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Thread: Ambergris

  1. #31
    Dependent lovingthealien's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    It's waxy fermented whale bile!

    It smells warm and animalic, but also slightly chemical. Vaguely like sweet rubbing alcohol without the sting. Hard to describe without smelling it(like oakmoss!).

  2. #32
    DuNezDeBuzier's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    There is more to the obscure 'Amber' used in perfumery... do yourself a service and do a thread search, there are some real good reads.

    Here's one: http://www.basenotes.net/threads/206...ber-smell-like
    there are others as well.

    Here's a good one on Ambergris: http://www.basenotes.net/threads/231143-Ambergris
    Last edited by DuNezDeBuzier; 7th February 2012 at 02:54 PM.
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  3. #33

    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    Amergris is a sweet musky earthy smell.

  4. #34
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    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Erik_Safari View Post
    Amber and ambergris are nothing alike
    For sure.

  5. #35
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    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kron View Post
    Amergris is a sweet musky earthy smell.
    well put.

  6. #36

    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    I am fortunate enough to have some real ambergris , it is very salty sweet and really does smell like the sea . I don't find it at all faecal just a little musty

  7. #37

    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by lovingthealien View Post
    It's waxy fermented whale bile!

    It smells warm and animalic, but also slightly chemical. Vaguely like sweet rubbing alcohol without the sting. Hard to describe without smelling it(like oakmoss!).

    Thanks! That's a great description. That's exactly the similarity that I can detect running through these Creeds. I just wasn't sure if that's what everybody is referring to when they mention the ambergris base.

    Query solved.

  8. #38

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    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    I personally don't like ambergris. To me, if comes off as animalic, sour, and a bit "dirty". It's my biggest turnoff in the older, more traditional Creeds. I really prefer a "cleaner", more modern, white musk type base myself. I guess that's why the only Creeds I really love are the latest, more modern releases that avoid their ambergris base (VIW, O Santal, & Aventus).

    I know some really like that old school, animalic vibe, but it just doesn't smell "clean" to me, and I avoid anything with ambergris and especially civet (which is horrid to me). I don't really even like most leather scents either.

  9. #39
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    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kron View Post
    Amergris is a sweet musky earthy smell.
    I didn't find ambergris to be sweet at all. I found it oceanic, salty, musky/musty, and diffusive to the extent that it filled my nostrils in a "3D glowing" way different from any other material I've sampled.

  10. #40
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    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Erik_Safari View Post
    Amber and ambergris are nothing alike

    Amber is tree resin, ambergris is a whale secretion
    the three resin is hardly ever (read:never) used in perfumery. amber in perfumery refers to the combination of labdanum and vanillin. the accord can contain other ingredients, benzoin is commonly used.

    and for the record: creed doesn't really use ambergris.

    most ambergris notes today are based on a synthetic material called ambroxan.

  11. #41

    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    The fascinating thing about ambergris is that no two pieces really smell the same. Its odor is a reflection of a long, molecular process of maturation, oxidation, loss of water content, etc. And of course, olfaction is such a personal thing that what an individual smells in ambergris is simply what he or she smells.

    In fresh black ambergris, the indolic and scatolic characteristics are very noticeable. It smells a lot like sheep dung to me. And I've smelled (and own) some really fresh stuff. Ambergris is expelled rectally ... it's a coprolite, or what one chemist once called preternaturally hardened whale dung. I know ... people think it's bile, vomit, phlegm, or something like that. But, no.

    As it ages, it begins to smell differently. I explain why this is the case in my book, but it's a process of the chemical degradation and reactions taking place. The oldest white ambergris (I also own some of this) smells refined and not as sharp-edged as fresh ambergris. There's a hint of sweetness, almost of vanilla or almonds in there, along with the animalic, musty, musky, old wood, tobacco tones to the odor profile that people usually mention.

  12. #42
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    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by cjkemp View Post
    In fresh black ambergris, the indolic and scatolic characteristics are very noticeable. It smells a lot like sheep dung to me. And I've smelled (and own) some really fresh stuff. Ambergris is expelled rectally ... it's a coprolite, or what one chemist once called preternaturally hardened whale dung. I know ... people think it's bile, vomit, phlegm, or something like that. But, no.
    I was under the impression that, while it is expelled rectally, ambergris itself is not feces, but a byproduct of the digestion of bony fish.

    The type of ambergris I smelled was light grey with white striation.

