CI Fragrance Diaries: Warming To Tolu Balsam
This month we are delving into the sweet and balsamic note of Tolu Balsam, a raw material that was first discovered in South America. It is named for the Tolú, an indigenous people of North Colombia who traditionally used its leaves and powdered bark as medicine. This mellow note has soft, warming tones of cinnamon and vanilla which bring depth and balance to our Clifton Beach fragrance.
The use of tolu was first chronicled by the Spanish when they discovered the native people using the plant. By 1882 it was available in European apothecaries as a remedy for coughs and colds and headaches.
Medicinally, tolu balsam has since been found to possess anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial, anti-septic and expectorant properties. In addition to its use in cough medicines it is widely used in cosmetic products such as shampoos, conditioners, creams & soaps. Certain studies have also revealed that the Myroxylon plant has been effective in inhibiting the strains of bacteria responsible for ulcers and lung disease (H. Pylori and Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, respectively).
When Tolu is produced, the sticky yellow-brown latex is harvested from cuts into the living trunk of the Myroxylon Balsamum tree which releases thick drops of semi-liquid. The fragrant oil which is extracted through distillation is referred to as Tolu Balsam. As it cools the balsam becomes difficult to work with – it becomes hard and brittle like flint – and must be heated and diluted in a solvent in order for it to be used in perfumery.
Tolu differs from Peru Balsam in colour, olfactive profile and extraction method. Tolu Balsam is lighter in colour and offers a sweeter and fresher perfume note, while Peru Balsam is earthier and more bitter. Peru Balsam is produced by stripping bark from of the Myroxylon tree and wrapping strips of fabric around the exposed trunk. The resin soaks into the fabric strips which are later removed and boiled to release the balsam.
In perfumery, Tolu is frequently used as a fixative for floral notes which allows them to last longer, in the same way that you would candy fruit with sugar. You will find good examples of tolu in the Opium and Opium Pour Homme fragrances from Yves Saint Laurent as well as in Donna Karan’s Gold.
The tolu fragrance note is considered to be healing and comforting. According to aromatherapists it is useful for meditation and relaxation.
Perhaps it’s the Tolu Balsam that adds to the feeling of escape that most people enjoy in our Clifton Beach fragrance range. Shop here for Clifton beach products.
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