Table of Organic Compounds and their Smells: revised edition

Thanks to the thorough, kind and extremely useful feedback I’ve received as a result of making this chart, I’ve created a revised edition of the Table of Organic Compounds and their Smells poster with 8 additions and corrections. See details underneath.

Table of organic compounds and their smells W12
Click to download PDF version


  • I found a really old botany book that says undecan-2-one smells like “rue wort”. I don’t know what “rue wort” is, but I’ve labelled it on the chart anyway.
  • Added a 15-carbon row, which includes tamarind, celery and musk smells.
  • Added a benzene row, which includes almonds, tar and orange smells.
  • Added methene, CH₂! It’s extremely unstable and is usually called ‘carbene’. Nobody knows what it smells like because it reacts before it reaches your nose.


  • Pentane now has a smell
  • Alkenes are now labelled ‘unpleasant’
  • Corrected the second ketone column header from “2-methyl-” to “methyl-“
  • Moved kumquats to the left.

There were also some minor aesthetic changes: skull & crossbones symbol shows high toxicity (category I or II), while a warning symbol shows moderate toxicity (category III). A green face icon represents a highly unpleasant smell.

Again, thank you to all the people who emailed or otherwise messaged me with feedback on this poster. It pleases me to see how much this poster’s been shared around the internet on many different platforms. I’m glad you find it interesting. 🙂


35 thoughts on “Table of Organic Compounds and their Smells: revised edition

  1. What lovely things you make.

    Rue wort is probably Rue (Ruta graveolens). Smells dusty-musky, a bit like sage and a bit like rubber.

    I’m a soapmaker, and always fascinated to learn more about odors and perception. A visual dictionary by aromatic chemical would be vastly useful; check out the different compounds and their levels in a single essential oil, say, in its varying chemotypes–for example the basils or lavenders. Trying to translate a gas chromatograph into smells would be much easier with graphics.


      1. I’ve been made aware of some corrections/refinements that might be made, Me and my fellow perfumers have been picking over them and can offer some revisions, if you’re intereseted in that…? Otherwise, I can make them myself…

        I’ve been posting them to different Perfumers Venues online for Perfumer references, and heard some of these corrections/revisions.

        I also photoshop cut them into manageable pieces so that someone could print them out on USA sized letter paper, and splice them into a larger piece to hang on the wall for wall reference.

        I posted them to the Do-It-Yourself Perfumers forum, and to the Yahoo Perfumemaking Group of 2000 perfumers worldwide, and also to another site for raw materials of Perfumers,

        Let me know what you think James…?

        Thanks so much, AGAIN!



  2. Oh, one more thing, We perfumers, and also for Flavorists use a free database of these raw materials that may have some research potential to you or any students needing info for these raw materials and single chemicals. We access it directly here:

    However, in the past, we’ve experienced some issues with the search function, so a felow Aussie perfumer friend of mine, Mr. Mark Evans, made our own Perfumers Search Page that searches this databsse, and also has several other serarch parameter types for other and different purposes. That meta Search engine can be found here:

    Hope I’ve been of some help… maybe not so much as your output is for me today… 🙂


    1. Hi Paul! Thanks for pointing that out. I did use The Good Scents Company as a source for this diagram, but it wasn’t the only source. There were many, many sources in total, including research papers. That should explain some of the differences between The Good Scents Company’s results and the results on this chart.

      And you’re right: this chart is an educational tool for students and the public. It’s not really for perfumers, of course, who have access to more in-depth organoleptics resources and know how to use them!

      PK Perfumes looks really exciting! I’m going to check it out. 🙂


      1. One of your smells is “attracts mosquitos”. Another one is “attract sperm”. What exactly are those smells?


  3. Good day,

    I didn’t know chemistry like this exist and thank you for posting such like this it helps a person like me to broaden about what chemistry could offer to me ^_^.
    Hoping for your next educational post.



    1. Thanks, Remi! There is more coming. In fact, I’m working on another website called, which is purely educational and contains lots of original study resources for high school chemistry and physics.


  4. Hi James, I’m an educator and consultant in the whiskey business and a collector of charts, infographics and other arcane info on the science and biology of whiskey. This and the ester chart are some of the best I’ve seen in terms of accessibility to non-chemists like myself to help explain the origins of aromas and smells. Thanks so much and keep up the good work!


  5. Hello. I am a student of the Granada´s University. I am doing a work about chemistry of smell for students. have you got any information to lend me please?

    Thank you


  6. Got me thinking… These beautiful charts are only relevant to human nasal perception. Are there esters & organic compounds that we humans cannot smell but can somehow mechanically/technologically detect? And/or is there a separate chart for dogs? I’m thinking like bomb sniffer machines, or drug-cadaver-cancer sniffing dogs? Do they key on one compound or a standard of multiple compounds acting in concert? And, and… is the human “nose” ability subdivided by race, ethnicity, or region? Thanks for the charts. I’m stopping now before I’m up all night.


  7. I love this poster and I printed a large version in my office. Looking at it today, I thought that in the box for benzene-enal, you could actually put cinnamic aldehyde, which is an important flavor and fragrance compounds that is missing form the chart and it is not far flung to look at it as the enal of benzene.


  8. Ooh, I love this chart.My father was a chemist but had a poor sense of smell. I am not a chemist but am fascinated by the chemistry and physiology of smell. And I think I may be a “supersmeller,” though I don’t have the same aversions to bad smells as most people. When I smell something stinky, I get really curious about what makes it so unpleasant. What does a pinacate beetle smell like (insulin, apparently) and why is it so distinctive yet impossible for me to describe to others? Why does body odor (specifically armpits) not disturb me as much as air freshener or Febreeze?

    Thanks for the chart. I’m going to print it out and slowly educate my nose. Some day I’ll be able to describe that pinacate…


  9. This is awesome! There are lots of strange industrial smells here in Allegheny County and I’m trying to figure them all out. Do you know where I can find information about inorganic substances and their smells — in a chart like yours? Your chart is incredible. By far the best I’ve ever seen on the topic. Thank you for providing it! (Smells I’m smelling are metallic, acrid, sulfuric, rotten eggs. I know that there is H2S and SO2 in the air. Curious, though, to understand what the other smells are.


Talk to me

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s