  13. #43

    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    Yeah ... you're mostly correct. It's a fatty concretion of squid beaks. It's a pathologic secretion, produced by an estimated 1% of sperm whales.

  14. #44
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    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    Smells very sweet and musky with a slight metallic edge, at least to my nose.

  15. #45

    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    Me too. That's a good description, although I've also smelled pieces of ambergris that smell very marine, and full of ozone. There's a lot of variety. I just love it.

  16. #46

    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    The term ‘amber’ in perfumery is used to refer to one of four different things:

    Ambergris - the whale secretion suitably diluted and processed by time, tide, sun and perfumer.
    Synthetic ambergris - usually a combination of chemicals, including but not limited to ambroxan (others include ambrarome, ambroxide, sclareolide and so on)
    Pyrolised Fossil Amber - waste material from the jewellery trade, made into a distinctive, smoky, deep smelling oil.
    Amber Oil - a mixture of other oils, usually including labdanum in combination with various other things such as vanilla, vanillin, benzoin resinoid and sometimes oakmoss - the mixture varies with the house producing it.

    Synthetics such as cedryl methyl ether are sometimes described in scent notes as ‘amber’ to mean either ambergris or a labdanum mix since they have elements of both scents.

    Real ambergris and real pyrolised fossil amber are virtually unused in modern commercial perfumes both because they are so expensive, but also because they are so variable.

    Most high-end perfumes (including Creed) will be using a combination of synthetics to replace ambergris and may use labdanum as part of that, or as all or part of an ‘amber’ note intended to evoke the fossil amber pyrolite, though usually without the smoky element.
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    Chris Bartlett
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  17. #47

    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    Have you smelled Not a Perfume, by Juliette Has a Gun? It's Romano Ricci's fragrance made entirely of different synthetic ambergris compounds like Ambroxan. It smells great, but, I think, lacks the depth of real ambergris.

    Anyway, the claim that perfumers aren't using ambergris is an interesting one. I have something to say about it in my book. I won't ruin it here, except to say this: enormous boulders of ambergris wash ashore all the time. I have a photo of one in my book that weighed 200-pounds. These boulders are bought and sold and traded and moved all over the world. Who do you think is buying them?

  18. #48

    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by cjkemp View Post
    Anyway, the claim that perfumers aren't using ambergris is an interesting one. I have something to say about it in my book. I won't ruin it here, except to say this: enormous boulders of ambergris wash ashore all the time. I have a photo of one in my book that weighed 200-pounds. These boulders are bought and sold and traded and moved all over the world. Who do you think is buying them?
    I didn’t and don’t claim that ambergris isn’t used by perfumers. I did and do claim that it is virtually unused in modern commercial perfumes . Synthetic ambergris (of various sorts) is used by the perfume industry by the thousands of tonnes every year. Millions of litres of commercial perfume are produced. Even in my little perfumery I use synthetic ambergris by the kilo and practically no-one has ever even heard of me!

    Nothing you can buy in a department store will contain real ambergris and even very high-end exclusive perfumes will only ever have a tiny amount.

    Also note that quite a lot of ambergris is bought by collectors who don’t use it to make anything at all - but I don’t dispute that the majority goes into perfumes, it’s just that the quantity of it on the shelves is negligible compared to perfumes produced without it.
    Last edited by Chris Bartlett; 8th February 2012 at 12:06 PM. Reason: minor corrections
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    If you are looking for a perfumery consultation I’m happy to quote: if you want free advice, that’s what these forums are for
    You can also join my blog if you wish to ask questions of me.

  19. #49

    Default Re: The Notorious "Ambergris Base" What does it actually smell like?

    Quote Originally Posted by cjkemp View Post
    Have you smelled Not a Perfume, by Juliette Has a Gun? It's Romano Ricci's fragrance made entirely of different synthetic ambergris compounds like Ambroxan. It smells great, but, I think, lacks the depth of real ambergris.

    Anyway, the claim that perfumers aren't using ambergris is an interesting one. I have something to say about it in my book. I won't ruin it here, except to say this: enormous boulders of ambergris wash ashore all the time. I have a photo of one in my book that weighed 200-pounds. These boulders are bought and sold and traded and moved all over the world. Who do you think is buying them?
    Book? Link?

