Monday, August 23, 2010

Perfumer's Palette - Ambergris

image from
Most of us have never seen or smelled , nor will we ever see or smell authentic animal Ambergris . Long considered one of the most valuable commodities , and long misunderstood , ambergris comes from the stomach of the endangered male sperm whale . The whale dines on tons of cuttlefish , and the undigested parts ( the " beaks " ) form a mass in the stomach and are eventually regurgitated into the sea . These large masses float on the sea , sometimes eventually washing up on the shore . The massive male sperm whale can weigh up to 40 tons and over 1/3 of it's body is the head and brain , a huge communications center . The whale communicates by series of clicks , a very sophisticated language which researches are only now appreciating . That this wonderful animal was hunted and killed almost to extinction is devastating to think about , so let us kindly protect this intelligent species and pray for their survival .

How was it ever discovered that this disgusting sounding substance could add such beauty to perfume ? Discovered by sailors originally , these large floating masses can retain their scent for centuries . The scent is salty , earthy , musty and rosy . It is said even a small amount will cling to textiles , remaining through countless washings and becoming sweeter over time . Ambergris is soluble in alcohol and it's aroma is destoyed by high heat . Historically it was tinctured for use in perfumery .
Ambergris contains about 100 volatile substances .
Chemical constituents of ambergris include :
colestinol -type sterols ( epi- coprosterine and ambreine ).
In 1977 researches Mookherjee and Patel identified some of these odorants :
g-homocyclogeranyl chloride( metallic ozony seawater )
a-ambrinol ( mouldy-animalic-fecal )
g-dihydroionone ( weak tobacco )
ambroxan ( moist , creamy/soft amber with velvety effect )
Ambergris is unsurpassed for it's fixative properties and long-lasting drydown with a dry earthy radiance . Synthetic ambroxan is now synthesized from sclareol , a diterpene alcohol found in , for instance , clary sage .
In aromatherapy , ambergris is known as a powerful aphrodisiac , awakening the emotions .
The winner of Perfumer's Palette drawing #4 is.............dee Howe !
You are most loyal , Thank you . E-mail me your adress !


Olfacta said...

Thank you Carol! I've been wondering about the components of ambergris for quite some time.

I wonder what adventurous sort was the very first person to use it in a perfume. Right up there with the first person to eat an artichoke!

Anonymous said...


I was so delighted to see more perfumer's palette, and then, oh happy day, I won the draw!

Thank you so much : )

waftbyCarol said...

Olfacta , a fascinating thing . Sort of like who ate the first lobster...
Dee - you are most welcome ! Recieved your adress and will mail tomorrow !

Rappleyea said...

I would love to smell real ambergris. Most perfumes that claim to have it are obviously using synthetics and are generally way too sweet for me. I wonder if the real thing would be. I love the smell of Clary Sage e.o., and it definitely has a tobacco element to it so I can see some of its chems being used in the synthetic versions of ambergris.

I agree - pray for the whales!

waftbyCarol said...

Hey Donna ,
I used to look and look for Ambergris when I lived on San Salvador Island Bahamas . But I wouldn't know it if I saw it !!