making perfumes with cistus absolute

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. (Profumo.it)

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!

MC


making perfumes with labdanum absolute

labdanum-absolute


If you’re thinking about making perfumes with a warm, dark, woody animalic base note or you want to add a note of moss or leather to your composition then have a look at Labdanum absolute.

Common name: Labdanum absolute

Genus name: Cistus ladaniferus

Supplier: Hermitage

Note: Base

Family: Amber, Leather (originally I had this down as part of the Wood family because I was smelling with my “assumptions” and not in the present moment; assuming that since it was obtained from a bush that effect should be that of a more woody note, but the more I research and profile this the more it’s clear that it’s part of the Amber, Leather family so I had to change it).

Diffusion: 5

Dilution: 10%

Blends well with: amber, bay laurel, calamus, cardamom, chamomile, copal-black, iris root, lavender, musk seed, nutmeg, oakmoss, opoponax, patchouli, rosemary, rose, saffron, sandalwood, spikenard, storax, tolu balsam, turmeric, frankincense, opoponox, bergamot, clary sage, cypress, juniper berry, lavender, olibanum, vetiver…

Chemical components: spring harvest has more terpenes, carbonyls. Fall has more alcohols. All have little pinene. (Gritman Essential Oils)  The main chemical components are: camphene, myrcene, sabinene, phellandrene, cymene, limonene, cineole, nerol, borneol, geraniol and fenchone (OnlyNaturalEssentialOil)

Interesting bits: It is used primarily as a perfume oil to ground and balance competing scents…There is also cistus (C. ladanifer) coming from the same plant, but it is processed differently than labdanum. Cistus is a rare or precious oil distilled from the flowers and leaves, while labdanum is made from the crude gum of the plant. (Gritman Esssential Oils)

“It is well known to our readers by now that chypre perfumes are dependent on a strict formula that juxtaposes bergamot and oakmoss, interlaying labdanum and other earthy elements such as vetiver or patchouli…It (labdanum) comes as a sticky dark brown resin exudate from two sources: from the shrubs Cistus ladaniferus (western Mediterranean) and Cistus creticus(eastern Mediterranean), both species of rockrose. Rockrose forms the Cistaceae (or rock-rose family), a rather small family of plants reknowned for their beautiful shrubs, covered by flowers at the time of blossom. It consists of about 170-200 species in eight genera and those are distributed primarily in the temperate areas of Europe and the Mediterranean basin, although they can be found in North and South America too in some instances. The flowers themselves have a faint odour and are not used in perfumery.

Labdanum is a natural oleoresin but it differs slightly from other oleoresins in that it contains more waxes and less volatile oil than most of the other natural oleoresins.

“The method of extracting it is unusual and highly entertaing at that. Herodotus and Pliny report that labdanum was collected by combing the beards of goats, which were impregnated with the substance. The goats graze from the branches and the sticky resin gets stuck on their beards. Upon their return, their owners comb the resin our of their beards and extract the resin. Also a rakelike instrument with long strips of leather attached to it, which they drag across the bushes to collect the resin, is used, called ladanesterion.  To this day labdanum is still gathered in Crete by driving goats into the thick forests overgrown with labdanum bushes. It is difficult work as it is best done in hot weather, under bright sunlight in the summer months. Sises is a Cretan village near Rethymnon, where such work is done to this day.

Today modern production is mainly concetrated in Spain and is done through easier means. However there is something to be said about the small, manual labour of cretan production that is of top quality. The modern method involves boiling the leaves and twigs of this plant in water and the gum being skimmed off the surface and mixed with other resinous matter, which sinks to the bottom of the boiling water, as the resinoid is unsoluble in water. The extraction of the crude or cleaned labdanum gets done with a hydrocarbon solvent, whereas petroleum ether is being used increasingly because it yields a light amber resinoid which contains the most wanted odour principles in high concentration: cinnamon base – (isoeugenol) and labdanum resinoid. An absolute is obtained by solvent extraction whereas an essential oil is produced by steam distillation.” (Perfume Shrine)

“Labdanum can be found all over the Mediterranean coast. This particular species of cistus is remarkable for the gum it produces in the summer which has been used in perfumery for over 3000 years. The gum Labdanum has an exceptionally strong balsamic and ambery odour which made it highly considered amongst the « incense » of Antiquity when it was known as Ladanum Resin.

