What Chemical Is Blackcurrant Aroma?

Blackcurrant aroma refers to the distinctive sweet and tangy smell of blackcurrants, a type of berry that grows on a shrub native to parts of Europe and Asia. The aroma comes from a unique combination of chemical compounds found in the blackcurrant fruit.

This popular fruit is widely used in juices, jams, jellies, ice creams, baked goods, and beverages to impart its signature flavor and smell. Blackcurrant aroma is especially common in fruit-flavored candies, syrups, yogurts, and even some alcoholic drinks like ciders. The complexity of the aroma makes it a popular choice for adding a berry fruit note to various foods and beverages.

Main Chemicals

The primary chemicals responsible for the distinctive blackcurrant aroma are:


This chemical compound, also known as 4M2B, makes up over 60% of the overall chemical profile of blackcurrant. It provides a sweet, fruity aroma reminiscent of berries and is a major contributor to the recognizable blackcurrant scent.


Myrcene is an aromatic terpene commonly found in the essential oils of plants like hops, bay leaves, and eucalyptus. In blackcurrants, myrcene makes up around 30% of the chemical composition and lends woody, herbal notes.


Ocimene is an unsaturated terpene that provides blackcurrant with floral, citrusy top notes. It makes up around 10% of the aroma profile and balances the sweetness of 4M2B.


4-methoxy-2-methylbutan-2-ol, also known as 4M2B, is one of the key chemicals responsible for giving blackcurrants their distinctive catty or “blackcurrant bud” aroma. This powerful aromatic compound makes up a significant portion of the overall smell and flavor profile of blackcurrants.

The chemical structure of 4M2B allows it to activate receptors in the nose and mouth that detect catty, rubbery odors and tastes. At high concentrations, 4M2B smells strongly of blackcurrant buds or leaves. Even at lower levels, it imparts a characteristic fruity, fresh nuance that helps give blackcurrant its unique sensory qualities.

Beyond being a major aromatic component, 4M2B also serves as an identifier compound for blackcurrant. The presence of this chemical is a key indicator that blackcurrant is present, whether as a fruit, juice, extract, or flavoring. For this reason, 4M2B is sometimes referred to as the “main blackcurrant aroma” chemical.


Myrcene is one of the key compounds that contributes to the characteristic blackcurrant aroma. It adds sweet, herbal notes often described as green and vegetative. The concentration of myrcene can vary considerably in blackcurrants, but it’s typically one of the most abundant volatile chemicals.

Structurally, myrcene is a monoterpene, an organic compound often found in the essential oils of plants. It has a fresh, balsamic odor reminiscent of herbs like thyme, parsley, and basil. The presence of myrcene gives blackcurrant its green, almost cannabis-like notes.

In addition to blackcurrants, myrcene occurs naturally in mangoes, hops, bay leaves, and lemongrass. It’s an important component of many essential oils and has several commercial uses in perfumes and flavorings. Myrcene helps give depth and complexity to blackcurrant’s fruity aroma.


Ocimene is another important chemical compound that gives blackcurrant its unique aroma. This terpene contributes sweet, floral notes to the fruit’s bouquet. Of the various ocimene isomers found in plants, blackcurrants contain primarily the (Z)-β-ocimene and (E)-β-ocimene forms.

These ocimene isomers impart pleasant floral scents reminiscent of sweet flowers like lavender. Their concentrations in blackcurrants can vary, but ocimene generally makes up 5-10% of the total volatile compounds. Along with the fruity, berry-like scents from chemicals like myrcene, the floral ocimene compounds round out the blackcurrant fragrance profile.

The ocimene isomers found in blackcurrant are also present in a variety of other plants. For example, ocimene contributes to the floral scent of orchids, herbs like basil and lavender, and fruits like mangoes and pears. So while not exclusive to blackcurrants, ocimene is an integral part of what makes their aroma so distinctive.

Other Trace Chemicals

In addition to the main chemicals that give blackcurrant its distinctive aroma, there are also a few other trace chemicals that contribute subtle notes.

One of these is caryophyllene, which is found in small amounts in blackcurrant. It contributes a woody, spicy aroma. Caryophyllene is also found in other plants like cloves, rosemary, and hops.

Limonene is another trace chemical in blackcurrant. As the name suggests, it provides a fresh citrusy lemon scent. Limonene is common in the peels of citrus fruits.

