The Smell of Christmas

Anna Perkins

21st December 2015

Applications Laboratory, DHS, Dynamic Headspace, GC-MS, Mark Perkins, Selected Ion, SIFT-MS,

Apart from Christmas trees (real ones of course!), 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.

This was clearly a job for GC-MS and Dynamic Headspace Sampling (DHS) and 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.

Merry Christmas.

If you think any of the techniques mentioned would be of interest for your laboratory, please contact us now on +44 (0)1223 279210, or email