making perfumes with 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.




blending perfumes with buddha wood essential oil


Blending perfumes with buddha wood essential oil?  If you’re learning to make your own perfumes and looking for an element in the wood family that has excellent fixative and blending qualities then take a closer look at Buddha wood:

Common name: Buddha wood essential oil (wild harvest, Australia) a.k.a Desert Rosewood or false Sandalwood

Genus name: Eremophila Mitchelli

Supplier: White Lotus Aromatics

Note: Base

Family: Wood

Diffusion: 3

Dilution: 10%

Blends well with: “used as a general fixative, precious woods accord, incense perfumes, forest notes…” (White Lotus Aromatics). Amyris, Peru Balsam, Cedarwood Himalayan, Davana, Frangipani, Guaiacwood, Jasmine sambac, Lavender Bulgarian, Pink Lotus, Osmanthus, Palmarosa, Patchouli aged, Rhododendron, Rose Bulgarian, Rose Otto, Rose Maroc, Sandalwood, Siam wood, Tuberose, Ylang ylang extra. (Lotus Garden Botanicals).  Wow, this oil plays really nicely with a lot of oils, hmmm, good to know.

Chemical components: almost 100% Ketones!  This oil has three unique and closely related sesquiterpene ketones 30-60% eremophilone, 6-25% 2-hydroxyeremophilone, 11-30% 2-hydroxy-2-dihydroeremophilone

Interesting bits:  Eremophila breaks down to mean: Phila – to love; and Eremo – a lonely place or desert.  “Named after Sir Thomas Mitchell, who led the discovery expedition into Australia.” (Gritman) It’s also interesting to note it’s close chemical relationship to Agarwood… “Its main components are three closely related sesquiterpene ketones – eremophilone; 2-hydroxyeremophilone; 2-hydroxy-2-dihydroeremophilone – none of which have ever before been discovered in nature. Chemically related to Agar Wood.” (Gritman).  Distilled from the heartwood and sometimes also the bark of the tree. It grows wild in Queensland and northern New South Wales, Australia.

Their nose: “displaying a soft, rich deep, sweet, balsamic, precious woods(cedarwood-guiacawood-sandalwood complex) bouquet with a delicate mossy-leathery-creamy undertone of good tenacity.” (White Lotus Aromatics). “exudes a powerful woody aroma with meaty and leathery smoky notes.” (Hermitage). “Smooth, sweet, woody, earthy, leathery, slightly smoky with resinous notes” (Lotus Garden Botanicals). “The scent is woody, mossy, and mild with a subtle leathery-smoky note.” (Gritman)

My nose: At 10am the Top opens very warm, like caramel, a balm, a blanket of amber, amber with a hint of vanilla, very indiscreet, and definitely sweet. 15min later and it’s still warm and soft but very hard to trace, very faint, like a murmur more than a beat, nothing sharp about this oil, it’s a lull. After 30min it’s now becoming bolder, it still remains just a twinkle but it seems more aged, mature somehow. This note is a plodder, solemn with a hint of sweetness. 45min into it as the top notes begin to fade this seems to now be coming out of its shell! Stronger, the wood aspect is now felt, creamy wood, deep and thoughtful, very deliberate expression.  It’s now 1hr later and the heart note begins soft and creamy like a cloud, it’s fanning out with gentle deliberation, there is nothing hurried about this note at all.  2hrs later and it’s dim, barely there. The word tawny comes to mind. It seems to have settled down into a quiet slumber.  Where did it go?! Now 3hrs on and there’s a sharp, dry quality coming out. The wood aspect too is more perceptible, still warm with lots of character and one plus is that it isn’t pervasive, it’s quiet, totally a background note. Heading into the base after 7hrs and Buddha wood is very, very dry and smells vaguely reminiscent of Sandalwood! The wood note is more pronounced in the dry-down still a very tranquil, civilized character but the best term for this note now would be “non-plussed”.  After 12hrs it’s still arid, there is an impression of the sacred…but I only get a few whiffs of this before it hides again in the background. 24hrs into the dry-down and it’s truly dry, nice, woody, blanched, like it’s been baking in the sun. It is still very much alive as it’s still communicating with me of course, faded, but still there.

