Galbanum

This resin is a must-have for ingredient in the chypre family of fragrances (in a marriage with patchouli, bergamot and oakmoss):  rich, green, mysterious, woody.  A little dry, but with hints of pine in there, too.  It evolves over time and is very complex, and requires a perfumer’s deftest touch – but it’s incredibly valuable to ‘noses’ as a fixative.  It works wonderfully in floral accords alongside hyacinth, iris, narcissus, violet and gardenia – and blends well with spices, too.

The gum itself comes from an umbelliferous (umbrella-like) Persian grass, and can vary from amber to dark green.  It’s collected from the stems in small drops (‘tears’).  Isn’t it hard to imagine that a plant so green and wafty can produce a scent that’s so deep and resinous.  Its use in perfumery goes back millennia:  galbanum appears in the Old Testament as an ingredient in holy incense, and was an ingredient of the Egyptian perfume Metopian.

Galbanum essential oil is quite different to the gum:  intensely green, slightly bitter, earthy. This product of the galbanum plant is used as a top note, instead – and some very famous fragrances (see below) get their character from this VIP perfume ingredient – most notably Chanel’s No. 19.  The galbanum used in No. 19 was a very high grade from Iran.  When the Iranian revolution broke out in 1979, the oil supply dried up – and Chanel’s perfumer faced the challenge of reworking this iconic scent.  These are the types of challenges which perfumers face:  the back-stories you can’t imagine, when you un-stopper a bottle…!

The galbanum plant produces the gum resin asafoetida, used in Indian cooking (as well as perfumery), which you can read about here.

Smell galbanum in:

Chanel No. 19
Dior Miss Dior

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