What Does Labdanum Smell Like? Scent Guide

Labdanum is a brown resin found in many fragrances.
what does labdanum smell like

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Key Takeaways

  • Labdanum is a rich, brown gum resin produced by Cistus plants, especially Cistus ladanifer, in the Mediterranean.
  • Labdanum exudes a warm, earthy, and slightly sweet aroma, with notes of amber and musk, and hints of wood, leather, resin, and spice.
  • Popular since ancient times, labdanum was a key ingredient in Kyphi, an incense mixture used in Ancient Egypt for medical and ritual purposes.
  • Popular fragrances that contain labdanum include Eternity Flame by Calvin Klein, Boss Bottled Elixir by Hugo Boss, Grand Soir by Maison Francis Kurkdjian, and Le Labo Labdanum 18.
  • Labdanum is a longevity-boosting note that typically helps to make fragrances last for six hours or more.

What is Labdanum?

Labdanum, also known as ladanum, ladan, or ladanon, is a rich, brown gum resin from the leaves and twigs of the Cistus plant, notably Cistus ladanifer, which is a type of rockrose that’s usually found in the Mediterranean.

Throughout history, labdanum has been gathered in various ways, including the traditional method of combing it from the beards and thighs of goats and sheep that fed on cistus shrubs.

Highly prized in the perfume industry, labdanum is known for its warm, slightly woody scent. It’s often used as a fixative or a base note in perfumes, just like musk and oud, to enhance the longevity of other more volatile ingredients. 

Beyond its fragrant use, labdanum also had medicinal applications in ancient times, utilized in incense and herbal remedies for its believed healing properties.

History of Labdanum

Labdanum has a rich history, being produced on the banks of the Mediterranean in ancient times. 

In Ancient Egypt, Labdanum was a key ingredient in Kyphi, an incense mixture used for medical and ritual purposes. The resin was collected by combing the beards and thighs of goats and sheep that had grazed on the cistus shrubs.

It was used as an ingredient for incense and medicinally to treat various conditions such as colds, coughs, menstrual problems, and rheumatism. 

In the Bible’s Book of Genesis, there’s not one but two mentions of labdanum being carried to Egypt from Canaan for what I imagine to be medicinal purposes. 

What Does Labdanum Smell Like?

Labdanum smells warm, earthy, and has a slightly sweet aroma, with appealing notes of amber and musk accords. It also has hints of woody and leathery scents, as well as resin and spice. In other words, Labdanum is a complex scent that’s perfect for creating distinctive perfumes. 

Labdanum has an intense smell, which adds depth and longevity to fragrances, making it a popular base note to counteract lighter notes that fade quicker. 

As sweet as it is spicy, as honeyed as it is oriental, labdanum is a luxurious anchor for many fragrances. 

field of labdanum

What Different Types Of Musk Smell Like

There are several different types of labdanum which each smell very similar, although they behave slightly differently. 

I’ve listed the three most common labdanum types below. 

Type of LabdanumDescriptionCharacteristics
Labdanum AbsoluteConcentrated labdanum from solvent extractionUsed in perfumes and personal care products for its strong fragrance.
Labdanum ConcreteWaxy mix of labdanum resin and alcoholKnown for its strong, lasting aroma.
Labdanum ResinNatural, sticky resin from Cistus plantWarm, musky, sweet scent; often in natural fragrance form.

What fragrance family is Labdanum in?

Labdanum is classified in the oriental, amber, and balsamic fragrance families. 

Given how complex the fragrance is, you could also put it in several other families given how woody, leathery and sweet it is. 

How is Labdanum made?

Labdanum is produced by boiling the leaves and twigs of Cistus ladanifer and Cistus rockrose shrubs. 

The raw resin is then extracted, and an absolute version is obtained through solvent extraction. On top, an essential oil with a balsamic scent is formed during steam distillation. 

As mentioned, previously resin was collected by combing goats, but there are more advanced tools like a ladanisterion that are more common today. 

For reference, a ladanisterion looks like this: 

ladanisterion used to harvest lavender

The collected resin is then exposed to the sun to warm up and soften, before it is collected.

What fragrance should you wear if you love labdanum? 

If you’re particularly fond of labdanum, you should try one or two of the following labdanum scents: 

  • Eternity Flame by Calvin Klein: This women’s fragrance is all about embracing your femininity. With a mixture of floral and spicy notes, it’s sensual and seductive. It has a decent longevity too.
  • Boss Bottled Elixir by Hugo Boss: For men who are after a refined scent, Boss Bottled is a popular woody fragrance with a hint of citrus. It’s ideal for everyday wear and special occasions. 
  • Grand Soir by Maison Francis Kurkdjian: MFK has released another luxurious scent, Grand Soir. It’s a rich, amber unisex fragrance that’s both warm and inviting, with real depth.
  • Le Labo Labdanum 18: Combining the deep, musky notes of labdanum with a range of other scents, Labdanum 18 is ideal for those who prefer a bold, distinctive scent that leaves a lasting impression.

FAQS about Labdanum

What is the effect of labdanum?

Labdanum has medicinal, cosmetic, and aromatic effects. In foods and beverages, some types of labdanum are used as flavoring agents. In cosmetics, labdanum absolute and oil are used as fragrances. Meanwhile, in aromatherapy, labdanum oil can relieve stress and congestion. 

Yet, labdanum can have some potentially dangerous side effects when taken as a dietary supplement, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, increased heart rate, and allergic reactions in some people. 

How long does labdanum last?

Labdanum is known for making perfumes last all day on skin. For example, Le Labo’s Labdanum 18 is reported to last for over 6 hours, with decent projection throughout the day.

What does labdanum mix well with?

Labdanum pairs well with several Bergamot, Chamomile, Clary Sage, Cypress, Frankincense, Lavender, Juniper, Oakmoss, Opopanax, Patchouli, Pine, Sandalwood, and Vetiver. 

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