Ambergris

Group: MUSK, AMBER, ANIMALIC SMELLS

Ambergris
Ambergris
Ambergris
Odor profile: Naturally a product of the intenstine of sperm whales, found floating on the ocean and blanched by sea and sun with a skin-like salty and warm effect. Synthetically recreated today.


Ambergris, which comes from some species of sperm whale, is one of the most valuable raw materials in perfumery. It's rare, and the fragrance it exudes is just as rare. In perfumes ambergris is used as a fixative and its presence can be best described as marine, animalic and sweet. Speaking of chemical content, the three major components isolated from ambergris are triterpene alcohol ambrein, the chief active ingredient, as well as epicoprostanol and coprostanone.

To impart further knowledge on the subject, we have Adrienne Beuse, to whom perfumer Mandy Aftel introduced me. The company  Adrienne runs with her husband is called Ambergis New Zealand Ltd (ambergris.co.nz). It was her husband who first became interested in ambergris and began collecting it for sale. With the expansion of internet businesses, they set up a trading business in 2004, looking for further opportunities to market the product.

Standard quality (Medium grade): a cross section of the interior of a piece
(photo from Ambergris NZ Ltd)

It was a learning opportunity to talk with Adrienne and the information she provided was commendable. We began with the texture and smell of fresh ambergris and its main categories.


Adrienne: Fresh ambergris. It is jet black in color (dark brown inside). It has a pliable, sticky texture (like wet soft clay). It has a strong manure odor, which most people would consider very unpleasant.  If you find fresh ambergris, it is better to throw it back into the sea as it's useless. We consider that there are basically three main categories of ambergris. (It is important to know this for an overall understanding of the product.) 
 


WHITE/GREY Ambergris  
- Product which has a white or partly white coating and a light interior color. Normally pieces of this type are smaller in size (they have been in the ocean longer). The fragrance will have at least some sweetness

STANDARD Ambergris 
- This product is normally brown/grey or ash in color. It will have a good fragrance but still a little strong. Pieces can be larger. You can often notice some layers in the material.

LOW QUALITY Black Ambergris - This type can be very hard, firm or soft.
 

The fragrance is normally quite rough, animalic, heavy and/or fecal. Is ambergris whale's vomit?


Adrienne: Ambergris has long been referred to as whale vomit. In earlier times, it was believed that the whale would vomit up this material from its stomach. However, research in modern times would suggest that it primarily forms in the whale's intestines and would be excreted from the animal (rather than being vomited out from the stomach). Despite this research, many people still refer to ambergris as whale vomit.
 

How many years does it take, on the minimum, for ambergris to mature and what age of the ambergris is considered best to be used in fragrances?  How is the age of ambergris estimated?


Adrienne: Ambergris can float in the ocean for many years. We could not say what is the ultimate amount of time for a piece to cure but normally it would be desirable for the piece to float in the ocean for as long as possible (20 - 30 years). We could not estimate the precise age of a piece, according to the appearance. However, we can tell from several factors (the thickness of the white exterior coating, the interior color of the piece and the fragrance) if it is an older and well-cured piece.
 

High quality: White Grey Ambergris (photo from Ambergris NZ Ltd)


As a piece floats in the ocean, a white coating will form on the outside (oxidization from the salt water). This white coating can be thin and patchy but it will become thicker if the piece stays in the ocean a long time. The piece will also become lighter in color on the inside, as it dries and cures. The fragrance will also become lighter and more refined. In general, lighter colored pieces have a lighter, sweeter fragrance and have been in the ocean for a longer time.
 

Is ambergris hard or is it brittle?


Adrienne: The texture of ambergris is normally hard. Only the lowest qualities have a soft (firm, pliable) texture. Pieces which are very old may become more brittle and powdery.
 

How will you describe the fragrance of ambergris and how to test for it?


Adrienne:  It is always difficult to accurately provide a description of the fragrance of ambergris. Every piece can be different and every person can react differently to the fragrance. There are several important points to note:

A) Quality - 
The word "ambergris" is used to denote all grades of the product; there is a wide variation in the quality of ambergris and the subsequent odor. The lowest quality ambergris is soft in texture and black in colour and typically has a strong "manure" odor. The fragrance would give the impression of being in a stable before it has been cleaned out. Many people would find this odor offensive. On the other hand, very high-quality pieces can have a very light, subtle and sweet odor which would be hardly noticeable, if you were to hold the raw piece directly to your nose. The difference in appearance and fragrance can be so great between these two extremes of quality that people would find it difficult to understand that the original source of the material is the same.
 

Lowest quality: Soft Black Ambergris above and Black Ambergris below
(photo from Ambergris NZ Ltd)


B) Personal Experience - 
The fragrance of ambergris is complex and this complexity adds to the very different impressions that people will have to the product. Even when testing the same piece (where there is no variation in quality), a quite opposite impression may be gained by different individuals. This difference will in part be due to the variation in olfactory sense of each individual, but the complexity of ambergris adds another dimension. The blend of notes in a given piece can provide a pleasing response and even evoke a pleasant memory or association for one person. For another, the same complex notes may bring a less pleasing result and evoke an unpleasant memory or sensation. An example would be where a piece had an earthy, mossy fragrance. This type of profile may appeal to someone who finds the odor of the damp forest floor after rain to be appealing but may signify simply an odor of " freshly turned soil" to another.
 

