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Thread: Ambergris oil

  1. #1

    Default Ambergris oil

    I have a question about ambergris. I've had success making ambergris tincture but I'd also like to dissolve ambergris in oil. Does anyone know about its oil solubility? If it's highly soluble in oil I imagine I could shake the oil with the tincture and add more ambergris as needed to reinforce the tincture. Anyway, that's what I'm thinking. It may also be possible to heat the ambergris directly in oil to dissolve it. Does anyone have experience with ambergris oil?

  2. #2
    Dependent Le Grand Duc's Avatar
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    How did you get your hands on
    some ambergris to begin with?!

  3. #3

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    Quote Originally Posted by Le Grand Duc View Post
    How did you get your hands on
    some ambergris to begin with?!
    There's a place in New Zealand that sells it. It seems to be authentic--it melts and smokes when I put a hot paper clip on it--and it dissolved in the alcohol leaving some, but not too much, residue. Only the odor is very faint. It sits in the sun as I write this, waiting to come into its own, presumably. Thanks Jim Peterson

  4. #4
    Dependent Le Grand Duc's Avatar
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    Well, if it's really good ambergris, it should cost like 10 times the price of gold.
    Ambergris is almost unpayable - hence it being replaced by synthetic stuff in
    most perfumes. Only the real high end firms still use genuine ambergris.

    The longer it floats around in the water the lighter its color gets.

    I would kill for some, you know, to smell it straight up!
    But, as you probably know, ambergris is not used for its smell,
    but for its fixative qualities. It helps in getting better longevity.
    The smell should be soft, balsamic and sensuel ... but faint.

    Quote Originally Posted by James Peterson View Post
    It sits in the sun as I write this, waiting to come into its own, presumably.
    If it's a chunk you have, I would dump it into a jar of sea water,
    and then place it back into the sun. I have no experience, but,
    I'd reckon that would be the right thing to do to 'grow' it?!
    Last edited by Le Grand Duc; 21st February 2012 at 08:30 PM.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    Thank you, your excellency, for responding to my post. I had two pieces, one was a pale brown and the other white. I made separate tinctures of both of them. But now something really fascinating is happening. I noticed this gunk at the bottom of one of the test tubes and figured it was particulate matter that was just settling out or, perhaps, the solid active ingredient in ambergris, but, no, it's an oil! A deep amber oil at the bottom of the tincture. My temptation is to further evaporate the tincture to see if I can get more of the essence of the ambergris to precipitate out as this oil. There doesn't seem to be a lot of literature out there about these things. Thanks again. Jim Peterson

  6. #6

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    Quote Originally Posted by Le Grand Duc View Post
    I would kill for some, you know, to smell it straight up!
    I can oblige with some tincture if you PM me and don't kill. Nice to see you on here. Are you joining us in the blender department?

    As for tinctures in oils, patience is all you need and a decent smelling bit of Ambergris to start with, although I like some of the supposedly lesser quality ones too. I have all sorts of tinctures in both oil and alcohol and each works well but oils take longer in my experience. I'm finding powdery things seem to tincture more effectively in oils but that is an unscientific finding of my own. If the ambergris can be ground and macerated as much as possible, then there is more surface to tincture from, with the alcohol or oil added little by little to try to stop it clumping. A bit like making mayonnaise really. Some of my Ambergris has been dry like powder, so it was easy, others have been like tar, so not so easy.
    Currently wearing: Civet by Houbigant

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    Quote Originally Posted by Le Grand Duc View Post
    Well, if it's really good ambergris, it should cost like 10 times the price of gold.
    actually, no. it costs considerably less that gold.

    I would kill for some, you know, to smell it straight up! ;)
    what stops you? type in buy ambergris on google and get straight to the first link. that's ambergris.co.nz and they have a good reputation. they sell 10 grams for 250 dollars, that is a lot of tincture! you can make roughly 300ml of tincture from that. so, add the price of the alcohol and the bottle and the price of 100ml ambergris tincture is in the same range as a 100ml perfume bottle.