  20. #50

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Yes, a link! The book comes out in May: http://www.amazon.com/Floating-Gold-.../dp/0226430367

    I think, Chris, the truth is that large commercial perfumers do use ambergris, but try to get one to talk on the record with you about it! And, as you almost certainly know, synthetic ambergris compounds have almost nothing in common with real ambergris, and don't even smell much like it ... they really just share its non-volatile fixative qualities,

    Anyway, this is all in the book!

  21. #51

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Personally I think synthetic ambroxan does smell very much like real ambergris. Also, I've read that ambroxan has been found naturally occurring in ambergris tinctures. It was on the Natural Perfumery group on Yahoo, if anyone's interested.

    Does anyone here actually have experience of using real ambergris in a perfume? And does it really live up to all the legends about it either "exalting" ingredients or acting as a fixative? I sometimes wonder if that's just romance. I've actually tried mixing it with vetiver and sandalwood (seperately) and haven't really noticed anything special. Maybe it needs time.

    I got a tiny sample of vintage Guerlain Djedi perfume that I think could have real ambergris in it. It's actually really beautiful, but this one might also have civet and musk. Anyone know of more vintage perfumes that would likely contain real ambergris?

  22. #52

    Default Re: Ambergris

    The chemical fixative properties of ambergris are pretty well accepted. And explained by its chemical structure. Real ambergris contains an entire range of degradation products in different amounts and this cannot easily be recreated in the lab.

    The obvious contender is Chanel 5.

  23. #53

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Just came across this recent article; very interesting towards the end:


    "Tilar Mazzeo, the author of The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World’s Most Famous Perfume, says that “historically Chanel No. 5 certainly did use ambergris.” The original formula leaked in the 1930s, she says, and “the copies I have seen include ambergris or ambrein—the essential scent element of ambergris—as an ingredient.” Not so, says Philip Kraft, a German chemist who creates scents for Givaudan, a Swiss manufacturer of fragrances. “There never was any ambergris in Chanel No. 5,” he says. “Not in the formula from 1921, nor in the one of today.” A representative from Chanel declined to comment for this story."

    Could the ambrein alleged to be in Chanel No 5 perhaps be extracted from labdanum?

  24. #54

    Default Re: Ambergris

    You'll notice I'm quoted several times in that article ... and the answer to the question is no.

  25. #55

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Quote Originally Posted by cjkemp View Post
    You'll notice I'm quoted several times in that article ... and the answer to the question is no.
    Yep, noticed that. I'll pry no more then. Maybe I'll just have to buy your book.

  26. #56

    Default Re: Ambergris

    No, that's cool. I was just putting my babies to bed.

    I think the question is a difficult one. Certainly Chanel would never be quoted on the record about it. I'd love to do some mass spectroscopy on fragrances to see if they contain a synthetic or real ambergris. Chanel Five was released in 1921 and lots of people believe it contained ambergris. So, who knows? It's impossible to say.

  27. #57

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Quote Originally Posted by Renegade View Post
    Does anyone here actually have experience of using real ambergris in a perfume? And does it really live up to all the legends about it either "exalting" ingredients or acting as a fixative? I sometimes wonder if that's just romance. I've actually tried mixing it with vetiver and sandalwood (seperately) and haven't really noticed anything special. Maybe it needs time.

    I got a tiny sample of vintage Guerlain Djedi perfume that I think could have real ambergris in it. It's actually really beautiful, but this one might also have civet and musk. Anyone know of more vintage perfumes that would likely contain real ambergris?
    I have had a fixation with the stuff for donkeys years, and have tinctures of each kind from black through to white. Each one smelling totally different to the others. That is what makes it so fascinating. It certainly does have magical qualities when in a perfume but then again I love it on it's own anyway. Try a tiny drop on one wrist and not on the other with another oil (diluted) on both and see what happens to the one with.

    I hunted for years before I found another vintage Houbigant Ambergris because I used to wear it in the 70's and 80's. I would love to find someone who actually was involved in making those perfumes. I bet something like My Sin had it in. There is a vintage video clip on one of the other ambergris threads and the lump shown in it is huge.
    Currently wearing: Civet by Houbigant

  28. #58

    Default Re: Ambergris

    This is one of the photos from my book!Enormous.jpg

  29. #59

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Quote Originally Posted by cjkemp View Post
    This is one of the photos from my book!Enormous.jpg
    Heavens to Murgatroyd! One lump or two; I'll take two!!
    Wonderful...thanks for sharing that!

  30. #60

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Good grief. That's one big whale if that didn't hurt......
    Currently wearing: Civet by Houbigant

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