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Labdanum is often the foundation for chypre perfumes and many amber fragrances. The smell is derived from a sticky, brown resin that comes from a plant called the cistus plant (also known as rockrose). This plant often grows in very inhospitable, dry locations in the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East.

Labdanum is usually extracted from the leaves using solvents.

Early Arab perfumers used labdanum in their formulations and spoke of it as "the best-smelling of all substances." Labdanum's association with perfumery even dates back to Egyptian times, when it was an important ingredient in the Kyphi incense blend used for ceremonial purposes. It is also mentioned in the Bible as the "Balm of Gilead." In natural medicine, labdanum is prescribed to strengthen the immune system.

Labdanum smells resinous, smoky, floral, woody, with a slight citrus note. In addition, it is balsamic and holds a slightly medicinal note.

As previously mentioned, labdanum is often part of amber fragrances. Here, however, there is often confusion between ambergris (amber) products and amber - a term sometimes used in perfumery to refer to a blend of ingredients intended to impart a warm scent reminiscent of both ambergris and the appearance of fossil amber (which has virtually no odor in its raw state).

Such blends usually contain labdanum, vanilla, benzoin resin and other ingredients. These are also often used as fixatives for the perfume.


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