    But, as you probably know, ambergris is not used for its smell,
    but for its fixative qualities. It helps in getting better longevity.
    The smell should be soft, balsamic and sensuel ... but faint.
    arctander wrote, 'its odor is rather subtle, reminiscent of seaweed, wood, moss, with a peculiar sweet, yet very dry undertone of unequaled tenacity.'

    and although it is a very important quality, ambergris is not only used as a fixative. it is also used as a bouquetting agent, rounds off harsh chemical notes, and other effects is has on the composition. and, yes, for it's odor.

    If it's a chunk you have, I would dump it into a jar of sea water, and then place it back into the sun. I have no experience, but, I'd reckon that would be the right thing to do to 'grow' it?!
    i thought of this too. but would it work? i don't know. could it do damage? i'm not sure, but there must be a reason this has never been common practice? should be interesting to try if you have a small piece and several years (or decades) spare. ;)

  8. #8

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    You can also buy ambergris absolute from Scentsual Antiquities, which is completely soluble. I put a bit in some sandalwood oil last week. It took just a few days to completely dissolve. I'm not sure if it has really enhanced the sandalwood that much yet. I'll let them intermingle for a while more before deciding.

  9. #9
    Dependent Le Grand Duc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Peterson View Post
    Thank you, your excellency, for responding to my post.
    Aaah, I love it, when my rank is respected!

    Quote Originally Posted by mumsy View Post
    I can oblige with some tincture if you PM me and don't kill. Nice to see you on here. Are you joining us in the blender department?
    Wow, that is really sweet. Thank you!
    Blender department?!

    Quote Originally Posted by gido View Post
    actually, no. it costs considerably less that gold.

    arctander wrote, 'its odor is rather subtle, reminiscent of seaweed, wood, moss, with a peculiar sweet, yet very dry undertone of unequaled tenacity.'
    And Roja Dove wrote:

    "it's soft, balsamic sensuality sublimates all other materials ...
    ... being worth around ten times the price of gold."


    I dunno with todays insane gold prices, but, in a not so distant past, it was!

    And I know it's used for other things, but, it's mostly knonw for/used for its
    good fixative qualities.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    At the risk of being long winded, I'm including my ambergris notes. Please forgive the lack of rigor in the measurements, but the experiments did teach me a lot about it. I finally can smell it--it smells a lot like seaweed mixed with goose fat or something like that. Here are the notes:

    Ambergris notes

    Macerated 2 grams (one gram of brown, one gram of white) ambergris in approximately 100 ml per each gram piece (they were macerated separately). Expected to wait one week before removing the still-intact chunk and weighing it and comparing the weight before and after maceration to determine if further maceration was going to be effective. Instead of this whole process, I was amazed to find that both chunks dissolved in about 3 days in alcohol (perfumers’ alcohol; 190 proof) at room temperature. I decanted the solutions into new test tubes, leaving behind a powdery black residue. I added a small amount of alcohol to the residue (about 10 ml.) to the residue, let it settle (over 24 hours) and added the solution to the main body of the tincture. At this point I had two approximately 75 ml-tubes of tincture of ambergris. The tincture from the white ambergris was pale yellow, almost like fino sherry; the tincture from the brown ambergris was amber like amontillado. I left these in their test tubes for several days. At this point the tinctures had the most subtle possible whiff—at the very edge of my olfactory perception—of what I now recognize to be ambergris, indescribable, vaguely marine (like konbu?) but also something reminiscent of the best camembert, sexy and compelling. Very subtle. I mean, very. But compelling nevertheless. Decided to evaporate to concentrate the essence by simply covering the test tubes with paper towels tied on and leaving them at room temperature.
    About 1 week later, decided to risk hastening the evaporation by cooking in a bain-marie. Decided to use a double bain-marie. Cooked approximately 3 hours to concentrate by about half such that I now had more concentrated tincture. I decided that the tincture was saturated*. One week later, I noticed a sediment at the bottom of the brown tincture. As I examined it closely, it was an oil. A dark, amber oil that seems to “float” on the bottom of the alcohol. So I’ve set about, reducing it a second time, again using a bain-marie. When I touch the tincture, it dries to a waxy residue, not sticky really, but very tenacious. It sticks to test tubes much like wax and can’t be washed off with detergent. Only alcohol or lye will do the trick. I’ve now reduced it down to about 10 ml. Half is a deep red liquid coming halfway up the test tube; what’s floating on top is the original colored infusion. I notice wax forming on the side of the test tube as I continue the reduction. Strangely the “wax” liquefies as the mixture cools.
    I evaporated all the alcohol and am left with a bright red, semi-liquid substance that smells strongly of ambergris, much more so than the tincture. When I transferred the mixture to a small test tube, I had about 3 ml. of substance (consider that I used 2 grams of ambergris to make the initial tincture). Because there was residual ambergris in the large test tube, I decided to heat the test tube to see what the ambergris smelled like as it volatilized. It created white smoke that smelled like resin—the kind use for soldering.








