making perfumes with cistus absolute


My musings on making perfumes with cistus absolute are many today as I am slowly getting clear on the various products obtainable from the Cistus ladaniferus bush (like Labdanum absolute), but that’s fodder for a future post (yep, it’s on the list). From now on I’m going to provide a direct link to the page of the supplier.

Common name: Cistus

Genus name: Cistus ladaniferus

Supplier: Hermitage

Note: Base

Family: Amber

Diffusion: 5+

Dilution: 10%

Blends well with: essential ingredient to amber bases and Orientals.  Use with citrus, cinnamon, pine, fir, florals, vanilla, oakmoss absolute, clary sage, black spruce, fir, juniper berry, myrrh, lavender, lavandin, bergamot, cypress, vetiver, sandalwood, frankincense, chamomile, benzoin siam, boronia, cassie, cypress.

Chemical components:  the most volatile fraction is made up of terpenes, alcohols, and of ketones (among those a-pinene, borneol, ledol, ledene etc. Diterpenes include Labdene-7,8-op-15, labdanolic acid, etc. Acids including benzoic, cinnamic (cis and trans), as well as fatty acids.

The chemical composition of labdanum contains around 250 compounds, 75 of which had been identified, including 25 phenols, 9 lactones and 8 acids. Weyerstahl et al. (1998) attempted to assign labdanum’s odour characteristics to some of the constituents. Dihydroambrinol contributes a powerful woody-amber, with an ambrinol-like nuance, while a-ambrinol is strong, amber and woody, having an exceptionally strong odour of damp earth with a crude civet sub note, which on high dilution gives a warm animal amber scent. Drimenone is described as powerful tobacco and amber, and various other components give soft, warm, woody amber notes, sometimes with animalic or resinous variations.  Weyerstahl et al. (1998) also reported the isolation of another key tone — 6,6,10-trimethyldecal-2-one — which they describe as ‘strong woody — dominant tonality — with a distinct note of damp earth, cellar, geosmin’ (Fragrance and Wellbeing by Jennifer Peace Rhind)

Interesting bits: The cistus absolute is obtained after the cistus concrete, itself the result of a hexane extraction of the young branches, is washed with ethanol. This unique plant with amber accents expresses its olfactory character in different ways, depending on the process: cistus essential oil, cistus Tradition quality essential oil, labdanum absolute, labdanum resinoid, and even labdasur…Products bearing the name “Cistus” come from the direct processing of the shrub’s young leafy twigs by distillation or solvent extraction. They include cistus essential oil, Tradition quality cistus essential oil,cistus concrete, and cistus absolute. (Albert Vieille)

Their nose:  Ambery, vanillic woody, terpenic, leather with spicy tobacco notes.  Warm, woody, spicy herbal, sweet ripe fruit and chamomile-like with a notable resinous, animalic and “cold smoke effect”.

The smell of Cistus is a fruity version of Labdanum, beautiful, green, fresh and mystic. (

Distinct labdanum note, warm, balsamic, woody, spicy with herbaceous nuances. (Ventos)

It has a complex odour, usually described as rich, sweet, slightly herbaceous-balsamic (Lawless 1994); or powerful, sweet, and recalling ambergris (jouhar 1991); or as having a sweet, rich, balsamic amber character with warm, dry, woody back notes (Lawless 1994). Williams (1996) wrote that cistus oil has powerful, warm, agra-like top notes, and the body is rich, warm, agra and balsamic, with a  dry, balsamic dryout. (Fragrance and Wellbeing by Jennifer Peace Rhind)