The compound linalool can also be found in tiny amounts in blackcurrant. Linalool has a floral aroma, reminiscent of lavender. It is present in many flowers and spices.

Though not the main drivers of blackcurrant’s aroma, these subtle trace chemicals add extra nuance and depth to the overall smell and flavor profile.

Natural vs Artificial Blackcurrant Aroma

Blackcurrant aroma and flavor can be derived naturally from blackcurrant berries or created artificially in a lab. The key difference lies in the chemical composition:

Natural blackcurrant extract contains the full range of aromatic compounds found in fresh blackcurrants. This includes over 300 different volatile molecules like ketones, aldehydes, alcohols, esters, and terpenes that give blackcurrant its distinctive fruity and floral notes.

Artificial blackcurrant flavor, on the other hand, often contains just a handful of molecules that aim to mimic the smell. The most commonly used are 4-methoxy-2-methylbutan-2-ol and myrcene. While these may replicate certain sensory aspects of blackcurrant, they lack the complexity and nuance of real blackcurrant extract.

Many perfumers and food scientists argue that artificial blackcurrant aroma results in an overly simplified, synthetic impression compared to natural blackcurrant. The full symphony of aromatic compounds in real blackcurrants offers a much more vibrant, layered, and authentic sensory experience.

However, artificial blackcurrant flavors are cheaper and more consistent in quantity. This makes them appealing for mass-market candies, beverages, and other products where cost is a primary concern. But for premium fragrances, culinary uses, or health products, natural blackcurrant extract is generally preferred for its superior quality and depth of flavor.

Uses in Food/Drinks

Blackcurrant aroma is commonly used to flavor various foods and beverages. Some of the most popular uses of blackcurrant aroma include:

Yogurts – Blackcurrant yogurt is a common flavor in many parts of Europe. The aroma provides a sweet, tangy flavor to yogurt. It is often mixed with other berries like raspberry or strawberry.

Juices – Blackcurrant juice and juice blends are popular, especially in the UK. The aroma gives a distinct sweet, tart flavor. It is sometimes combined with apple, grape, or other fruit juices.

Candies – Gummies, jellies, and other candies sometimes feature blackcurrant flavoring. This provides a nice balance of sweetness and tartness.

Jams – Blackcurrant jam or preserves are an excellent way to capture the aroma’s unique flavor. It pairs well with scones, toast, or biscuits.

Liqueurs – Some liqueurs use blackcurrant to add flavor complexity. It blends well with other ingredients like vodka, gin, or rum. Popular liqueurs include crème de cassis from France.

Health Benefits of Blackcurrant Aroma

One of the key health benefits associated with blackcurrant aroma is its high antioxidant content. Antioxidants are compounds that help protect cells from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. When free radical levels become too high, oxidative stress can occur, contributing to chronic inflammation and diseases like cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative disorders.

Blackcurrants are packed with antioxidants like vitamin C, anthocyanins, polyphenols, and flavonoids. These antioxidants help neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. Some of the ways blackcurrant antioxidants provide health benefits include:

  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Supporting cardiovascular health
  • Protecting the skin from premature aging
  • Promoting eye health
  • Enhancing brain function

The potent antioxidant properties of blackcurrant make its aroma linked to several health-promoting effects. More research is still needed, but the current evidence points to blackcurrant aroma having benefits related to its high concentration of antioxidants that help fight disease and keep the body functioning optimally.


Blackcurrant aroma comes from several key chemicals that give it its distinctive fruity smell. The main chemicals are 4-methoxy-2-methylbutan-2-ol, myrcene and ocimene. There are also some other trace chemicals that contribute more subtle notes.

Most blackcurrant aroma used in foods and beverages is nature-identical, meaning it is chemically synthesized to exactly match the natural chemical composition. This makes it more affordable and consistent compared to extracting and isolating the chemicals from real blackcurrants.

The blackcurrant aroma is commonly used as a flavoring ingredient in sweets, ice creams, candy, chewing gum, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. It works well for enhancing fruit flavor profiles. The chemicals like myrcene and ocimene also have antioxidant properties.

In summary, the unique fruity blackcurrant aroma comes from key chemicals like 4-methoxy-2-methylbutan-2-ol, myrcene and ocimene. The aroma is widely used to give foods and drinks a more natural blackcurrant flavor and aroma.

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