Fragrance Families: chypre, oriental
Characteristics: sweet, leathery, ambra-like, balsamic
Fragrance Examples: Annick Goutal – Ambre Fétiche

A gum resin; brown in color, and of a sticky consistency. It is derived from various species of rockrose. Its presence in perfumery is long and encompassing, being used for a variety of purposes. Its prevalence soared, due to a need to recreate the scent of ambergris — an extract derived from the sperm wale, who’s usage has been largely outlawed. The aroma is thick smelling, pungent, potent, and very complex. It has been likened to that of amber, even being used to recreate the scent of amber in many amber themed fragrances. It is also very animalic, being likened to dry musk, leather, and of course, ambergris. It also carries significant nuances of wood, with noticeable facets of sweetness.

It is a foundational scent in many chypre fragrances, and is often used as an amber element to boost the aromas of oriental inspired scents.

Also known as ladanum, laudanum, ladan or ladanon is a resin obtained from two different variants of shrubs, mainly Cistus Ladanifer and Cistus Creticus, which are different species of rockrose.

This sticky resin has a sustained reputation for its medicinal and cosmetic use.

History and Cultivation

The two species of labdanum grew naturally in the European and African coasts of the Mediterranean. In ancient times, the resin was collected straight from the goat’s beards by means of handmade rake-like combs used to pick up the plant.

Records of this product’s use for medicinal purposes date as far back as the Old Testament. Similarly, labdanum has been used in perfumery for centuries to make oils, ointments and scents.

These days Labdanum is mostly cultivated in Spain and Greece where it is sometimes still collected with a rake-like instrument with strong strips of leather. This instrument is dragged along the bushes from where the resin is collected, typically in the summer season.

From Resin to Perfume

There is a more practical modern method of collection that involves using the whole plant. The plants’ leaves and twigs are boiled in water until the gum is released. Then, since the resinoid is non-soluble, the gum is collected from the surface and mixed with other resinous matter that tends to sink to the bottom of the boiling water.

Crude or clean Labdanum is obtained by using a hydrocarbon solvent which helps to retain the light amber-colored resinoid which is responsible for producing the strongest scent in its highest concentration.

Whereas the absolute is obtained by eventual solvent extraction, the essential oil –used in aromatherapy- is extracted by steam distillation.

Perfume Production

Besides its distinctive odor, there is an inherent quality in the Labdanum resin that makes it particularly fit for perfumery and that is its sticky fixative properties.

Years of research have concluded that few other substances mix as effectively with other ingredients as Labdanum. Found to combine with hundreds of other ingredients, its popularity as a perfumery classic has been increased in recent years.

Despite its high water content, this resin produces strong, high-yielding absolutes that have been used as the base for numerous commercial products in the perfume industry.

Getting to Know the Perfume

Belonging to the musk category of perfumes, Labdanum also shares some qualities with the amber or animalistic scents groups.

With a certain oriental hint in its scent, perfumes based on the Labdanum absolute reveal a deep and rich leathery scent with somewhat amber notes.

Being the key ingredient in Chypre fragrances, this substance is unique and definitely outstanding when it comes to identifying perfume contents. Nonetheless, despite its strong and distinctive personality, Labdanum has been found to work well with numerous other ingredients, producing delicious and attractive fragrances that are appealing to thousands worldwide.

One of the most effective ingredient combinations includes lavender –another Mediterranean herb- which contributes with its freshness and sweet scent.

The past decades have seen the appearance of novel perfumes made for both sexes that appeal not only for their enigmatic and animalistic tones, but also because of their lingering effects.