Benzoin is the blasamic resin derived from the bark of different trees in the genus Styrax, native to Southeastern Asia. It has a sweet, vanilla-like aroma and, in the case of Benzoe Sumatra with hints of cinnamon.
The resin is called benzoin. However it has nothing to do with the chemical compound benzoin nor does it contain the latter. Another name is gum benzoin, which is misleading, since the resin is not a polysaccharide. It is also sometimes called styrax balsam or styrax resin, after the tree species it is derived from. However it is not the same as the styrax balsam derived from different species of amber tree.
There are two types of Benzoin resin derived from different species in the genus Styrax:
- Benzoin Siam is derived from Styrax tonkinensis, found in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam
- Benzoin Sumatra comes from Styrax benzoin, found mostly on the island of Sumatra, containing cinnamic acid
Benzoin Siam is considered superior to Benzoe Sumatra and usually higher priced. It’s fragrance is lighter and more vanilla-like, whereas Benzoin Sumatra has a darker, sweeter and cinnamon-like aroma.
Benzoe Siam is strongly aromatic and in addition has fixative properties, meaning it slows down the evaporation of fragrant constituents from perfumes etc.