My nose: the top of cistus absolute opens up with animalic, yet vanilla qualities at the same time! Warm with a hint of fruit, it fans out softly, lovely and bewitching. 15min and it’s soft, a bit vanilla-y, hint of cognac, oakwood barrels, warm and animalic, earthy, mesmerising. 30min later and now the vanilla note has taken centre stage, animalic next, I can also smell commonalities with Ambergris, and the most fantastic thing, my mind out of nowhere conjured up the smell of Black Spruce! Cistus is like a throb, a persistent, deep, pulse of the earth, to me it’s profound. 45min and the main impressions are earthy, settling down to a creamy, woody blanket, it seems to have retreated quite a bit…probably just resting. 1hr and Dalma called so I nothing to add. 2hrs later and there is a green quality, earthy, animalic, brown, a bit lack-lustre now, dry, with a hint of woodiness. After 3hrs cistus absolute is warm, and the vanilla is back, sweet, it seems to be moving into a much darker layer of itself, more open now, like an exploration. The 7hr drydown is warm, vanilla, and yes, still very much alive. This layer is much more earthbound, more well-defined than previous layers. 12hrs on and there is now a mere hint, the faintest of sorts, of a lemon quality, more like Elemi than actual lemon, very natural, not at all bland in the drydown, just more quiet, more thoughtful. 24hrs later and yes, there is still a hint of that lemon/Elemi quality, now everything is much lighter but this layer is still alive on the scent strip, without a doubt.

12/24 comparison: the 12hr scent strip is more pungent, bracing, it’s form is more clearly defined and it’s distinctly drier, too. The 24hr scent strip side by side only provides a hint, leaves a trail of that pungency, it suggests dryness rather than exhibits it. The impression is that this layer has been stripped in the sun, but has left a trail of warmth behind, like breadcrumbs so you don’t ever get lost or forget.

Have a wonderful week-end!



6 thoughts on “making perfumes with cistus absolute

  1. hi Maxine so here we are again.. it says in your scent profile you use 10% dilutions of both Labdanum and Cistus oils, do you also have the undiluted abs? It’s what I’ve got, wherewith I have to put them au bain Marie before I can use them ( a simple dilution in Lavandin, with perhaps a little Lavender abs, i can recommend ;-)).
    What strikes me every time I smell the two of them in proximity to each other, is that to me, Labdanum is civilised, polished and mature – easier to put in a perfume formula probably; and Cistus is as you say, earthy and ‘uncivilised’ – straight up from the roots of the earth! Knowing both, gives you the opportunity to look at those two aspects within ourselves: the ‘civilised’, neat, ordered side that deals with things, knows how to be compassionate – also towards yourself – and the other, wild side: which is utterly personal, private, silent, where you happen to yourself. Knowing both, is best. I thought this would appeal to you, as a creative person, you have to be both.
    your post inspired me to make a new mixture yesterday, that includes gentian absolute – and I made a small bottle with just the gentian in beeswax, as it turned out my friend was to have that one.. and so we go on, !
    have a nice weekend you too! Greetings from Eline


    1. Eline, it’s also wonderful having these exchanges with you, I learn so much! Yes, I had to do the hot water bath thing too, to both undiluted absolutes, it was a pain in the *ss, but I love a good fight :). Hmmm, love the suggestion of the Lavandin, which I purchased upon your suggestions months ago and love, love, love it! So will do some experimenting. You’ve captured the beauty and functionality of these two players wonderfully. We DO need both the PC and the non-PC versions of ourselves, both serve their purpose, it’s up to our good judgement to know when to let either loose. Did you HAVE to introduce me to a new absolute?! What’s Gentian absolute like? Have yourself a beautiful week-end!


      1. yeah.. Gentian abs, wow, I’ll try to describe it. first off, it’s an absolute made from the root of Gentiana lutea, here’s a link. Googled it also and you get al lost of medicine pages where gentian root is used as a wound healer and skin cleanser. Of course I didn’t know any of this, I was just intrigued by the name – aren’t we always, absolutes are way too much fun. I thought I could feel it would be helpful from a vibrational viewpoint, in my experience the fragrance and the medicinal or other properties of plants all stem from the plant’s inner nature, to which we relate. You don’t even need to know the real plant, although knowing a few plants well probably helps a lot. Do you see what i’m referring to? You can feel the difference.
        Anyhoo. Fragrance-wise, Gentian is surprisingly resiny in a non-sweet way. A bit on the turpentine side, just a bit. It’s a tough syrup that has to be diluted somehow in order to unfold. I find it really gives you the high-mountain, pure air, clear view for miles, strong sense of being in a wholesome environment. Hiking, silence, a few birds, lots of pine trees. Since you are such a fan of Black Spruce this should be right up your kneck of the woods, hmm?
        I think it will blend well with other resins.. and sweeter things also. It’s a friendly fragrance, doesn’t mind mingling.
        Did i tell you I chucked resin fragments in Lavandin so they kind of dissolve? Wonderful effects. Palo santo resin suddenly gives all its power into the oil. yahoo!
        I’m just saying. How about you made some of these nice things into a perfume I could actually wear into town… I don’t even look at perfume any more in the shops, it’s such a bunch of lies, they freak me out. And people actually buy the stuff! nah.
        Have a great day and now I’ll read today’s post