    * My decision was based on the observation that the liquid grew cloudy when cool and clear when hot. In other words, a precipitate of solid (presumably, more about this later) formed on a microscopic level and caused the liquid to cloud.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    Quote Originally Posted by Le Grand Duc View Post
    And Roja Dove wrote:

    "it's soft, balsamic sensuality sublimates all other materials ...
    ... being worth around ten times the price of gold."
    mm, yes, roja dove. a perfume salesman.

    do you know who steffen arctander is? he wrote what's considered the bible on perfume and flavouring materials. stuff that has been used as a reference by producers, perfumers and perfumery schools for decades. sadly, he wrote his books half a century ago and especially his chapters on aroma-chemicals are dated, but that doesn't include his writings on ambergris. his description is still valid as a reference of what ambergris should smell like.

    i don't really believe ambergris ever was 10x as expensive as gold either. but i agree the price hasn't risen in a similar fashion, though i would argue that it should be more stable than money, even though the demand has dropped.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    Thanks for the tip; I'll look him up. I paid $25/gram for the ambergris. I think gold is around $55/gram these days.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    Quote Originally Posted by James Peterson View Post
    Thanks for the tip; I'll look him up. I paid $25/gram for the ambergris. I think gold is around $55/gram these days.
    I have recently found the following object,
    Done the needle test and yes, black liquid with smell.

    http://s1065.photobucket.com/albums/...a_object_1.jpg

    Could this be ambergris?

    Thanks

  14. #14

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    Doesn't immediately look very promising from the pics I'm afraid.

    What is the texture?
    What is the smell?
    Does it contain beak like shapes?
    Has it got a strata like structure of matter as if it were formed around something in a stomach?

    Where you found it may have a bearing on possibility.
    Hope this helps.

    There were some unexplained waxy lumps found on the coast from Norfolk upwards in England fairly recently. Someone sent me some samples and they were sadly of a petrochemical nature. The one I was sent had a crystalline type of structure.

    The answer to that will lie in the petrol like smell.
    Last edited by mumsy; 4th May 2012 at 03:14 PM.
    Currently wearing: Civet by Houbigant

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    Quote Originally Posted by pduggan View Post
    Done the needle test and yes, black liquid with smell.
    please describe it's odor.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    Quote Originally Posted by pduggan View Post
    I have recently found the following object,
    Done the needle test and yes, black liquid with smell.

    http://s1065.photobucket.com/albums/...a_object_1.jpg

    Could this be ambergris?

    Thanks
    Well it could be. It looks very large from the picture but that may be because Iím confused by the scale - what does it weigh? Very large lumps of ambergris have been known but they are incredibly rare. Even in the 19th Century when there were a lot more whales they were like henís teeth so a very big piece of anything is more likely to be something else (if that makes any sense at all).

    Gido is right that a key test is the smell. My guess on this one is that it will be another petrochemical lump, like the ones Mumsy saw, probably from a tanker flushing itís tanks at sea.


    BTW Gido, I meant to say before:

    mm, yes, roja dove. a perfume salesman.
    made me chuckle. I shall be at the BSP symposium again next week and I suspect his name will be used with equally deep respect there too . . .
    ďA person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person
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  17. #17
    gido's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    haha.. :-)

    don't get me wrong, though, i respect him too. but he's no perfumer, and certainly not an institute of raw materials knowledge, like arctander was (and still is, with regard to older materials). that was my point.

    he certainly isn't any ordinary perfume salesman, far from that.
    Last edited by gido; 4th May 2012 at 06:14 PM.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    No certainly not ordinary.

    What I tend to hear at gatherings of perfumers though is that he calls himself a Master Perfumer and isnít.

