One of the most fascinating aspects of natural perfume are the animal essences. They are beautiful and mysterious. When dosed properly, they can add magic to a perfume. One of the most intriguing gems is Ambergris.
Ambergris is whale excrement and considering one of the most valuable and precious essences in natural perfume history. It is thought to come from squid beaks that lodge in the intestinal track, causing irritation and then expelled from the whale. After floating for a long time the substance gets more firm and is found in the ocean or on the shore. The lucky folks that discover ambergris are rewarded handsomely. Many a sailor dreamed of retiring after finding a chunk of "floating gold".
Today I am tincturing my ambergris through a very simple process. First I will grind the semi-soft stone then place it in a high proof perfume alcohol. It is warmed for a few hours in a double boiler, then left to steep for months.
What does it smell like? Every piece is a bit different, but to me the common aroma is a cross between amber, marine, and sweet powder.
My first whiff of ambergris was years ago when studying with Mandy Aftel, and it's intoxicated me ever since. To learn more about ambergris, I highly recommend Mandy's magnificent new book, Fragrant.