      2. Eline, I had to really think about this comment, it really got me thinking and I love that! Now of course you’ve got me adding it to my wish list! Where did you purchase it if you don’t mind sharing? I read that it’s also called Bitter Root and it’s great for a host of things! You know I’ve noticed that I really am attracted much more to the absolutes, it’s like my hand has a mind of it’s own and always reaches for an absolute when I’m formulating. Eline, you are so right about vibration, which is simply energy, and essential oils, and their fragrance. The two are not separate and in fact I have a future post in mind about the vibration of essential oils. I DO know what you mean :). You did WHAT with the Lavandin? You added resin pieces?! Holy cow, I love your inventiveness! Gotta try that! You’re a wonderful source of inspiration, thank you so much for being a part of this journey. And don’t get me started on mainstream perfumes. Let’s just say that every market has its buyers and that’s just fine. I’m wonderfully happy that more and more people are waking up to the joys of artisan perfumes. Wishing you a day full of wonder!


      3. Yeah to all! it’s so cool to have someone to share with, for me as well. I was hesitant bringing up the vibrational stuff, for a lot of people it’s still way too vague. Then again, it’s just a matter of looking in that direction. Yes, it’s magic, but it’s also wholesome and great fun.
        I checked at the company I bought the Gentian from but they have discontinued it.. nahh. I got it at a terrific discount because the shop where I got it is closing down (i also work there as a volunteer) and this was one of a number of interesting ones I managed to get at a price i can afford (kind of). I think it used to be (retail price) 60,-€ originally, for like 2ml!! it had been sitting on the shelf for goodness knows how long… it says the aroma of gentian root has more than 100 compounds…
        sells the actual root, hmmm. a whole lot cheaper than the abs, hunh.. larger quantities. I’m trying to find the abs for you but so far it’s tough. seems like i was really lucky to get it. absolutes are very close to the real thing, as are resins, concretes and all those other fascinating ingredients. it’s Mother Nature, she knows best.
        so maybe, being lucky is part of the game.. there are a lot of ingredients I keep ogling that i can’t afford nohow, you know, and so i make up for that by doing something that seems to make sense, inside. Hence the resins in lavandin.. I had a great big bottle of that (less now!) so i ended up using it for everything.. some resins dilute all the way, others stay gritty-dusty, some mix but keep lumps in the bottom. always there’s a marked change in the scent. I crush a few pieces and put in 10 ml bottle say half full or 3/4 full of Lavandin. then see what happens. one of my favorites in this group: amber solid, that’s glorious.. i seem to recall you got yourself ambergris last year.. have you dared use it yet??? or do you just enjoy looking at it.. which is fine also!;-)
        by the way I had fun reading the inventory post also. it’s true, getting your stuff organised helps, having a clear station gets a lot more done! Last autumn I got myself a proper closet for storage, and i’ve been expanding quite a bit since then. You have to reorganise every few months or so. Depending on what it is you are developing. And i am having so much fun, I feel so grateful that all my girlhood dreams are finally coming into play. You have to, basically, let yourself do it. It’s all here…
        Thank you too! Eline


      4. Drats! Now that means I have to go hunting for a possible supplier in small quantities. Oh what a pleasant distraction :). Wow, the price is similar to Boronia! Thanks for the continued tips for diluting resins in Lavandin absolute. Glad you liked the inventory post :). And yes, realising our dreams is one of life’s most precious gifts. Fortunate is anyone who has created this opportunity for themselves in this life. I find gratitude is the thing that keeps it flowing. 🙂


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