    Arctander is in a league all of his own though. I wish heíd been writing a few decades later really as so much has changed - I was struck when I looked up his write-up on agarwood that he says the oil Ďmight find use in perfumeryí: in those days it was virtually unknown in the West.
    ďA person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person
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    If you are looking for a perfumery consultation Iím happy to quote: if you want free advice, thatís what these forums are for
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  19. #19

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    This is a fascinating thread and made me curious about Steffen Arctander's book. I'm a bit shocked to see it costs 380€ and more on Amazon (and elsewhere) though.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    Quote Originally Posted by Nasenmann View Post
    This is a fascinating thread and made me curious about Steffen Arctander's book. I'm a bit shocked to see it costs 380€ and more on Amazon (and elsewhere) though.
    Just this week I saw the book listed second-hand on some site for $225 and was ready to buy it when they told me it had been sold! Fortunately you can view it online, as I recently discovered here on Basenotes (thanks gido!). Still, it's a bit of a nuisance compared to having the printed thing in your hands.

    Quote Originally Posted by pduggan View Post
    Could this be ambergris?
    I've never seen or read of ambergris with bright yellow colouring like in the picture, but who knows? I'll give you €5 for it (including delivery).

  21. #21

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    Quote Originally Posted by Renegade View Post
    Just this week I saw the book listed second-hand on some site for $225 and was ready to buy it when they told me it had been sold! Fortunately you can view it online, as I recently discovered here on Basenotes (thanks gido!). Still, it's a bit of a nuisance compared to having the printed thing in your hands.
    Wow, thanks!

  22. #22

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Bartlett View Post
    Well it could be. It looks very large from the picture but that may be because Iím confused by the scale - what does it weigh? Very large lumps of ambergris have been known but they are incredibly rare. Even in the 19th Century when there were a lot more whales they were like henís teeth so a very big piece of anything is more likely to be something else (if that makes any sense at all).

    Gido is right that a key test is the smell. My guess on this one is that it will be another petrochemical lump, like the ones Mumsy saw, probably from a tanker flushing itís tanks at sea.


    BTW Gido, I meant to say before:



    made me chuckle. I shall be at the BSP symposium again next week and I suspect his name will be used with equally deep respect there too . . .
    Hi, Thanks for the feed back, it weighs 7 kg... so about the size of basketball...

    Paul.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    We still would love to know what it smells like. Can you describe it for us?
    Currently wearing: Civet by Houbigant

  24. #24

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    Quote Originally Posted by mumsy View Post
    We still would love to know what it smells like. Can you describe it for us?
    ok, the smell to me is quite subtle and strong, i have a small part of it in a plastic bag in my office and i can detect the sent just walking into my office. I to me is sweet musty odor, unusual and hard to describe, at first it is not a plesent smell but intresting enough to encourage further inhalations. Sorry describing a smell is not something i am used to but this is definatly a new smell to me.

  25. #25

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    That actually sounds more promising. Is it almost fecal or aeroplane fuel? It sounds worth testing properly. Can you see any beaks. Can you take some more pics?

    Where are you in the world? There may be one of us BNers near enough to help.
    Currently wearing: Civet by Houbigant

  26. #26

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    I'm in ireland, on the irish sea. I cant see any beaks, It does have definate layers, i could slice it open more to examine it for beaks.

    I'll try and get more photos, i have sent a sample to the zoology department in trinity college for examination, i'll post the result of this to satisfy curoisity...

  27. #27

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    The waxy deposit found was on the other side of England to you, so unlikely a bit got around and back again. There was some ambergris found in 2008 from the beach in North Wales, so maybe..... I hunt in vain every time we go there. The yellow area is what doesn't compute with what I have seen, but who knows what it has been rolling around in. Let us know when they tell you.
    Currently wearing: Civet by Houbigant

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    I wander beaches with my fingers crossed looking for ambergris. Nothing in Scarbough this weekend, but that was a long shot.

