making scents with kephalis


Making scents with  Kephalis opens you up to a wide range of possibilities as a perfumer because, as Givaudan, the maker of the molecule, puts it “Kephalis is a very versatile and rich product, used as a long lasting heart note.” Honestly, I was totally caught off guard to note what a subtle player it was. From the beginning to the end of the evaluation this molecule surprised me.

Common names: Kephalis, Woody cyclohexanone

Chemical name: 4-(1-ethoxyethenyl)-3,3,5,5-tetramethylcyclohexan-1-one

CAS #: 36306-87-3

Supplier: Perfumer’s Apprentice

Note: Heart-Base

Family: Wood/Amber

Diffusion: 5

Dilution: 10%

Blends well with: Ambroxan, amyris, benzyl benzoate, ambrette seed, iso butyl quinoline, cedramber, carrot seed, hay, fir balsam absolute, ho leaf, labdanum, mastic, tonka bean, vetiver, patchouli, nerolidol, etc. (TGSC)

“It blends well with floral notes (jasmine, rose, violet, lavender, etc.) as well as sophisticated amber, woody-aldehydic, tobacco and masculine creations.” (Givaudan)

Their nose: woody-ambery facets, resembling cedar, that blends well with florals and tobacco, very popular with modern fragrances…brings warm, and rich aromas of amber and tobacco. (Fragrantica)

My nose: Interestingly, from the beginning Kephalis, comes off cold for me.  Not freezing cold, but with a sharp, pungent top note that seems to have the ability to elevate. It’s decisive and decidedly masculine, it feels dry and rugged. Totally not what I was expecting and in this regard it’s a surprise. 15min and now it’s warmer! I get an impression of fire, smoky but just a hint of it. Still more jagged and succinct, dark like the dark days of winter. At 30min how can it be warm and cool at the same time?! But it is! It’s like Kephalis keeps changing temperature. Now it’s much more discrete, hiding a bit, more elegant and pristine now. Had to skip the 45min evaluation so on to the 1hr: there is still that high note that hits you initially, sharp and penetrating, metallic; this is a very structured molecule. And yet, there’s a hint of mint in there somewhere, that’s what that sharp note is, mint! (Well, at least to my nose.) After 2hrs this note is sweet, pungent and sharp upon the first intake of breath, very refined and there’s a sparkle to it, a certain purity of expression that, again, I was not expecting.  3hrs and now it’s sweet, sharp, thinner, masculine and assertive. At the base of Kephalis, 7hrs, there is a powerful, golden, warmth that is now less jagged than the top expression, earthy and gutsy, contemporary. At this point it’s much more meditative. Billowy. 12hrs into the dry down and it’s puffy, arid, much more warm now. It’s a sigh as it shifts into the late stages, giving a sense of spaciousness. After a full 24hrs Kephalis is clear, cleaner, like being at high altitude, thinner and greener.

This aroma chemical has taught me the importance of being open to surprises. As perfumers in training we tend to want a sure thing, a hit, our first success. But this can cut us off to the wonder and the curiosity that is a key ingredient to the very thing we strive for.

So, for today, allow yourself  the space to be surprised :).




2 thoughts on “making scents with kephalis

  1. For me, Kephalis has a distinct patchouli note. Did you get that, too? (So I’d rather use this than cedramber as clearwood susbstitute.)


    1. Hello Dustin, welcome and thanks for commenting!
      Can’t say I did get patch in the profile, but that’s the interesting thing with committing to learning each of the materials in our possession, like layers, with each approach, we learn more. I would love to dip a strip and sniff for myself but I just started a fire in the stove and the smell of smoke is everywhere!


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