You ever heard of this benzaldehyde? I’d never heard of it until recently when I decided to discover exactly what it was that I hated about almond extract, cherry Coke, and Oregon myrtle (aka California bay). That’s what it is.
According to this guy, the benzaldehyde is formed as one of the breakdown products of amygdalin and amygdalin’s arch enemy—amygdalin hydrolase. Amygdalin hydrolase catalyzes the reaction that turns amygdalin into sucrose, cyanide, and benzaldehyde. Cyanide.
When an animal like you or me crunches into a bitter almond, or a peach, cherry, or apricot nut, the two chemicals are brought together so that the “bitterness” of benzaldehyde warns us that what we are about to eat, might kill us. If we don’t heed that warning, the cyanide may indeed kill us. This means that if you enjoy bitter almond flavor, I perversely have a greater sense of self-preservation than you. We didn’t see that coming.
My boy over at that other blog says that for this reason artificial almond flavor is superior to natural, since natural almond extract actually contains some cyanide while artificial is pure benzaldehyde. I don’t really care. It all tastes of death to me.