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Thread: Ambergris

  1. #1

    Default Ambergris

    I've just bought some real ambergris tincture from profumo.it - I'm very excited and looking forward to experimenting with it. I will report my experiences here.
    Anybody else used the real thing?
    I have used a little before but only had a few drops so it was hard to properly evaluate its effect.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Ambergris

    You will have a lovely time with his stuff. I know it is beautiful. I know ambergris well.
    Currently wearing: Beautiful by Estée Lauder

  3. #3

    Default Re: Ambergris

    I have the same. If only I smelled much, but that's probably only me... I have used it to layer with fragrances and all. It does not make a difference to me.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Hmm, that's interesting. I've seen people complaining that they don't detect much scent from their ambergris. I haven't smelled real ambergris, but I have grisalva from PA which supposedly mimics ambergris better than ambroxan. And...I don't smell a thing, full strength or diluted to 10%. I have to really imagine it to smell a little talc, maybe some faint sweetness.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Ambergris

    I too have a hard time smelling the Grislava from PA. However, I beleive I could Identify Ambergris based on process of elimination and the evidences I have had of it in the past. You are lucky and due for a great time!!! I envy you!

    Isnt it strange that we so highly value such ingredients as Whale vomit or rotting wood fungus!? Gotta love perfumery eh!?

  6. #6

    Default Re: Ambergris

    I have a couple of tinctures of my own on the go but I don't think they're ready enough to add much of an effect to a blend yet.

    Profumo's ambergris is beautiful (honestly, it's probably what got me really excited about perfume) but to my nose doesn't last very long at all–on paper or skin–which doesn't really match up with what you often read about ambergris tincture in the perfumery books—as something very longlasting. I would guess that an ambergris tincture needs a bit of heat during the maceration to give it that fixative value. Not sure though. Mumsy?

    Maybe other people perceive it as longer lasting than I do?

    I see Hermitage Oils are now selling Ambergris tincture too. Anyone tried it?

  7. #7

    Default

    I had about 1 ml previously or a little less. I'm not sure of the concentration though. My experience then was that a few drops in a small blend (maybe 15-20ml) had a profound effect on the perfume but crucially this didn't take place until quite a few months had passed. Eventually the perfume took on a smoothness of integration and a roundedness I had never achieved otherwise. This is very difficult to qualify or quantify though.
    When smelled on its own I found it was one of those substances that could be almost undetectable at first but when I tuned my perception in, it became quite strong.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Quote Originally Posted by hirch_duckfinder View Post
    I had about 1 ml previously or a little less. I'm not sure of the concentration though. My experience then was that a few drops in a small blend (maybe 15-20ml) had a profound effect on the perfume but crucially this didn't take place until quite a few months had passed. Eventually the perfume took on a smoothness of integration and a roundedness I had never achieved otherwise. This is very difficult to qualify or quantify though.
    When smelled on its own I found it was one of those substances that could be almost undetectable at first but when I tuned my perception in, it became quite strong.
    I think that's a great description of what ambergris is like - in fact I'd say much the same about using pure ambroxan - what you describe is what perfumers mean when they talk about one ingredient 'exalting' others: ambergris is one of the best exalting fixatives available.

    Remember that natural ambergris works mainly because of the ambroxan [AKA (-)-ambroxide] that it contains and note that that isn't the same as DL Ambrox (a mix of isomers). What you get with the natural product that you don't get with pure ambroxan is the other things that are in it - the ambrein that it is mainly composed of, traces from its long journey on the sea and beaches, traces of fecal / animal notes from its origin and so on. You also get some of the other ambrien breakdown products, some of which are also thought to have fixative and exalting effects.

    I routinely use a synthetic ambergris (there are several alternatives and blends on the market besides the hugely expensive pure ambroxan and I have several of them). However for special work I like to use the real thing, and for that I buy the best quality ambergris I can (from New Zealand - it's difficult to buy from many places because it's technically illegal to trade in it in the US and Australia for example) and make my own tincture from it.

