Monday, August 9, 2010

Perfumer's Palette - Balsams & Resins

image of Balsam of Peru from

alsam of Peru , Tolu Balsam , Benzoin , Tonka , Labdanum , Styrax/Storax , even the much maligned pine resin ....the family of concretes that must be captured through the use of chemical solvent extraction followed by distillation . Most of these one could broadly categorized as tree resin , though some exude naturally and others only after causing injury to the tree .

Storax/Styrax is one of these . It is the resin from the Liquidambar orientalis tree , found mainly in Turkey . The cadmium layer must be damaged before the resin is exuded from the tree . It's main odor constituant is cinnamic acid esthers , which are often separated out . Liquidambar styracea is native to Honduras , and is called copal .
Styrax is very aromatic and sweet , opaque greyish color , containing a high percentage of water , which separates upon standing . Then the resin is dissolved inalcohol , filtered and dried into " tears " .

Balsam of Peru is also obtained through damaging the tree Myroxylon Percirae native to El Salvador , but the bark of the tree must be scorched before it exudes the resin . Balsam of Peru is very thick , reddish brown , sweet and penetrating , containing cinnamic acid , benzoic acid , peruviol . Commonly used in oriental type fragrances , it is an excellent fixative .

Tolu Balsam is collected from the tree Myroxilon Tolufera , native to Columbia and Venezuela , by making incisions in the bark . Similar to Peru balsam , both having a vanilla- like odor and used by native tribes as cough superssant and for their antiseptic , antibacterial properties . Clinical research has shown them to be effective in tissue regeneration and inhibiting tuberculosis .

Copaiba , ( Copaifera officinalis )also a tree resin , is native to the Amazon region . The oleoresin collects in the tree and is also harvested by making incisions in the bark , each tree producing about 10 gallons annually . Initially it is clear , thin and colorless but thickens and darkens after contact with the air . Used traditionally in Peruvian medicine to reduce inflammation , stomach ulcers and sore throat , Copaiba was listed in the U.S. Pharmacoea from 1820 -1910 as disinfectant , diuretic , anti-inflammmatory with stimulant properties . ( highest known natural source of caryophyllene , a strong anti-inflammatory ). Copaiba is made up of over 50% sequesterpenes , diterpenes and terpenic acids , several found only in copaiba !

Tonka , from the Cumaru Tree native to tropical rainforests of northern South America , contain coumarin in the bark and seed pods . The bark is used medicinally in the form of a decoction , while the seeds are fermented . After drying , the coumarin crystals form on the seeds , making them appear frosted . Known for it's vanilla - like odor , coumarin is also used as an anti-coagulant ( blood thinner ).

Benzoin is the resin of the Styrax benzoin tree , predominately ocurring in Indonesia and India .

Previously , I discussed Labdanum , one of my favorite perfume materials of all ! You can read exhaustively about labdanum here .

This is by no means an exhaustive list , but gives an idea of the resinous materials available to the perfumer today !! Do you have a favorite ? Do you wear them only in cooler weather , or anytime ?

my faves are
Guerlain Bois d'Armenie
La Via del Profumo Mecca Balsam
Donna Karan Labdanum
Agraria Balsam

I've really been wanting to get ahold of Parfumerie generale I am wearing vintage Lubin Nuit de Longchamp , containing tolu and peruvian balsams and labdanum . Yummmm....!

The WINNER of the drawing is DIANA !!

E-mail me with your adress !

Thanks everyone for participating...there will be another drawing next Monday so keep trying .

" ....guard closely , as you would a priceless friend , the perfume that reminds you of your lovliest moments..."
-R. Barbas , past President of Jean Patou


ggs said...

Very interesting. Love labdanum as well ;)
Mecca Balsam is a new favorite, just beautiful. A cool weather choice for me.

Isa said...

I bought the Volume III Les Coulisses du parfum Woods & Resins from Osmoz, because I love this kind of notes.

I still have a lot to try, but so far benzoin and oliban are my favourite.

Anonymous said...

I bought into a split of Mecca Balsam a while back, and want to love it, but it reminds me too much of the heavy oils my mom wore when I was a kid. Still sitting in my perfume cabinet though, as a future gift for mom.

Fragrances that contain at least a little balsam/resin are essential, but as a top-to-bottom theme, just too much for this nose (so far anyway).

Thanks Carol for another great piece!

JoanElaine said...

Thank you for this article. I am new to the world of perfume, getting to know the notes and houses, but I am equally interested in the raw materials behind the scents.

waftbyCarol said...

ggs - how ya doin' ?
Sniffa oct 23-24 , I assume you got the e-mail too .
Isa - I got those coffrets too , great for sensory training !
dee - Mecca Balsam is very strong and heavy , but I just love the labdanum/tobacco of it !!
Hi Joan !
Thanks , glad you are enjoying/learning !

Olfacta said...

Wow! Now this is a surprise. Does the bark of the Styrax tree really contain cadmium? That's one of the ingredients in paint that is a heavy metal and carries a warning label (interesting how the art supply industry lets us be grown-ups while the fragrance industry seems to want to protect us from ourselves.)

I adore Amouge's Lyric for Women, which is full of resins. Le Labo's Labdanum 18. Most resinous scents, as long as they're not too sweet. I'll be breaking them out as soon as the first cool night arrives.

Nina Zolotow said...

I had to think for a while to come up with my favorite (so far) resin-based perfumes. So for now, I'll say:

Ambre Fetiche from Annick Goutal
Tolu from Ormonde Jayne

I'm enjoying this new series!