. BEAUTIFUL chart! Since butyl salicylate was the only one that carried a warning, I couldn’t resist. So I did a test run for an new organic lab that I’m teaching.

    I was expecting to be overwhelmed by the product, but much to my surprise, I got nothing. I tried 1-butanol and 2-butanol and I think that my tech tried t-butyl as well.

    Any ideas or suggestions would be welcomed.

    Thanks again for the chart.


  2. Starting this past summer, I noticed that store bought red and green peppers tasted like perfume. I just threw out two perfectly good peppers. Then so did the canteloupe. I just cooked turnip and parsnip together and mashed them with a bit of butter. I could smell the perfume as I mashed and the taste was unmistakable. WHAT is going on???


  3. Hi there,

    I have been doing some painting recently and both me and my wife agree that this particular paint faintly smells like pineapples/rose petals; not at all unpleasant. Now, I have been told in the past that esters make good solvents/plasticizers. Is it feasible therefore that a pineapple scented ester might be used in paint recipes? I must add that this paint is not meant to be scented in any way, it’s a simple white emulsion. It’s not often I’ve found other paints/varnishes to smell this way but thinking about it, I have seldom noticed this same smell before when decorating.
    Just curious. Thankyou to all reading this question and to anyone who might think they can help.


      1. Thanks James! 🙂 Until now, I hadn’t considered that compounds used in paint may smell of exotic fruit.


      1. Got a fabulous father’s room scent in Hotel Estherea Amsterdam! Would love a perfume with same scent???


      1. Uhm it`s nice, I would like ti know, is it possible to use Esters in PIT TOILETS, and how should I mix it,the Procedure!


  4. Thanks for the graphic – I will use it in a staff presentation at Tri-Tech Chemicals (we are in Sunshine West). We make quite a few esters such as methyl oleate, sorbitan esters and 2 ethyl hexyl esters


  5. Hello Sir! I am really impressed with the grafical layout of these chemicals. What I am particularly interested in is the presence of these chemicals in Whisky. I have been making a blog about how the fruity notes (etc) get into whisky and linking them to chemicals. This overview is fantastic for that kind of information. I have been trying to make just such an overview, but since I am an engineer and not a chemist, I may have gotten to the limits of my ways. Any Tips in how I can make tables of this kind of information? I am particularly looking at the evaporation temperature and the way in which these chemicals are made during fermentation of spirits. Cheers.


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