    I make the tincture in essentially the same way as Poucher describes in Perfumes, Cosmetics and Soaps - mine is the 6/7th edition from 1959. In fact I have a litre of tincture on the stirrer at the moment, which has been there since mid-August. Tincture made from each piece will be different - even more so than with most natural materials - one reason I don't use it in my commercial offerings.
    A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.”
    ― Dave Barry

    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .

    www.perfumedesigner.co.uk
    Twitter: @PellWallPerfume

    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.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Ambergris

    I have tried Profumo's tincture of ambergris, too, as part of a sampling group. I thought it was wonderful. I accidentally spilled some on my pants leg, and my dog became very excited by it. She couldn't stop sniffing my leg and wagging her tail. It must have smelled like lovely dead things on a beach (doggy heaven!) to her sensitive dog nose, but to me it was just ever so faintly briney and sweet and induced such a feeling of pleasure. I enjoy sampling Profumo's potions.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Chris, what is the difference in scent profile between pure ambroxan and mixed isomer ambroxan? Is the pure one just stronger, or do the other isomers smell different?

  11. #11

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Quote Originally Posted by ariodant View Post
    Chris, what is the difference in scent profile between pure ambroxan and mixed isomer ambroxan? Is the pure one just stronger, or do the other isomers smell different?
    A very good question. I'm growing gradually more in favour of doing competitive evaluations of one product against another and I'd not previously pitched these two against on-another directly so your post prompted me to do so.

    The first thing you will notice if you compare the two materials in their pure form is that Ambrox is a colourless, clear liquid, highly mobile and easy to use at room temperature. Ambroxan is a white crystaline solid at room temperature.

    Both dissolve readily in ethanol and both have the characteristic ambergris scent that defies useful description (use the links above to read the standard industry text [under Organoleptics] on what the scent smells like but for me those are just nuances on the smell of ambergris).

    To do a comparison I've prepared 10% solutions of each in ethanol and dipped labelled smelling strips, to the same depth, in each. Immediately after dipping the Ambroxan seems marginally stronger, the Ambrox distinctly woodier - almost cedary. Without a direct comparison you'd struggle to tell them apart. After 20 minutes or so the difference is more marked, both still smell surprisingly faint though - you find yourself wondering why writers so often talk about how powerful these materials are.

    After two, three and four hours though, it starts to become clear what those writers mean: the scent is if anything clearer and it does not seem to diminish perceptibly between checks at all - after 6 and 12 hours there is still no change.

    24 hours after dipping both have become noticeably softer in odour, more mellow. You can still detect a slightly woody nuance to the Ambrox that is absent from the Ambroxan but it's very subtle now. The odour intensity has hardly changed at all.

    The woody-cedar note is still there in the Ambrox more strongly than the Ambroxan which smells slightly cleaner.

    Finally I just want to give you the price comparison between these products - Vigon stock both and publish their prices on the net - here are the prices:

    Ambroxan (they stock it as Ambrofix) $990 / Kg
    Ambrox DL $920 / Kg

    The comparison is slightly complicated by the fact that Ambrox DL is at a purity level of 86% while Givaudan don't quote a purity level for Ambrofix - I suspect from the price that it isn't all that high, but can't be sure as I've not bought their product.

    The Ambroxan I used in my test came from SAFC and is at least 99% pure, but also costs rather more - unfortunately SAFC don't stock a mixed isomer version so I can't do a price comparison there.
    Last edited by Chris Bartlett; 24th September 2012 at 11:35 AM. Reason: Updated to reflect the test after ~24 hours
    A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.”
    ― Dave Barry

    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .

    www.perfumedesigner.co.uk
    Twitter: @PellWallPerfume

    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.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Ambergris

    I have a small sample of ambergris tincture from Profumo. I love the smell. The stuff I have is quite dilute but I can really smell it. To me, it smells like the coat of an old uncle from the 1950s. I don't know why. Maybe this old uncle of mine wore something back then that had a fair bit of true ambergris in it.

    I also have a lump of white ambergris (~3gm) from Matt Turner in New Zealand. It smells absolutely divine. Fresh, ozonic, clean, and even has that creamy smell of very young babies. I cut off one gram and ground it up to tincture in Ethanol, where it has been sitting for exactly four months. I do not stir it much. Regrettably, this tincture does not smell very much at all on a test strip, nothing at all like the little chunk that it came from. The beautiful fresh clean sea smell is there ever so slightly. I think it's slowly improving over the months, though. I should probably warm it, and stir it more.

