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Resinous Essential Oils and Absolutes

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Resinous Essential Oils and Absolutes

Resinous essential oils and absolutes are heaven on earth for the natural perfumer. They are mostly base notes and have aromas that are all quite different from each other, but of course that little thread of commonality is apparent.  As always absolutes will have a stronger aroma so go easy with them or they take over. Always keep in mind with the vast majority of essential oils less is more. Some resinous essential oils and absolutes will be harder to work with as they can be extremely sticky and viscous, but well worth the effort.


Frankincense essential oil has been used for centuries for sacred and medicinal purposes – probably further back in time than is documented. Today, as then, it is commonly used in rituals and spiritual practices.

Frankincense essential oil has the ability to subtly encourage the body into a natural rhythm of deeper breathing which is one of the reasons it is so useful for  meditative and yoga practices.

Frankincense essential oil has a dry, sharp, balsamic aroma that is loved by many and as such has long time been used in perfumery and natural body products. It is particularly good for mature skin as it helps tone it up as well as to help fade scarring and blemishes.

Frankincense essential oil is often used as a base note in oriental, exotic or slightly spicy natural perfume oils.  It compliments spice oils and all other resinous essential oils and absolutes and is all kinds of wonderful in combination with rose and citrus.

In natural perfumery frankincense essential oil blends well with:

myrrh, orange, lavender, cistus, sandalwood, cedarwood, vetiver, rose otto, ylang ylang, benzoin, peppermint


Elemi is a lesser known essential oil has sometimes unfairly been called  ‘poor mans frankincense’.  It has gorgeous lemony tones with just a touch of spice, and is much lighter.  Elemi essential oil and frankincense compliment each other beautifully, both in natural perfumery and aromatherapy.

Elemi is a wonderful oil for bringing together mind, body and spirit.  It is light, relaxing and uplifting.

Natural perfumers shouldn’t mistake elemi essential oil for a top note just because of its lemony tang.  Nor is it a base note with the bulk of its resinous cousins. Rather, it makes a wonderful heart note and should be used to create a seamless bridge top and base.  It sits comfortably amongst other middle notes with varying degrees of spiciness.

In natural perfumery elemi essential oil blends well with:

frankincense, lavender, myrrh, cedarwood, ylang ylang, cardamom, rose otto, lemon,

Labdanum Absolute

Labdanum abs. is largely used for natural perfumery purposes where it is much loved and valued.  It has a softer aroma than it’s steam distilled counterpart (cistus) even though they are both from the rock rose plant.

For the natural perfumer labdanum absolute is indespensable.  It’s warm, sweet, exotic and mysterious aroma is quite intoxicating but don’t get carried away…it is best when used sparingly.  Too much labdanum can often leave a slightly bitter, sharp after aroma that initially will be hard to pin down.

Labdanum absolute will significantly enhance flower oils, especially rose.  At room temperature it is very thick and resinous and needs warming in order to be worked with – even then it can present a challenge if added to other oils that are cold.

Labdanum absolute works best when combined with other less sweet, base notes and is an important component of any amber accord.

In natural perfumery labdanum absolute blends well with:

rose, vanilla, ylang ylang, amyris, sandalwood, liquidambar, frankincense, elemi,

Peru Balsam

Peru Balsam or Balsam of Peru, as it is also known has a unique aroma that is of huge appeal in the realm of natural perfumery.  It is an excellent fixative which means it evaporates slowly and helps to slow the evaporation rate of other aromatic ingredients.   It has a warm, sweet vanilla like aroma but with a hint of spiciness to it that has to be experienced in order to understand – it is really lovely.

As the aroma of this oil is warm and smooth, you could expect it to be slow, opening and relaxing in nature – and so it is.  Use it in a diffuser, oil burner, massage blend or aromatic bath to ease the stresses of the day and feel them all just melting away.

Peru balsam essential oil blends well with:

cedarwood, myrrh, patchouli and sandalwood, vanilla, frankincense, neroli, clary sage,


Liquidambar essential oil is a rare and precious oil that is usually wildcrafted and not easy to find.   The resin which is golden (hence the name ‘liquidambar) flows from the tree when it is cut, and this is how it is harvested. It is of the styrax/ benzoin family.

It is in the realm of natural perfumery that it is most highly prized and is one of the oldest known materials that has been used to make natural incense.

Like many perfumery base notes liquidambar essential oil lends warm, slow and deliciously sensual characteristics to a perfume when paired well with other ingredients.

When used sparingly it has a beautiful sweet, spicy, aroma too but only a small amount is needed in blends.  Classic example of there being a ‘fine line between pleasure and pain’.

Liquidambar is a highly viscous oil – sometimes to the point of being semi-solid at room temp and requires warming in order to be used easily.

In natural perfumery liquidambar essential oil blends well with:

frankincense, myrrh, patchouli, vanilla, ylang ylang, rose, jasmine, lavender and spice oils.

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