Musings: I purchased a tiny sample of Agarwood attar and being an attar it means it’s mixed with Sandalwood so I’m going to have to get another sample of the pure Agarwood and do my own comparisons to see if my nose picks up any similarities.

It’s interesting to note that I always do my aromatic evaluations before I do my research and write my blog post, so often I am really surprised to find that I got the same general impression that the oil is known for or that my nose is way off in left field somewhere doing its own thing!

12/24 COMPARISON – now, I think I’ve learned something interesting here.  It came to me to try a 12hr vs a 24hr scent strip comparison, just totally out of curiosity, following a gut instinct and I can’t believe what a difference it makes in understanding, in discovering different facets of the very oil you just spent the last 24 hours with! There are things that came out in the 12/24 comparison that were totally unexpected! What I got in this comparison is the smoky quality the other noses described but that my nose completely missed or ignored during a straight dry-down evaluation.  This type of olfactive exercise, I am guessing, gets the nose to confront and notice more marked or stark differences that make you sit up and go, OH, THAT! Sort of what happens when you walk into a new place and the smells are so vivid, vibrant and alive.  Stay there for a day and you barely notice them at all.

I think I’m going to have to do a 0/12/24 comparison too!

Happy sniffing!




blending perfumes with clove bud eo


Common name: Clove

Genus name: Myrtaceae (Family) Syzygium (Genus) S. aromaticum (Species).  It’s also synonymous with: Caryophyllus aromaticus L., Eugenia aromatica, Eygenia caryophyllata, Eugenia caryophyllus.  I mention the synonyms only because it’s important to know that in the botanical world one plant can have many names.

Supplier: White Lotus Aromatics

Note: Base

Family: Spice

Diffusion: 6.5

Blends well with: spice accords, incense perfumes, sweet florals (White Lotus Aromatics).  “In rose, honeysuckle and certain deep-sweet florals, clove bud oil lends a unique note of natural richness and body. The classic ‘rondeletia’ perfume type is based upon the combination of clove and lavender oils. Modern variations include the use of lavindin, sage clary, bergamot, bay leaf oil, pimenta berry oil, etc.” Steffen Arctander.  If you have a snoop around the TGSC site and check clove bud oil you’ll see a vast list of possible blenders.  These are just a few: amyris, iso-amyl salicilate, beeswax abs., peony alcohol, phenethyl acetate, boronia, cardamom, guacwood oil, ho wood, Labdanum, immortelle abs., and linalool, just to name a few!

Chemical components: eugenol makes up 72-90% of the essential oil and is responsible for that distinct ‘clove’ aroma. “the aroma of cloves is influenced by the presence of eugenol, but also by the presence of some minor compounds in the composition. One of these is methyl salicylate, an ester commonly referred to as oil of wintergreen; another is 2-heptanone, which has a fruity, spicy odour. 2-heptanone is particularly interesting; much like eugenol, it can act as an anaesthetic, and research has shown that it is also contained in the mandibles of honeybees. The compound is secreted when the honeybee bites intruders in its hive, paralysing the intruder and allowing it to be removed by the bee. This is a comparatively recent discovery, and the compound has been patented for potential use as an anaesthetic in humans in the future.” (CompoundChem) Have I said how much I love their site lately? Well I do!

Interesting bits: clove bud also comes as an absolute.  “Cloves grown on the evergreen clove tree and they are picked unopened, while the flower buds are stil pinkish” (Fragrantica).  “Archeologists have found cloves in a ceramic vessel in Syria, with evidence that dates the find to within a few years of 1721 BC” (Wikipedia)

Their nose: “warm clove sweet fruity woody, spicy, eugenol, aromatic, clove, woody and medicinal with a nice depth” (TGSC).