    Very curious stuff, ambergris. Have not used it very much in mixes, yet.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Thanks Chris! Very informative! I guess I need to get some of both to experience myself...

  14. #14

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Quote Originally Posted by ariodant View Post
    Thanks Chris! Very informative! I guess I need to get some of both to experience myself...
    No problem. I've just updated the post to reflect the status up to 24 hours.
    A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.”
    ― Dave Barry

    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .

    www.perfumedesigner.co.uk
    Twitter: @PellWallPerfume

    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.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Bartlett View Post
    The first thing you will notice if you compare the two materials in their pure form is that Ambrox is a colourless, clear liquid, highly mobile and easy to use at room temperature. Ambroxan is a white crystaline solid at room temperature.

    Both dissolve readily in ethanol and both have the characteristic ambergris scent that defies useful description (use the links above to read the standard industry text [under Organoleptics] on what the scent smells like but for me those are just nuances on the smell of ambergris).

    To do a comparison I've prepared 10% solutions of each in ethanol and dipped labelled smelling strips, to the same depth, in each. Immediately after dipping the Ambroxan seems marginally stronger, the Ambrox distinctly woodier - almost cedary. Without a direct comparison you'd struggle to tell them apart. After 20 minutes or so the difference is more marked, both still smell surprisingly faint though - you find yourself wondering why writers so often talk about how powerful these materials are.

    After two, three and four hours though, it starts to become clear what those writers mean: the scent is if anything clearer and it does not seem to diminish perceptibly between checks at all - after 6 and 12 hours there is still no change.

    24 hours after dipping both have become noticeably softer in odour, more mellow. You can still detect a slightly woody nuance to the Ambrox that is absent from the Ambroxan but it's very subtle now. The odour intensity has hardly changed at all.

    The woody-cedar note is still there in the Ambrox more strongly than the Ambroxan which smells slightly cleaner.

    Finally I just want to give you the price comparison between these products - Vigon stock both and publish their prices on the net - here are the prices:

    Ambroxan (they stock it as Ambrofix) $990 / Kg
    Ambrox DL $920 / Kg

    The comparison is slightly complicated by the fact that Ambrox DL is at a purity level of 86% while Givaudan don't quote a purity level for Ambrofix - I suspect from the price that it isn't all that high, but can't be sure as I've not bought their product.

    The Ambroxan I used in my test* came from SAFC and is at least 99% pure, but also costs rather more - unfortunately SAFC don't stock a mixed isomer version so I can't do a price comparison there.
    I'm updating this comparison, because I've recently obtained a sample of Ambrofix and I'm now doing a comparison between that and the same Ambroxan I used in the above comparison.

    * I also want to correct an error - the solution I was comparing was of original Ambroxan, from a company called KAO and not the -(-)Ambroxide from SAFC that I said it was. I discovered when I went back to check that the container from SAFC was still sealed and I had had a senior moment and forgotten my existing dilution was Ambroxan.

    I plan to do a further evaluation comparison with the -(-)Ambroxide but for now, here's how Ambrofix fared against Ambroxan:

    As solids, the Ambrofix has a stronger smell though the two are very similar.

    On dilution, sniffing the bottle shows no noticeable difference (again they are both 10% solutions).

    On a strip, immediately after dipping there is still no real difference. Within 2 minutes though I can detect a distinctly stronger, more diffusive effect from the Ambrofix. 30 minutes later the difference is more marked, with the Ambrofix showing a slightly stronger smell, with a distinctly fresh, almost ozonic quality that is less apparent in the Ambroxan. Both smell very clean and with little of the cedarwood effect I got from the Ambrox DL in the earlier test. The differences are still very subtle - I'm not sure, if you gave me an unlabelled strip with one of them on it and asked me which, whether I'd be able to tell you.

    After 2 hours both materials are strongly detectable on the strip, both fresh, clean and very pleasant with little to choose between them.

    12 hours after dipping and both smell identical - try as I might I can detect no difference - both still have an almost identical odour intensity as they had yesterday too.

