The once popular and well known essential oil of Wintergreen, also called Gaultheria Oil, is about to become obsolete on the perfumer’s and flavorist’s shelf. More correctly, it has been replaced by synthetic Methyl Salicylate. Wintergreen oil is a typical American essential oil, derived by water distillation of the leaves of Gaultheria Procumbent, a small plant of the heather family. Prior to distillation, the leaves are exposed to enzymatic action in warm water.
During this process, the methyl salicylate is formed as a decomposition product from a glycoside in the plant material. Traces of other volatile constituents are either present in the leaves, or they are formed during the water distillation as decomposition products (diacetyl is a possible trace component in the oil, as is formaldehyde, etc. These materials are presumably derived from carbohydrates in the re-used distillation
water). The leaves are practically odorless, and methyl salicylate makes up more than 95% of the water distillable oil. The plant is a native of eastern North America, and grows wiId abundantly in the eastern states from the southern part of Canada to Georgia in the southeast of the U.S.A. Wintergreen Oil is a pale yellow to yellowish or pinkish colored liquid of intensely sweet-aromatic odor and flavor, often displaying a peculiar creamy-fruity topnote and a sweet-woody dryout which may have a tarlike note in poorly distilled oils.