My nose:  my first whiff at 09:30 met with a warm quality somewhat hidden, and to me this is a thoughtful note, sensual and soft.  15min later and I still get soft, but this time woody, even a hint of incense.  Feather light and downy.  After 30min it’s open , warm, like a hug! Gentle and kind, also sweet in a way that reminds me of cinnamon, reassuring. 45min now and I get happy memories of celebrations, joyful note, wood note too, open and embracing.  It’s 1hr and the impression is still of openness, warm, strong but not over-powering strong.  2hrs later and sweet, warm plumes float up to soothe me like a warm blanket of spice, golden in colour. Ahhhh!  3hrs into the dry-down and it’s quite delectable, distinguished, light, hushed now and just beginning to trail off noticeably. After 7hrs it’s only now making a distinct exit, still warm and balmy, evocative. After 12hrs it’s still like a cognac warmed up by your hands. Dim and smooth.  24hrs later and when I blow on it it’s still pungent, very much integral just much more subdued, still with a beautiful presence, warm and spicy.

Musings on composition: I can totally smell this together with Labdanum!  But also Frankincense and Sandalwood.  I can get this working it’s way lovingly into a smoky base.




blending perfumes with nutmeg eo


Blending perfumes with nutmeg essential oil?  If you’re learning to make your own perfumes then here’s an overview of a wonderful and versatile perfume ingredient.

Common name: Nutmeg essential oil

Genus name: Myristica fragrans

Supplier: Perfumery Art School (part of our kit)

Note: Base

Family: Spice

Diffusion: 5

Blends well with: woods and florals especially Ylang Ylang, ginger,

Chemical components: The chemistry of nutmeg is full of inspiration – either sabinene or camphene (pungent)account for 50% of the essential oil. Yikes!  Then you have d-pinene 20%, dipenthene 8%, d-linalool 6%, d-borneol 6%, i-terpineol 6%, geraniol 6%, myristicin 4%, eugenol 2%, iso-eugenol 2% and safrole 0.6%.

Interesting bits: did you know another name for nutmeg is Mace? Apparently, nutmeg from Grenada is the one that sets the standards for all others.  The nutmeg we are familiar with is the shelled kernel (who knew?!). Native to the Banda Islands in the Moluccas, Indonesia; but also cultivated on Penang Island in Malaysia, in the Caribbean and especially in Grenada and Kerala. The essential oil is obtained by steam distillation from the ground nutmeg. (Wikipedia)

Their nose: “the fruit of Myristica fragrans, it has a spicy sweet facet with earthy and more pungent base notes, and is used to provide an oriental spiciness that is subtler than the usual cinnamon-clove-vanilla bouquet of orientals, thus perfect for masculines and lighter woodies.” (Fragrantica)

“…warm, sweet spicy-aromatic bouquet with balsamic woody undertone.”-from Indonesia and “terpenic top-note…with fresh, warm, sweet, aromatic spicy body note and a woody undertone.”-from Sri Lanka (White Lotus Aromatics)

My nose: I started sniffing at 09:30 and I was met with a warm, pungent but soft aroma, slightly woody, hint of something light and green just around the edges. 15min and whoa! this is way more pungent! Like it’s leaping off the paper but I’m getting a slight medicinal note as well. After 30min this is a spice that sits firmly in place. Now more woody with much more character, a bit on the dark side, but grounded. 45min into it and there is a harshness, it’s like it doesn’t want to come out, just wants to rest in the background. Now it’s 1hr later and I smell something I can only describe as bitter lurking in the background, a tinge of acidity and it’s begun to fade rather dramatically. 2hrs later and a smell of rust?! Dry, totally hidden in the shadows, dusty, faded and antique. After 3hrs I get more fading, very dry, understated now, I like it because now it’s very discreet and indiscernible.  Now 7hrs into the dry-down and it’s almost gone, a sort of metallic effect remains, cool metal or cool wood comes to mind. After 12hrs the smell is warmer even though it’s just about gone! Nice perk! it’s more interesting now, less rugged, more tame.  And 24hrs later this note is still alive. Soft, still sweet, much more woody in the dry-down though it’s lost a lot of it’s pungency, but still definitely alive on the strip.

Musings on composition: mostly used to modify the spicy notes; my thoughts are that this note could hide out very well, tucked away neatly in a composition.

Now of course I have to source the Grenada version.  Good grief, does it ever end?!  Thankfully the answer is, no :).