    Now at 24 hours I can detect slight differences again: the Ambrofix has a slightly fresher scent and the Ambroxan is perhaps a fraction stronger now. I emphasise though that these are tiny differences.

    Final update: after a week, the two are still just as strong on the smelling strips as they were the day after they were dipped and I'm unable to detect any significant difference between them.

    Overal this was a surprising result: I expected these two materials to be exactly the same as each-other and the fact that they are not rather invalidates the price comparison with which I finished my earlier post.
    Last edited by Chris Bartlett; 5th November 2012 at 04:51 PM. Reason: Added 12 & 24 hour descriptions
    A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.”
    ― Dave Barry

    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .

    www.perfumedesigner.co.uk
    Twitter: @PellWallPerfume

    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.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Final update now done showing that both materials are still going strong.
    A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.”
    ― Dave Barry

    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .

    www.perfumedesigner.co.uk
    Twitter: @PellWallPerfume

    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.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Great posts, Chris. I also have to update to say that I found out my anosmia to grisalva was indeed nose fatigue. The mere action of handling the bottle to make a dilution saturated my nose. For weeks afterwards, I could smell a pleasant, sweet and marine odor for the first 10min upon walking into that room. I must have spilled a tiny bit somewhere. This molecule is the first case of instant nose fatigue I have ever experienced, a testament to its enormous strength. It also has the ethereal, diffusive quality that people claim real ambergris has. Now I'm curious about its effects on blends if I add 0.1%...

  18. #18

    Default Re: Ambergris

    I have made my own ambergris tinctures and now have them aging in the sunlight. They don't have much of an odor--isopropyl alcohol, mainly--but as they mature, I get the smell of dirty hair. The stuff is incredibly tenacious (I took a shower and it was still clinging to my skin) but I'm at a loss as to what to do with it. The suggestion that it takes time for its effect to register is a helpful one. I'll try making some blends with and without. It no doubt is a good fixative but I can't imagine using it in sufficient quantities for it to have a fixative effect.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Ambergris

    I too have oodles and I love it. The older it gets, the better it gets. Some of mine are nearly three years old now. You don't need huge quantities, just some. I have all different colours of it and they all have different nuances like different oudhs.
    Currently wearing: Beautiful by Estée Lauder

  20. #20

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Speaking of Grisalva... I used to have some of that, and I was actually able to smell it at 100%, I think. But I may have had to put it on a strip and let it evaporate for a while to smell it. For a long time I couldn't smell ambroxan at all at 100%, but now I can if I hold the bottle a distance from my nose and just let it waft a little. And I tried diluting ambroxan and there was, obviously, a huge difference. When I diluted it in alcohol and then put it on my skin, I could definitely smell it much better. (I immediately thought of Light Blue by Dolce and Gabbana, even though I know that some type of ambroxy chemical is in zillions of mens fragrances.)

    Is anyone familiar with Fixateur 505? Is it the same thing as ambroxan or is it a blend/base?

  21. #21
    gido's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ambergris

    fixateur 505 is a composition. it replaces fixateur 404, a classic ambergris base.
    Last edited by gido; 29th November 2012 at 11:15 AM.

  22. #22

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Quote Originally Posted by gido View Post
    fixateur 505 is a composition. it replaces fixateur 404, a classic ambergris base.
    Indeed it is, but it is also radically different from ambroxan / ambrofix / ambrox in smell - more similar to labdanum or ambrarome in my view - dense and animalic. What this demonstrates is the huge variability in the natural product, with the result that accurate imitations can be made that don't resemble one-another at all.
    A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.”
    ― Dave Barry

    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .

    www.perfumedesigner.co.uk
    Twitter: @PellWallPerfume

    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.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Chris, your blog is extremely helpful. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience. I took the liberty of posting it at several forums.

    My perfuming skills are well below apprentice level.

    My experience of Ambroxan is not dissimilar, for what it's worth. 10% dilution. Initially, nothing. Then pleasant. Cedar, mild, tenacious but not offensively so, as compared to Galaxolide. Ambrettolide with Ambroxan, nicer still. Depends, the base you want to create.