Up until the 20’s the gum was collected directly from the plant and made into balls or bars. Originally it was collected by the shepherds from Crete or Cyprus from the fleece of goats covered in gum by wandering in the cistus fields. Later on the gum was collected by whipping the twigs with a large rake called a Ladanisterion, which was made of strips of leather from which the gum was scrapped with a knife.  From 1920, companies in Grasse began to produce the essential oil by distillation of the cistus from the Estérel region. At the same time in the Salamanca province of Spain harvesters began to collect the gum by boiling the twigs.” (Biolandes)

Their nose: “The fragrance of Labdanum is very complex. This waxy resin produces a balsamlike, woody, earthy, marshy, smoky, ambergrislike, leathery, flowery…” (Scents of Earth)

“It is balsamlike, with woody, earthy, smoky, and even marshy undertones. Some even desrcibe it as ambergris-like, or leathery and honeylike with hints of plum or oakmoss after a rain. Usually it is referred to as ambery, but it is mostly used to render leather or ambergris notes, the latter especially after its ban on using the real animal-derived material, as there were concerns about the ethical production of it from sperm whales from which it originates (Ambergris is therefore very rare and costly if ethically harvested and is mostly synthesized in the lab.)” (Perfume Shrine)

My nose: the top note opens up with a green note that is a bit more ‘refreshing’ than the cistus absolute; animalic, musky, discrete, with a hint of vanilla, thick and deliberate.  After 15min it’s warm, dark and dense with a hint of woodiness; it lingers, and isn’t as imposing as cistus. I get a vision of cathedrals, huge vaulted ceilings and incense wafting in the air. 30min into the top notes and it’s exuding a sleek, feline, feminine quality, where cistus has a more masculine vibe. It’s rich with a sense of timelessness, and the impression is more of the action of a flutter and puff of smoke. After 45min I find myself having to slow down, to be more present with this one, it’s so soft, now a whisper, it’s almost religious, like a constant note in a piece of music that you can consciously, continuously follow from begin to end. 1hr – (Dalma called so I decided to skip this evaluation and move on. Priorities.) 2hrs later and it dries down to a dry, library, churchy, understated impression; there’s a hint of radiance still there and it’s holding up quite well.  After 3hrs this is more sharp and has now acquired an edge to it that cistus doesn’t have, it’s also drier, more woody, more still; where cistus absolute is ’round’ labdanum absolute is ‘angular’. It’s now 7hrs later and labdanum absolute is like a warm summer breeze, solitary, aloof, yet very present, still noticeable. It settles into something more aged and mature quicker than cistus. 12hrs now it’s still holding onto the musky, animalic layer tightly, I can pick up amber here too and it develops into delicate tawny ribbons of comfort.  Some random associations that come to mind are: a trail, the desert, a lion.  This still has a wonderful grip. 24hrs later labdanum is light as a feather, warm, comforting, lasting and supportive, tranquil too. It still has a solid effect. And I still get incense and a church atmosphere making an impression.

12/24 comparison: in the side-by-side comparison the 12hr strip is very much the church scent that is a constant. I can pick up the vanilla a lot more and this strip conjures adventures in the desert much more rapidly. This layer seems to penetrate the Soul, touching every part of me, relaxing the spaces and corners within to remind me to be at peace. So very warm. The layer that is revealed in the 24hr strip is a whisper of these adventures, like an old man telling tales of his youth to children gathered at his feet in awe. I find this layer warm, loving and very protective.

I hope you enjoyed the profile on labdanum absolute as much as I have sniffing and researching it. It’s a totally inspiring material and one that I reach for often.

Have a wonderful Wednesday and I’ll be back Friday with a profile on the sister scent, Cistus absolute.

In-joy!

MC