Perfumery and Ladanum

In ancient times the valuable aromatic gum ladanum was gathered manually from Cistus creticus subsp. creticus, especially in Crete and Cyprus. The gum is exuded from glandular hairs on the leaves and young stems, especially under hot sunshine. It was gathered by allowing goats to graze on and among the plants; the ladanum adhered to their beards, which were then cut off. Alternatively a device called a ladanisterion or ergastiri, with long thongs of leather, was drawn over the plants by hand during the hottest part of the day, when the ladanum was at its runniest and stickiest.. The leather thongs became caked with ladanum, which was then scraped off and formed into lumps of various shapes.

The modern perfume industry extracts its ladanum from a different species, Cistus ladanifer, whose leaves and young stems are covered with the very sticky gum. The industry is centred in Spain, close to the north-eastern corner of Portugal and a small area in southern France. Young stems are mechanically harvested from the plants and subjected to industrial processes to extract the gum and refine it in various ways.

Three main processes produce a) Oil of Ladanum, b) Concrete or Absolute of Ladanum and c) Labdanum Resinoid or Resinol. Please note that I have no personal expertise in this area and cannot advise on ladanum production or its use.

Perfumers classify ladanum as an “amber” odour. It commands a very high price. It is rich, long-lasting and widely used as a fixative, as well as for its own fragrance.

N.B. There is no connection with laudanum!