    Ambergris, is another experience entirely. 0.2 ml in 8 g of concrete exalts all components while harmonizing the edges. 1.42% dilution.

    I break all the rules as I create for personal use.
    I don't compose the scent based on top, middle, base, but more like: mezzo soprano, soprano, tenor , alto and baritone. And, the oil perfumes, get Plum oil as the carrier. Adds warmth and vanilla, gentle tenacity that jojoba utterly lacks.

  24. #24

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Dear DragonN: What dilution did you have for the ambergris? Did you make the tincture yourself? I have a fair amount of ambergris but am really unsure as to how to use it. It doesn't smell like much--the tinctures are about 8 months old--but it sounds from what I read that it's an excellent exaltant and fixative. My tinctures tend to be quite concentrated--saturated solutions really--and are about 25% ambergris by weight.

  25. #25

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Hello James,
    A tiny piece (0.5g) went into an Erlenmeyer and EtOH 95% on top. Crushed it a bit in the alcohol but within 6 hours it had broken apart and is quite a dark greenish brown mix. 1.42% it's very young. I need to wait much longer before I know what it will be. However, I couldn't resist adding it to my current Deep Forest Base #1...and that was successful to my nose.

    The piece I have is very Animal, almost fecal, but what it does to a blend. Olfactory symphony. I have others that I have yet to tincture. Quite different. Ambergris is the Moonlight Sonata to Ambroxan's attempt to play it with only one key.

    25% Ambergris by weight? That would be a mud!

    I am not a perfumer James, I dabble in it as it is a great deal of fun creating signature scents. As long as I don't knock people over= success. However, the same perfume, with a touch of Ambergris, is the one that got the instant comments. Positive. The interesting thing, men comment on it, women not.

  26. #26
    Super Member racuda's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ambergris

    I can't stand it any longer. I love the Moonlight Sonata. Where can I buy a little piece?

  27. #27

    Default Re: Ambergris

    My poor description made sense? Moonlight Sonata the only thing I can still play from memory. Love it. That's the only way I can describe Ambergris. The synthetics are pleasant, but lack soul.

    Opium YSL, in days of old, the parfum, may have contained ambergris, I'm not sure. But every Base blend I have attempted falls flat. Ambergris. Problem solved.
    http://www.ambergris.co.nz/buy.htm

    They are lovely to deal with and very helpful. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.

  28. #28
    Super Member racuda's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ambergris

    Thank you. I sent them an inquiry.

    Yes, your music description makes perfect sense. I'm finding that perfumery is full of analogies.

  29. #29

    Default Re: Ambergris

    Hi Chris, and everyone,

    I'm not new to Basenotes but this is my first post. I'm learning a lot from everyone and am really grateful that that forum like this exists for those wishing to learn the craft.

    My question Chirs, I know the site you're talking about for ambergris from NZ, there smallest piece is 4gr. You said you're tincturing some in 1ltr. Is that 4gr or more? How much Ambergris are you using for that tincture? I ask because I'm really interested in tincturing, having some great results with my first trials and am very keen to try my hand at tincturing a piece myself even though I did purchase 12ml from Profumo.

    Could you expand?

    Thanks a bunch,
    Benessere

  30. #30

    Default Re: Ambergris

    I've had a lot of luck making my own tinctures and infusions. Of course if the alcohol is hot, the process will go faster (be careful around flames) but you'll also dissolve the various waxes the ambergris contains. Whether these waxes are a good thing, I don't know. By weighing the residue after the infusion process, I'm able to calculate the concentration of ambergris. (I weigh the dregs by weighing an empty test tube and comparing them.) I put in enough alcohol to make a 10% solution or so and then, if necessary, reduce it to the concentration I want. I keep them quite concentrated--almost saturated--about about 30% although someone on basenotes said this was a recipe for mud. My question, of course, is does it stay muddy when mixed in a perfume by which it becomes much diluted. One last thing. I've lost precious infusion by having the test tube "bump." So be careful not to let your solution actually boil. Best of luck.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Dear DragonN,
    How do you use the ambergris? Do you have a certain concentrate of tincture and then use it in a standard dilution? I'd love to hear more as I have a bunch of tincture (homemade) but don't know what to do with it.

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