Testing for Ambergris


There is no test which members of the public can use to easily (and conclusively) know if they have genuine ambergris or not. Ambergris is a very specialized product and considerable experience is desirable with regard to accurate identification. While it may sometimes be found with a quite "typical" appearance, it can also appear in very unusual shapes, forms and colors, making identification difficult.

The hot needle test will provide some information. The important point to note is that ambergris (of any quality) will always melt to a glossy, dark-colored, thick liquid residue when a hot needle is applied. If heat is applied to any material and it does not melt to a liquid, then it could not be ambergris.

We also discussed its prices and safety precautions, and Adrienne told me that it is often confusing for people to find the right type. Prices also vary according to types but it is of high importance that the buyer can differentiate between the highest and lowest quality. Sometimes people end up buying the lowest type for a higher price. Currently, highest-quality ambergris is sold for $25 for a gram and $10 per gram for the lowest quality. About its safety, because it's from an animal source, the first safety precaution is to it keep away from animals. Direct heat will be another factor to its damage. The best way is to wrap ambergris in a cotton cloth and keep it in a drawer or cabinet.
 

Please visit Ambergis New Zealand Ltd  at www.ambergris.co.nz

 
Photos by Ambergris NZ Ltd (photographer: Frans Beuse), copyright of the photos is retained by Ambergris NZ Ltd

Photo of whale tale by kohane, Photo of whale eye by Photobotos.com




Author: Naheed Shoukat Ali (naheed)
Fragrantica Writer

 

 

 


 


 

 

