Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Perfumery Material: Beeswax, Sweet Animalic Intimacy

The note of beeswax is among the few natural "animalic" notes in perfumery that are totally cruelty-free, i.e. involving no harm to the animal from which they're derived. For this reason, beeswax absolute is among the most prized materials in the natural perfume palette, where the absence of synthetics can be a problem. With its naturally fixative qualities, it aids the anchoring of more volatile notes.
Beeswax absolute (Apies Millifera) has been taken from the actual beehive without disruption to the lives of the bees for a long while. For perfumery, the wax is taken from hives that have been used for more than 5 years, therefore the material retains the scents of honey, propolis and the smell of the bees themselves, which makes beeswax a pheromone-rich essence with all that entails.

photo collage: punmiris.com

The wax in the hive is collected carefully by hand and is then solvent extracted. The major countries producing beeswax absolute are Spain, France and Morocco where apiculture is ingrained in tradition, but California in the US is rapidly gaining momentum. The resulting essence is fully miscible in alcohol and dipropylene glycol, making it easy to work with.

The scent of beeswax absolute is a very pleasant, complex composite of both honeyed, sweet aspects (with floral facets) and of essences of a musky, intimate ambience reminiscent of sweet hay and cured tobacco. The essence of beeswax absolute is used in perfumery to render golden-ambery fragrance notes, and serves as a middle to base note. The honeyed aspect of the material with its background of hay serves as a good underpinning of lavender and rose and is great in juxtaposition with naturally bitter oakmoss.

Beeswax absolute has comforting, spiritually balancing and lifting, solar properties when used in aromatherapeutic blends and recalls the joyful activity of bees.

Notable fragrances with prominent beeswax absolute notes:

Annick Goutal Myrrhe Ardente
Chanel Antaeus
Demeter Beeswax
Dior Leather Oud
D'Orsay Tilleul
DSH Cimabue
DSH Parfum de Grasse
Hermes Caleche Fleurs de Mediterranee
Krizia Theatro alla Scala
L'Artisan Fleur d'oranger 2007 (limited edition)
L'Occitane Reve de Miel
Maria Candida Gentile Sideris
M.Micallef Charm
Ramon Monegal Cuirelle
Roxana Illuminated Perfume To Bee
Serge Lutens Chene
Serge Lutens Feminite du Bois
Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille
Sonoma Scent Studio Nostalgie
Tom Ford Moss Breches


  1. love this note---there's something so warm and harmonious about beeswax and honey.

  2. Beeswax is one of my absolute favorite notes! I remember the first time I smelled it -- I was shocked by it's scent: honeyed + earthy + animalic. I'm glad you included Roxana Illuminated on your list -- I think To Bee and DSH's Cimabue are some of the best uses of beeswax out there. Deliciously addictive :)
    Cheers -

  3. Miss Heliotrope02:56

    Oooo - the complexity of beeswax scent (on its own) is so fascinating - & that it's not all sweet it lovely. The really great honeys arent either - such as Tasmanian leatherwood & so on.

  4. NFS,

    so well said! :-)

  5. Thank you Tara,

    I find that among natural perfume essences, beeswax absolute is one which shines in an all natural composition exactly because it brings so much nuance to the other notes.

    Thanks for commenting!

  6. MH,

    as you say, the balance between sweetness and pungency, or sweetness and a bit of bitterness is what makes for a fascinating flavor/scent.
    Tasmanian leatherwood: the mere words are transporting.

    Thanks for chiming in!

  7. Anonymous20:38

    thanks for the "bee" list. i love the smell of beeswax - it was so much a part of the orthodox catherdral in dallas, i still associate it with orthodox christianity. still have a few of those lovely brown beeswax candles.

    i would also add francis kurkdjian's absolue pour le soir to your list - it gives a strong impression of warm, rich honey.

    got to meet him again this past weekend, and some of the other customers who were at the event hadn't smelled absolue yet - and to a person, their reaction was "oh, honey."

    to me, it smells like sex, and i told him so. he agreed. ;) that was his plan, apparently.

    also had some interesting things to say about how perfumes are structured. it was nice to hear his analogies.

    he was wearing his own "oud," and it smelled fab on him.


  8. Ariadne21:29

    Very interesting post! THX! Do only honey bees make beeswax or do other bee types also produce? Honey bees are experiencing a decline in the US right now for an as yet unknown reason.

  9. C,

    he is a naughty, naughty man that FK for making this sexy elixir! ;-)

    I bet the convo was interesting and his looks devastating. I'm pleased to hear he's wearing his own. So many of them do not wear anything at all.

    Hope you're well! :-)

  10. A,

    sorry to hear that...Pollution perhaps? Destroying of their natural habitat? Decline in apiculture? Hmmm....

    I know that wasps make their own "waxy" stuff but I don't know that it is rendered in an absolute; it just might, though it would need braver souls. But basically the "comb" is tautologous to the honey bee habitat.


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