What Are Resins? The Most Underrated Fragrance Note Reviewed

Resins are sticky substances (organic compounds) produced by trees. Aromatic in nature, resins are normally harvested when hardened.

Natural resin usually comes with a specific aroma depending on the tree it is produced by. Pine trees or the frankincense trees have different smelling resins.

Industrial resins such as the epoxy resin are made to mimic the same physical properties, normally with an added hardener.

What are resins in perfumes?

In fragrances, resins are used as composition notes to add depth and complexity to compositing. Resin smells sweet, spicy, aromatic, or similar to frankincense.  Typical resins used in perfumes include.

  • Benzoin
  • Frankincense
  • Myrrh
  • Amber
  • Elemi
  • Olibanum
  • Balsam of Peru
  • Benzoin
  • Terpenes
  • Cedar

Resins are hydrocarbon secretion of multiple types of trees and plants. Amber is a type of fossilized resin that is normally extracted from ancient trees.

What are resins made of?

Resins are an organic compound soluble at first but which may become insoluble as it hardens. Some consider resins to be alcohol-soluble or oil-soluble.

Most types of resins include one of the multiple compounds such as

  • Alpha-pinene
  • Beta-pinene
  • Delta-3 carene
  • Limonene
  • Resin acids
  • Sabinene
  • Terpens

Industrial synthetic resins are now used in general construction work. Thermoplastic and thermosetting resins are the 2 popular industrial resins types.

Where do resins come from?

If you’re interested in what resins mean to the modern world, you need to understand where they come from.

Amber (resinite) – harvested from fossilized coniferous trees

Balm of Gilead – a plant associated with resinous juices

Balsam – specific resins from trees or plants such as Dragon’s blood or galbanum

Canada balsam – turpentine made from the balsam fir tree

Boswellia – the tree is known for the frankincense resins

How are resins made?

One or multiple incisions are made in the tree bark to let resins out. Resins freely circulate within the tree and they cover the incision area to protect the tree from dryness.

Containers can be added to the trees to collect sticky or runny resins. But resins can also be left to harden before being collected, normally with a knife.

This is how resins become perfume ingredients

Resins pass through the distillation process to be concentrated in essential oils. Hot pressurized steam passes through the resins chamber prompting an evaporating process which is later turned to a condensation process where resins are collected as an essential oil.

Cold processing is another method of isolating resins and their mesmerizing smell. You can learn more about bergamot and why its volatile profile is mostly limited to cold processing techniques on fragrancespotter.

Types of resins

There are possibly thousands of types of resins. They can be categorized according to where they come from.

Plant resins

Resinous plants can be found around the world. Resins can also be extracted from non-resinous organic compounds such as latex or waxes. Here’s a shortlist of plant resins.

  • alder
  • balsam root
  • birch
  • caraway
  • coffee
  • creosote bush
  • fennel
  • gardenia
  • ginseng
  • horse-chestnut
  • poison oak and poison ivy
  • quinine
  • sarsaparilla
  • sweetgum
  • tarweed
  • willow

Tree resins

Tree resins can be both endogenous and exogenous and the can be found in the following species.

  • Abies
  • Boswellia
  • Canarium
  • Cedrus
  • Commiphora
  • Cryptomeria
  • Cupressus
  • Hymenaea
  • Juniperus
  • Liquidambar
  • Metasequoia
  • Myroxylon
  • Protium
  • Pseudolarix
  • Sequoia
  • Styrax
  • Taxodium
  • Thuja
  • Tsuga

Synthetic resins

Synthetic resins are quickly replacing organic resins. Here are a few types of resins and what they are used for.

  • Acrylic resins – decoration
  • Alkyd resins – electrical insulation
  • Epoxy resins – flooring and furnishings
  • Phenolic resins – electrical components
  • Polyamide resins – bearings and tires
  • Polyester resins – used in construction work
  • Polypropylene resins – electronics and plastic components
  • Polystyrene resins – pipes and foam
  • Polyurethane resins – insulation and adhesives

Soft resins (oleoresins)

Soft resins also called oleoresins such as frankincense, copaiba or elemi are distilled and turned into essential oils

Hard resins

Hard resins such as copals, mastic, and dammars collected form tapping trees are used in the construction industry widely.


What are resins used for?

Resins are used in perfumes, varnishes, foods, and furniture making. They can be sourced organically or they can come from synthetic alternatives.

What are the best resin perfumes?

Resin perfumes have such a character that you need to try them out at some point. Fragrancespotter.com recommends the following resin fragrances with amber or myrrh if you like the smell of the sticky compounds.

  1. Elixir des Merveilles Hermes for Women

The caramel nature of this perfume almost makes it like no other. Even the color of the juice is ambery and you get that special resinous vibe from application to evaporation.

Special ingredients include Peru Balsam (a sweet resin derived from the Ecuadorian tree of Myroxylon), Siam resin (sweet balsamic vanilla-like scent), and caramel.

With a burnt orange vibe with elegant ambers, the scent is a must-have if you like your perfume to last around 7 hours.

  1. Black Afgano Nasomatto For Men

Black Afgano is a dark amber fragrance that took the perfume world by surprise. It’s daring and highly original. Apart from its green notes, it features resins, coffee, tobacco, incense, and agarwood. Animalic and daring, the perfume also smells like cannabis, which you need to ensure is fine with you if you plan to wear it to the office. However, I’d limit myself with this piece of art for outdoor use anyways.

  1. Sahara Noir Tom Ford for Women

That Middle East profile characterizes Sahara Noir and it’s one of the favorite amber perfumes for women you can find, especially given its complexity. Amber in perfume is rarely unpleasant.

Labdanum, cypress, jasmine, beeswax, amber, Egyptian balsam, benzoin, and oud are intense notes. When you spray it, you will feel like jumping on a plane to Dubai to visit the desert. If you decide to purchase it, the amber perfume is going to impress you with its 15-hours longevity.

  1. Oud Fleur Tom Ford For Women and Men

Sweet resins, oud, and tobacco notes are intense in this rose perfume. The amber perfume has a unisex profile makes it an attractive option for both women and men’s amber fragrances. There’s something special about oud and rose combinations and the depth added by resins here makes this perfume an option for all-day wear as it lasts around 10 hours.

  1. Vert d’Encens Tom Ford For Women and Men

Balsam fir, incense, wood resins, pine, heliotrope, woods, and boxwood are the dominating notes in this resinous perfume. Resins and incense are dominant in the composition and the combination is going to be what triggers questions about its frankincense smell by those around you. Very unique with 8-hours longevity, the perfume is not for the masses, but those into resin perfumes.

Closing thoughts

If you are thinking about what resins are, you need to understand where they come from. They have been around for thousands of years and in the Middle East, they have been used as perfumes in times when people didn’t even know what good smell is around the world. I’ve even met people who wear resin perfumes (or pure amber scents) only and they don’t feel like they’re missing out at all.