    I first met Roja Dove in Dickens & Jones in 1990 when he sold me a bottle of Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat, so I thank him for that. He wasn't best pleased when I reminded him though.
    But bless his little cotton socks, Roja Dove is a very good Roja Dove salesman. Professeur de Parfums - it sounds like an academic title but in France a professeur is a high school teacher. Among many exaggerations and at least three different spellings of chypre, it says in his book that natural honeysuckle absolute is "never used". OK it's expensive, but I've got some in my cupboard. Bergamot is "used in up to half of all modern perfumes". So technically that's anything from none at all to 50%, which is a meaningless statement. I've heard him say out loud that geranium bourbon was named after the kings of France so that's how you can tell it's of the finest quality, that his perfumes don't have any chemicals in them and, when taken up on this, that he meant "chemical chemicals". He told the boss of Steam Cream that he had been Guerlain's nose. Best of all, in the current edition of the Harrods Roja Dove Haute Perfumery magazine, he names three "Master Perfumeurs, Exceptional Noses in the History of Perfume". There's Caron's Ernest Daltroff, the all time master (IMHO) Edmond Roudnitska and... Roja Dove. And he spells it Edmund! Show some respect, Roja. You've got to admire the bare-faced cheek. I wish I had one millionth of his ability as a publicist (self), and without doubt he is charm personified, but he's so far over the top that surely he must fall down the other side at some point. Or maybe he'll just float on a perfumed cloud of audacity...

  29. #29

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    Quote Originally Posted by pduggan View Post
    ok, the smell to me is quite subtle and strong, i have a small part of it in a plastic bag in my office and i can detect the sent just walking into my office. I to me is sweet musty odor, unusual and hard to describe, at first it is not a plesent smell but intresting enough to encourage further inhalations. Sorry describing a smell is not something i am used to but this is definatly a new smell to me.
    This does sound a lot more promising. The trouble with this sort of thing is that if it really is ambergris itís going to be a very rare and extremely precious find. If on the other hand itís petrochemical or, for example, cetyl palmitate (thatís the oil that sperm whales have in their huge heads and use as part of the echo location system) itís basically worthless.

    At one time the west coast of Ireland was a popular hunting ground for ambergris, but Iím not so sure about the Irish Sea side.
    ďA person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person
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    If you are looking for a perfumery consultation Iím happy to quote: if you want free advice, thatís what these forums are for
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  30. #30

    Default Re: Ambergris oil

    Quote Originally Posted by 4160Tuesdays View Post
    I wander beaches with my fingers crossed looking for ambergris. Nothing in Scarbough this weekend, but that was a long shot.

    I first met Roja Dove in Dickens & Jones in 1990 when he sold me a bottle of Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat, so I thank him for that. He wasn't best pleased when I reminded him though.
    But bless his little cotton socks, Roja Dove is a very good Roja Dove salesman. Professeur de Parfums - it sounds like an academic title but in France a professeur is a high school teacher. Among many exaggerations and at least three different spellings of chypre, it says in his book that natural honeysuckle absolute is "never used". OK it's expensive, but I've got some in my cupboard. Bergamot is "used in up to half of all modern perfumes". So technically that's anything from none at all to 50%, which is a meaningless statement. I've heard him say out loud that geranium bourbon was named after the kings of France so that's how you can tell it's of the finest quality, that his perfumes don't have any chemicals in them and, when taken up on this, that he meant "chemical chemicals". He told the boss of Steam Cream that he had been Guerlain's nose. Best of all, in the current edition of the Harrods Roja Dove Haute Perfumery magazine, he names three "Master Perfumeurs, Exceptional Noses in the History of Perfume". There's Caron's Ernest Daltroff, the all time master (IMHO) Edmond Roudnitska and... Roja Dove. And he spells it Edmund! Show some respect, Roja. You've got to admire the bare-faced cheek. I wish I had one millionth of his ability as a publicist (self), and without doubt he is charm personified, but he's so far over the top that surely he must fall down the other side at some point. Or maybe he'll just float on a perfumed cloud of audacity...
    Thank you so much for this write-up which had me laughing aloud at my computer.

    Yes, Roja has some brass neck, thatís for sure - the funny thing really is that so many people are taken in.

    I believe it was P T Barnum who said Ďthereís one born every minuteí (though in truth he was probably only talking about customers, and probably didnít say Ďthereís a sucker born every minuteí).
    ďA person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person
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    www.perfumedesigner.co.uk
    Twitter: @PellWallPerfume

    If you are looking for a perfumery consultation Iím happy to quote: if you want free advice, thatís what these forums are for
    You can also join my blog if you wish to ask questions of me.

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