Some tears are sweeter than others… And this is the case of benzoin, this balsamic resin that flows to deliver its sweet and vanilla scent. This precious ingredient has enchanted a large number of perfumers who use it to take their compositions to oriental lands. From its benefits to its olfactory profile, discover the mysteries of this very special balm.
The origins of benzoin
A little bit of botany
Benzoin is not a tree or a plant, but the resin that is secreted by plants of the genus Sytrax (a genus of trees and shrubs that grow mainly in the Far East, belonging to the family Styracaceae). When the bark of these trees is cut, a resin, also called balsam or tear, flows out. At first liquid, the exudation will solidify in contact with air. There are various types of this balm, depending on the origin of the tree from which it is extracted. Then, there is benzoin from Siam or Laos, but also benzoin from Sumatra. The precious tears are harvested in Malaysia, Sumatra but also in Laos and Vietnam.
History and benefits of benzoin
Benzoin resin has been used since ancient times. As early as the time of ancient Egypt, its tears and wood were prized for their fragrant and disinfectant properties. They are used in fumigation during religious rituals but also in the embalming process. The Greeks then used it in medicine to fight against lung infections and skin problems. From then on, benzoin was known and recognized for its virtues. In many cultures, its fragrant wood is burned to purify homes and ward off bad energy.
Very quickly, benzoin was used to make incense. It was found in this form in Buddhist temples, Orthodox churches in Russia and Catholic churches in Europe, and in the living rooms of people in the Gulf States. It is also said that great Asian masters drank it as an infusion of styrax leaves to improve their divinatory art. Benzoin was marketed throughout the East and then the West from the 8th century.
The use of benzoin in perfumery
The harvest of benzoin tears
Before revealing its warm notes in compositions, benzoin is first harvested by hand. And for that you must not be afraid of heights! The harvester climbs to the top of the tree trunk (which can reach up to 3.5 meters high). As he descends to the ground, he will cut the bark several times and in different places. The goal? To make the tree “cry” so that the tears can flow, slowly but surely. This exudation is at first semi-liquid, white in color. However, it will quickly harden as it dries to become amber yellow. It is necessary to wait approximately 6 months to collect the benzoin. After cleaning and sorting by hand, the small pebbles are extracted with volatile solvents. This process will allow to obtain a resinoid, then finally an absolute. For information, a tree produces between 4 and 6kg of resin per year.
A sweet and vanilla fragrance
Benzoin is an ingredient rich in scents, which unfolds in multiple facets. It is a raw material whose smell is very vanilla, warm and sweet. We find aspects of caramel, almond, roasted coffee or honey. It also distills more floral notes that evoke the carnation, with slightly medicated nuances. It is the basis of the recipe for Armenian paper.
Depending on its variety, benzoin will not reveal exactly the same scent. For example, Laos benzoin, with its great olfactory qualities, will be vanilla and caramelized, without being too sweet or powdery. Siam benzoin, the most sought after by perfumers, is much rarer, and therefore much more expensive! It has a much more assertive vanilla character, very sweet.
With its milky, syrupy nuances and its cocoa butter facet, benzoin brings a lot of roundness and warmth to a composition. That’s why it is mainly found in oriental, amber or gourmand accords. Behind this soft appearance, benzoin also reveals very sensual tones, which noses often associate with labdanum or spicy notes, such as cinnamon. This ingredient is also an excellent fixative that will improve the hold of a fragrance, while providing a lot of depth and relief.
Benzoin and us
At the heart of the Orient with kilim
In the eau de parfum kilim, benzoin plays its role wonderfully: it ensures to this fragrance a bewitching wake which will stick to your skin! In this resolutely oriental composition, the woody and resinous notes of patchouli are combined with the floral and fruity nuances of a shimmering market. Geranium and jasmine are combined with the sweet nuances of apricot, raspberry, apple and orange. A spicy veil lifts the formula and finally blossoms into a woody and suave juice, where precious resin and vanilla unite.
Discover the fragrances mentioned in the article