How strong is pure Vanillin?

I have read once that only a few drops of pure Vanillin would be able to make a whole football stadium smell like cake. Is that remotely possible? Where can I get pure Vanillin? By Vanillin I mean the essential oils, not the vanilla pods.

Vanillin is a synthetic substance, rather than an essential oil. The essential oil is a mixture of chemicals extracted from the pod. I have smelled the pure substance, which is a solid, by wafting the open bottle. Smells great but you would need more than a few drops to stink out a stadium. I put some pure vanillin in a fog machine at a party once. Yum.

Be careful though, some South American firms sell coumarinas vanillin. Very dangerous.

I bought mine from Aldrich. I don’t know that they sell to individuals, though.

I don’t want the thing you can get at the supermarket. I want the pore, concentrated extract. And I want to know (without smelling it and possibly burning my nostrils) how strong is its smell.

As explained above, the pure extract is not pure vanilliin. Nobody makes that from the plant. You’ll have to get it from a chemical supplier.

White heads?

I have to stop posting drunk, hahahaha.

I used pure vanillin for a lipid assay I used in my grad school research. It came as a white crystalline powder, and as others have said pure vanillin is synthesized from scratch, not extracted from vanilla beans. In its solid form it wasn’t as fragrant as you might expect, when I’d open a 500 gram jar of it you’d get a whiff of vanilla but it wouldn’t fill up the lab or anything. Dissolving it in a liquid (I used ethanol IIRC) would increase the odor greatly, I assume because it doesn’t volatilize as readily in its solid form. It was prominently labeled “Not for human consumption” but I put a few mg in my coffee once and it tasted pleasant…

and your handle was made manifest.

If you want to know about the essential oil of vanilla (which, as already has been made clear, is not vanillin) I can tell you that it’s not one of the strongest odors in the essential oil realm, and it’s thick and goopy, so it doesn’t dissipate quickly into the air. It’s actually a “base note” and fixative - it’s one of the last smells you smell in a blend, it lingers longer than most and it helps your mixture stay on the skin longer. It doesn’t leap into the air like citrus or eucalyptus. You would need gallons of it to permeate a stadium without fans. It also, oddly, doesn’t smell a whole lot like vanilla. If I want a “vanilla-ey” smell in a blend, I use peru balsam; it smells more like vanilla than vanilla does. Go figure.

Heh did you read this on the internets?

Heh, I use vanillin in my lab pretty regularly. I’ve got probably 5 lbs of it on the shelf.

Like wheresmymind says, yeah, it’s a white crystalline powder. Definitely smells like vanilla, not unpleasant. Smell is strong, but not that strong. I can usually smell it from a few feet away if the container isn’t sealed.

It’s been a while since I read the MSDS, but when I first ran across it I think I remember the MSDS labeling it as pretty benign. I don’t know that I would eat it, but hey, I’ve made jokes myself about adding it to coffee or coke.

Believe it or not, we use it in our resins. Not for the delicious smell or taste, but it has significant affect on resin cure at pretty low concentrations (ppm). Very useful.

Vanillin: ORAL (LD50): Acute: 1580 mg/kg [Rat]. 3925 mg/kg [Mouse]. 1400 mg/kg[Guinea pig]

Seeing as it’s used as a flavoring in foods, replacing 75% of the uses of vanilla extract, I don’t think a few mg in a cup of coffee is going to harm anyone.

Just to be clear:

Vanillin is the name of a chemical compound, which is the primary flavor ingredient in vanilla. Pure vanillin is synthesized, but it’s chemically identical to natural vanillin. If we burned hydrogen, we’d be synthesizing water, but it would be no different from the H2O in “natural” water.

Of course, natural vanilla contains a number of other chemicals, so the flavor is more complex. Also, vanillin might have isomers, and natural and synthetic sources might differ in this regard, but that was not the impression I got from the discussion of vanilla in Napoleon’s Buttons, a book about how a number of chemicals each affected history, which I found very interesting.

But for the common use of the term, antechinus is correct: when you see it on a bottle in the supermarket, it’s synthesized.

So pretty much if you have pure vanillin and want to make it as fragrant as possible, you’d end up making a tincture anyway. In that case, tincture of vanillin is very easy to come by; you can buy it at the grocery store as “imitation vanilla” or “artificial vanilla flavor.” It’s not pure vanillin and ethanol, because it has a bit of caramel color and other ingredients to make it more like real vanilla extract, but vanillin is the main note in the nose. From there, the experiment is easy enough to do, just buy up a whole bunch of bottles, dump them out in your local stadium, and back-calculate how much vanillin you used to get the smell all the way out to the bleachers.

Vanillin is about $2 a bottle last I checked, so if you don’t want to spend a whole lot of money you could just dump out one bottle in your garage or something. Keep in mind that different people are more or less sensitive to different smells, so what’s painfully vanilla-y to one person might be imperceptible to another! Make sure you get a lot of judges.