From the Christmas Archives: The Smell Of Christmas!


21st December 2021

Aroma, Aroma Analysis, Aroma Profiling, Christmas, SIFT-MS,

mince, pies, smell, christmas


As we approach Christmas 2021, let’s take look at a piece of work we conducted WAY BACK in 2015 – an analysis of the unique and unforgettable aromas of mince pies!! Because, let’s face it, apart from Christmas trees (and good wine!), for most people, the arrival of Christmas is signalled by the smell of mince pies slowly warming in the oven.

For us here in the Anatune Applications lab, we were curious about what these aroma compounds might be. And we knew that this was clearly a job for GC-MS and Dynamic Headspace Sampling (DHS).

We duly carried this out at 30°C and 60°C, identifying limonene, anethole and carvone as the main odour compounds.




Ordinarily, at this point we finish the analysis – we have the compounds and we can see that different temperatures give different peak heights. But what if we wanted to follow the evolution of these odours? This is what happens in real life after all – the smell slowly wafts through the kitchen as the mince pie is heated.

Well, with SIFT-MS you can. Having identified the compounds by GC-MS, we now let SIFT-MS monitor these compounds over an extended period. And orders of magnitude difference in concentration is no problem – with limonene at 5 ppmv and anethole at 10 ppbv. The ability to make these long, continuous measurements, entirely immune to water content, opens up a new type of dynamic profiling technique for the lab, with all the possibilities that this entails.


Syft 1

Syft 2


But, we couldn’t have made these measurements without both techniques, GC-MS to identify and SIFT-MS to profile. Like mince pies and mulled wine – a perfect match!

Each of the techniques used in this work – GC-MS and Dynamic headspace Sampling, as well as SIFT-MS – has progressed massively in the last 6 years so if you think any could be of interest for your laboratory and would like to find out more, please contact us, call +44 (0)1223 279210, or email


Merry Christmas from everyone here at Anatune!!