Ambergris Perfumes

1.5024093247379
O Hira Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777
1.5010418701569
Royal Amber Abdul Samad Al Qurashi
1.5006511688481
Magnetic Blend 1 Initio Parfums Prives
1.5003907013088
Ambergris Abdul Samad Al Qurashi
1.5001953506544
Cruda Morph
1.5001302337696
Magic Rock FWIEHA FRAGRANZA TA`MALTA
1.5000651168848
Ápeiron Tonatto Profumi
1.5
African Soliflore Orange Blossom Frazer Parfum
1.5
African Soliflore Jasmine Frazer Parfum
1.5
Exquisite Musk Yves Saint Laurent
1.4546752337696
Cathode Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4283788571987
Ballena de la Pampa Fueguia 1833
1.4168623506544
Tari MONOM
1.4061151301035
Colonia Ambra Acqua di Parma
1.3999348831152
Yaken Fueguia 1833
1.3876830519633
Noor Royal Crown
1.3755860519633
Amalia Primavera Fueguia 1833
1.3751302337696
8 Fleur de Rouge Abercrombie & Fitch
1.3669543333333
Aventus Creed
1.3661119350785
Amber Amouage
1.3637011168848
Parfum Privé Solid Aftelier
1.3583151039265
Harem Soiree Arte Profumi
1.3503907013088
Jacques Zolty Jacques Zolty
1.3335283506544
Sapphire Al-Jazeera Perfumes
1.333333
Regalo Ajmal
1.3308857664909
Geisha Noire Aroma M
1.308017584424
Voluptuous Nostalgia Aroma M
1.3025780917497
L'Homme Parfum Intense Yves Saint Laurent
1.3001302337696
Viva La Revolution! Eau de Revolución Refan
1.2989789870417
Driftwood Arran Aromatics
1.298664454581
Amber Laboratory Perfumes
1.2864286755226
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.2858442337696
Micro Love Jusbox
1.285714
Joss TianDe
1.28
Emerald Al-Jazeera Perfumes
1.2760418701569
Kawthar Swiss Arabian
1.2660222857329
Ambra di Venezia Acque di Italia
1.2631796417269
Green Irish Tweed Creed
1.2620352337696
Kaja Al Attar
1.2610969747346
Midnight Fleur Nest
1.2585208181937
Body Language House of Matriarch
1.250325584424
Khanbaliq Sigilli
1.2502604675392
Sheikh Al Faransi Abdul Karim Al Faransi
1.2501953506544
Arktos House of Orpheus
1.2501302337696
Dehnal Oudh Ateeq Al Haramain Perfumes
1.2500651168848
Ajwad Amouage
1.25
Habanera Diadema Exclusif
1.25
Don d`Amour FL Parfums
1.25
Loody Dr. Gritti
1.25
2022 Al-Jazeera Perfumes
1.25
Sultane des Coeurs Les Parfums du Soleil
1.249931519763
Fantasia de Fleurs Creed
1.2438290519633
Tohfa Arabian Oud
1.2435732857329
Caoba Fueguia 1833
1.2388711168848
I Love Illusion Dzintars
1.2380209350785
So Amber Montale
1.2367547013088
Amber Essence Ava Luxe
1.2312899350785
OUD’ISH Zarkoperfume
1.231094584424
Amber DSH Perfumes
1.2308341168848
Neroli, Bamboo e Fior di Loto Borsari
1.2301037143973
Raindrops Ajmal
1.2291570519633
Celui de Jean Dessès Jean Dessès
1.2273381168848
Chelsea Garden Washington Tremlett
1.2247891688481
Oropuro Tonatto Profumi
1.2223522337696
Ultimate Drive Parfums Louis Armand
1.2174116104708
Amber Star Xerjoff
1.2165994286645
Lys du Desert Decennial
1.2147418181937
Parfum Privé Aftelier
1.2144813506544
Armani Prive Fil Rouge Giorgio Armani
1.2144162337696
Sentosa Simone Andreoli
1.2143511168848
Le Sens du Plaisir Antonio Visconti
1.2114398052354
Siberian Shewolf Smell Bent
1.2099421168848
L'Eau d'Issey Pure Issey Miyake
1.2095474582275
Black XS Paco Rabanne
1.207222584424
1853 Man Acqua di Genova
1.205071454581
Kama Ava Luxe
1.203940039005
Aki Tann Rokka
1.2033318571987
Disco Nap Smell Bent
1.2024045455493
Ambre Dore Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.200325584424
Alchemy Aftelier
1.200325584424
Afraid of the Dark: Charlie No. 5 Opus Oils
1.2001953506544
Batch No. 46 Abercrombie & Fitch
1.2000651168848
Masquerade Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.2
Physical Woman Jockey
1.1999348831152
Aqua Fortis MIKMOI
1.1971936886111
Fleurs de Bulgarie Creed
1.1941312727746
Ultraviolet Man Aurore Borealis Edition Paco Rabanne
1.1928400395259
Encens Mythique D'Orient Guerlain
1.190476
Samia Asgharali
1.1901766883506
Aperture Ulrich Lang
1.1900431558898
Aus Liebe zum Duft No 1 Extreme Aus Liebe zum Duft
1.189195065182
Fars Xerjoff
1.1884656365175
Ambre Eternel Guerlain
1.1879353896594
Honey Blossom Aftelier
1.1871941689783
Sacrifice for Her Ajmal
1.1860297532721
Byc Moze...Pariz Miraculum
1.183658584424
Zeitgeist J.F. Schwarzlose Berlin
1.1832505714658
Calypso Figue Calypso Christiane Celle
1.182143584424
Silver Pearl Oribe
1.1820784675392
Coca for Men Cofinluxe
1.1819482337696
Provocation Axe
1.1818831168848
Dear Polly Vilhelm Parfumerie
1.1818831168848
Red Miraculum
1.1818831168848
Flame of Love La Rive
1.1810265195025
Vanilla Smoke Aftelier
1.1807162857329
Muhja Ajmal
1.179487
Amor Amor by Lili Choi Cacharel
1.1792872857329
Ten Nine Atelier Flou
1.1785594026177
Tuxedo Yves Saint Laurent
1.1782338181937
Boteh Esther P
1.1770186234291
Ambra Tibet Ava Luxe
1.1766012337696
Fiori di Essenza Divina Renato Balestra
1.176471
Braukmann Evolution Hildegard Braukmann
1.1746677794491
Green Valley Creed
1.1730809354692
09 Orange Star Tauer Perfumes
1.17180707801
Light Blue Swimming in Lipari Dolce&Gabbana
1.1700063506544
Les Bohemes: Heavy Sugar Opus Oils
1.169310532591
Soul CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.1682689611252
Eau Mage Diptyque
1.1673832857329
Eau des Merveilles Au Bal des Etoiles Hermes
1.1670352599466
Black Vanilla Absolute Perry Ellis
1.1667972337696
Adventure Royal Crown
1.1667972337696
400 Scent Bar
1.1667972337696
It Was A Time That Was A Time ICONOfly
1.1667321168848
Fumee Toxique Francois Deli
1.166667
Cloches de Mai Eau Poudree Dorin
1.166667
Amberose G Parfums
1.1666018831152
L'Ecole des Filles Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.1656589611252
Another 13 Le Labo
1.165614584424
Mistika (Mystic) Dzintars
1.1653384026177
Orca House of Matriarch
1.1651058963339
Tres Nuit Armaf
1.1650779350785
Opulence JoAnne Bassett
1.1637859350785
Adr-ett Nomenclature
1.1626829350785
Andron for Men Jovan
1.1616111560201
Acier Aluminium Creed
1.1606511688481
Black Forest Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.1605156104708
Ambre d Or Il Profvmo
1.1596119350785
Assenzio Borsari
1.1594220130885
Khôl de Bahreïn Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777
1.1593160519633
Mizyaan Ajmal
1.1591915585075
Le Parfum Couture M. Micallef
1.1588717532721
Woo House of Matriarch
1.15789207801
Musc 25 Los Angeles Le Labo
1.1562071688481
Tobacco Cognac House of Cherry Bomb
1.1561993645243
Bois du Portugal Creed
1.1561500397864
Reveal Calvin Klein
1.1560393506544
Gardenia No 41 M. Micallef
1.155067039005
Shadow for Her Ajmal
1.1544320519633
L.A. She called but he was unreachable Anthropologie

Popular brands and perfumes: