AMBER AND AMBERGRIS
INTRODUCTION TO A MITH
Tincture of Ambergris
The warm and living light that
shines from the perfumer's tincture of Ambergris
makes the bottle look as if ignited by a colored
light comparable only to those produced by the most
beautiful fossil ambers or by our best Italian
The vegetal fossil Amber that is
polished for being used in jewellery and the purified
Ambergris of the Spermwhale used by the perfumer
are two very different substances but they share the
same name, the same light and the same destiny under
many aspects; for instance both are found on the
beaches, they are both lighter than sea water, and
both of them, before human work transforms them,
look without value unattractive and rough.
Both ambers are among the most ancient substances
that man traded between Europe and China. Both belong to all the
ancient pharmacopoeia and both were eaten and burnt as incense.
I had a big surprise burning the Ambergris when I felt it's
typical fragrance unchanged from the heat of coals despite its
animal origin. This explains somehow the large degree of confusion
to which is confronted the researcher in the literature about Amber, and the investigator can easily
be disoriented because informations about Amber are hidden
more than revealed in the ancient books, rather like a
secret of alchemy.
is produced by the Sperm whale and
is present in of all the ancient pharmacopoeias. Ambergris has a very typical
scent, animally but of great sweetness that seduces particularly
feminine noses, who instinctively recognize the odour
that will attract males. In fact, Ambergris, like all aromatic
substances of animal origin, is a pheromone and acts directly
on the hormonal system through the sense of smell, without physical
Click image to enlarge
The Spermwhale that produces Ambergris is so called for the large amount of fine and valuable oil that is found behind its head. It is a marine mammal of the whales family that feeds of fish and squids, and a hunter who dives to extreme depths (3000 m according to some) where live the mysterious giant squids that Sperm whale caches with its frightening teeth. This animal was an enormous source of raw materials before the advent of chemical industry at the beginning of the century (oil, meat, fat, bones etc...) but was not hunted for the Ambergris, because that substance that grows like a football in its stomach is naturally regurgitated by the animal and floats on the oceanic streems to reach the beaches of Mauritania, Somalia and India where it is found.
Few are the animals that produce concentrated aromatic substances. A special organ is necessary to their synthesis. It is the case of the skunk but also of the mythical Muskdeer, of the zibet, of the beaver and of few others. In all cases the aromatic substances produced are pheromones. These have the function of olfactory communication in rapports with the opposite sex and with rivals of the specie.
In the reproduction process the olfactory message offers to the partner the very "fragrance" of the animal's genetic patrimony and stimulates its endocrine system inviting it to mating. In some species the smell is so important that the fecundation does not occur in the absence of a determinate odor produced by the male during mating. Therefore it is probable that the Ambergris floating on the oceanic currents bring to other members of the species important information about the state of health of the individual, its age, its diet and its identity.
In the past Ambergris was eaten and burnt like incense and strangely, being of origin animal, Ambergris burns making a pleasant smell. Through inhalation, the body absorbs the aromatic molecule of Ambergris carried by the smoke, and they penetrate in the blood circuit reaching all the organs. In fumigations as well as by ingestion, the medical effect of these Ambergris pheromones is comparable to a modern estrogen cure.
Fumigation with ambergris
Ambergris is still sold in the city of Mecca. I have seen many Iranians asking for it to perfume sellers. Men eat Ambergris to stimulate their sexual power and women to cure infertility. The famous chronist Ibn battuta, known as "the Traveler of Islam" narrates in his diaries to have observed with astonishment in a city of Persia that people ate hashish and Ambergris without sense of guilt , alluding possibly to a narcotic effect of Ambergris.
In Morocco it is tradition to use Ambergris with tea and it is amazing to observe how a very small piece of Ambergris sticked inside the teapot's cover flavors the tea by mere contact with the vapor for years along.
The Sperm whale strangely it is not on the way towards extinction, but the natural rarity of Ambergris and its precious properties have rendered it mythical just like Musk. Because of its very high price, Ambergris is nearly not used anymore in perfumery where it has been replaced by the synthetic pityful imitations.
We do care to the safeguard of the planet and all the forms of life that it shelters. Ambergris is the only scent of animal origin obtained without killing, imprisoning or torturing the animal that produces it.
Ambergris is a substance that the wild sperm whale regurgitates naturally. When it is fresh it has nearly no value because its smell is extremely faecal and it has no value for perfumery.
Ambergris must mature floating sometimes for tens of years on the sea. The sun and the water of the oceans "wash" it until it assumes the sweet and inimitable scent of sea and leather that fascinated man since his origin.
We remind that the Ambergris we use is certified “flotte”, that is “from floating”. This guarantees the safety of the sperm whale.
We remind also that there is no international restrictions on the import and export of Ambergris except for New Zealand. The CITES has listed spermwhale (Physeter Catodon) in the appendix number one (most protected) but has not listed Ambergris as "product from" and has not imposed any restriction on its trade nor obligation of accompanying documentation.
La Via del Profumo
Luca Turin on our Ambergris
Tincturing fossil amber
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For in-depth research on Ambergris see Internet documents
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