precious oils


This concept of “precious” oils has me questioning how we value some raw materials over others.

It got me thinking, why is Oud or Ambergris considered more “precious” than Lavender essential oil, a material that is so very versatile in its application? Or Lavandin or Clary Sage Absolute or any of the other hundreds of perfume ingredients at our disposal that don’t come with the same price tag, mystique or cachet as Ambergris or Oud (Agarwood) oil.

Is it the availability, or lack thereof?  The length of time it has been deteriorating? What then?

Shouldn’t a material’s preciousness be based on its usefulness, its multi-functionality, its ability to transport you to places and moments of the past and future?  If these are what make a perfume raw material “precious” then ALL essential oils, concretes, and absolutes are precious and what it ultimately comes down to then is the artful skill of the perfumer and how he or she uses the materials.

It’s easy for a string of pearls or diamonds to make one appear more beautiful, much harder though for the wearer to be exalted by a string of Tourmaline or Onyx; here for the beauty to come forth what’s needed is greater interaction between the wearer’s charisma and the stone.

The same can be said for perfume materials and the perfumer’s ability to transform humble raw materials into distinguished, fragrant works of art.

Today, whatever you’re working on, make it great!


aromatic profile of two ambergris


It’s a rainy day out today and it’s cloaking the study in a wonderful shroud that is so conducive to creativity, at least for me — I love the rain.  I sit here with my tea happily cuddled by the gloomy, overcast skies.

Yesterday I did a comparison of the two Ambergris that I have: White Ambergris from New Zealand that I bought a piece of and have been tincturing since December 2013, and The profiles were very surprising to my nose, totally not what I expected at all.

Ambergris from AbdesSalaam ( — 1% tincture strength

9:30am it opens light and luminous with a hint of the old; it’s impactful, and it seems to just keep coming forward, literally moving. 9:45am now it’s more moth-bally, old room, animalic, sort of bad breath, but so intriguing. 10:00am and it smells of antiques, aged character, the ocean and still very animalic.  10:15am and now the animalic quality is the foremost impression, very pronounced, but it now has a shimmering, smooth, golden quality about it.  10:30am warm is what hits me first, closed attic, animalic and poetic and raw, yes, in that order to my nose.  11:30am it’s still very present, warm, seashore, languid as if this note wants to say that it’s in no hurry. Wow, can a odour do that?! 12:15pm and it is still going strong, but now drier, more extensive, further reaching rather than deep like it was in the beginning, and still very warm. 4:30pm now we’re at the seven hour mark and it’s more of an impression than a real presence, bad breath, but even this impression is almost gone, faintly sweet note now, and faintly animalic.  24 hours later and there is a vague animalic impression, still a whiff of bad breath and then the whole thing collapses and disappears.

Volatility: mid

Ambergris from New Zealand ( — 0.44% tincture strength (edited on October 31, 2014)

9:30am and my eight-month-old ambergris tincture opens wet and animalic, moth-balls, old, aquatic, marine, giving me an impression of deepness, profound depths, fathomlessness.  9:45am and it’s already very faint, like a sigh! But there is still that animalic aspect to it that is barely discernible.  10:00am soft, mellow, and warm. 10:15am faintly animalic, still nuances of the sea but more in hints and suggestions though, the temperature is luke-warm. 10:30am it’s bare, white, clean, and still warm. 10:30am an hour later and my nose can’t detect a thing, nada!  Just the merest trace and only if I slow down my breathing and close my eyes.  I can’t believe it, I’m stunned. Where did it go?!  12:30pm and there is a hit of smokiness!  And then it’s gone again.  4:30pm, seven hours later and it’s completely gone, no trace at all.  I feel like weeping!  24hrs later and it’s a very pale sweetness (could it be my imagination?) and nothing else.

Volatility: high

I really believed that my 4.4% tincture would have made more of an olfactive splash (pardon the pun) than the 1% tincture from AbdesSalaam, but then I have no way of knowing for how long his has been aging. Thankfully I found this on a forum for Oud enthusiasts while doing some online research:

“…the scent doesn’t even project or last very long by itself, but when I mix it with oud or some of my own natural perfumes, it will take the other scent into the fourth dimension.  First of all the scent will open up much more quickly and each note will become perfectly clear in perfect harmony…secondly, this open state will last for a really long time…”

This seems to suggest that there are many layers to Ambergris, the obvious being the olfactive impression the nose receives and the brain registers; and could it be the other facet only reveals itself in combination with other notes which the perfumer can only discover through experimentation and that side remains hidden? This could be true because in my first formulas there are two that I added a couple drops of Ambergris to and they are completely different than the others, existing at an elevated level compared to the others.  I am in awe of Ambergris, I must say.

The photo was taken in Croatia, on the island of Krk, during a vacation in 2012, I was hoping to get lucky :).

Have a wonderful weekend!


It’s here, it finally came! From all the way around the world in New Zealand to our little village in the Alps. Ah! It’s Christmas already!

4.4 generous grams arrived in the mail and once I tore the padded envelope open I could smell the odour rise to caress my nostrils.  Honestly, that’s what it felt like.

When I opened the package I stood there holding them reverently, in awe that what I had in my hand was more costly than gold; that in the world of perfumery this ingredient is sublime and has cult status.

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In the close up shot you can see they very much resemble pumice stones, very porous and flaky.

I ordered the white variety, apparently it’s superior, with a mellow and fine odour, extremely subtle and seductive, with a very light fragrance.  What I get is a very dry, slightly fecal, animalic smell but compelling, addictive almost as I found myself leaning in for a sniff every few minutes.  It also has a delicate sweetness about it, even sort of “moth-bally”. But even with all that it is never off putting, I never found myself recoiling in disgust.

Anyhow, after taking my photos, I wrapped the pieces in a large piece of wax paper, folded it many times and began bashing it with a meat tenderiser.  I then emptied it into a bottle via a funnel and then covered it with 1 Lr of grain alcohol, labeled it and voilà! My very first ambergris tincture! The tincture photo displays the heavier pieces that have fallen to the bottom the lighter ones are floating around the alcohol in suspension.  Eventually, after much waiting, anywhere between 12-48 months, I’ll filter and store it.

Now I don’t have to buy from anyone else, I can use my own tincture and experiment to my heart’s content because a drop or two can be all you need.  I am however planning my next purchase: silver, grey and golden ambergris!