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Ambergris

Sunday, 20 December 2009

ambergrisThose who love perfume and prefer it for every day use, may find it exciting to read about the unique substance used by most perfumers to create their terrific fragrances. Ambergris is an organic animalic wax-like substance excreted by sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus). This substance has a superb, rich, and almost unbearable intensity before it finally mellows down. Before it lands onto your skin, the scent of ambergris coming from a phial evokes intriguingly enough the smell of spicy dusty old leather-bound books. Once heated by the warmth of the skin, the ambergris glows and becomes enfin, releasing a luminous effect that is very close to the visual sensation felt next to a fire burning in a fireplace.

Ambergris is widely used in perfume industry as the scent fixing agent. Also it is used in homeopathy to create medicinal homeopathic drugs. Ambergris is widely found on the earth, from the shore of Atlantic Ocean to the hot lands of Brazil and in Madagascar, onto the shores of the African continent, in India, China, and Japan and far Molucca Islands.

Ambergris is known from the time immemorial, though people possessed little information on its origin and thus, they made somehow weird and ridiculous assumptions. So, as one of the legends says, ambergris is neither more no less than the frozen saliva of dragon. The other version from unbelievable feature is that ambergris is the excrement of the magic bird Roc. There were people who proposed that ambergris is just the white wax, and this is likely the closest version. Yet, only in XIX century the scientists managed to find out the true origin of ambergris. And they found out that this substance originates in the stomach of whales and sperm whales.

Sperm whale hunting is not essential to get the ambergris. This substance origins in the stomach of these animals and excreted into the water in natural manner. Sometimes the ambergris is just dipping on the surface of water, sometimes it is merely thrown out onto the shore. As the scientists propose, ambergris is excreted in the organism of sperm whales not incidentally. It is needed to heal wounds made by squids into the stomach, and we know that squid is the basic food in the diet of these marine animals. Yet the scientists assume that jaws of squids irritate the mucous coat of stomach of sperm whales and the special secretion is then excreted.

Dark greyish viscid lumps come into the water out of the stomachs. These lumps are special with their sharp unpleasant scent that is too loathsome or even fecal. Ambergris undergoes a range of processes and metamorphoses before it is the component for expensive perfume. After the ambergris is picked up, it is soaked in salty water by the special technology. The salty water influences the scent of the ambergris, and hence it gets milder than as it is in nature. The experts highly evaluate the ambergris that has been in sea water for over hundred of years, that is in natural conditions. It gets white color and noble scent. This ambergris is acknowledged as the most expensive, where a kilo of this substance costs dozens of thousand Euros.

Ambergris comes as lumps of various weights, from several grams to kilograms. The biggest piece of the ambergris ever found is 122 kg. Ambergris is well diluted in spirit, in ether, aroma oils (both fatty and ether oils). Though, it is not diluted in water. It gets softer in hands, and it is flammable, creating viscid liquid that goes into the vapor later. In sea water ambergris changes it preliminary color getting lighter. After it is specially processed, the color of ambergris may come as black, grey, brown, golden or white. And white ambergris is the mostly evaluated one among others.

Ambergris is widely used in perfumery, though there is not single composition built on the base of amber, it is not used as it is. Ambergris is the perfect fixing agent of fragrances. Amber added into the perfume composition makes your perfume stable and strong throughout a day of wear. Fragrance persistence is one of the most important parameters. Yet, the elite perfume stands for its level of persistence against the cheaper perfume. The perfumers note that ambergris is not good as the fixing agent for all fragrances. It is especially good for spicy Oriental fragrances that help to create the feeling of warmth. Ambergris is not suitable in cases when fixing citrus or marine scents to create the fresh concepts; thus, other components are practiced to fix such scents.

Currently ambergris is used in perfume industry not as frequent as it is before. It is used just to create expensive perfume of reputed brands, which result in its final cost. In the meantime, perfumers learnt to manufacture the synthetic analogue of ambergris that replaced the natural one for long years. It may not happen if not the complicated development of ambergris, high price and on the top of it, it is not suitable for all fragrances.

A thousand nuances seem to assemble into a few recognizable facets smelling of dry herbs but also of peach, apricot, leather, dusty parchment, and baby powder before the fact, white rice flour, a tinge of almond, sweet fruits, skin, wine-y resin, sandalwood, manure, earth, sand, moss, iodine, hay, and cinnamon. It is a world opening up in and of itself, a tiny universe that has formed thanks to the sea, salt, sun, and marine animals.

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Frank Frenzel  - ambergris question   |2011-04-20 15:05:19
My grandmother wore a redish ambergris necklas since 1890. I still have it. I was told that early Europeans thought it prevented goiters...a thoat disorders. Can you shed some light on this or is it just a tale. It is in the form of faceted beads on a a string.
dbeierl  - dbeierl   |2011-12-19 04:59:48
That's amber, which is fossilized pitch from ancient pine (pine-like?) trees.
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