I guess ambergris just means gray amber, although it is not even really amber at all…but to some degree it is similar because it takes so many years for it to become useful to us humans. It is some kind of digestive waste product that comes from sperm whales, and from what I know of it, it smells a bit like poop. Who would have guessed that whales have played such an important roll in the history of perfume?
Why on earth would people want to smell even remotely like poop?! Why do people eat thousand-year-old eggs? Why do Italians eat cheese with live maggots? Why are such disgusting things considered to be delicacies? I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but what I CAN say is that ambergris is indeed an olfactory delicacy.
I am eager to continue exploring the note. So far I have enjoyed it immensely in Guerlain’s Encens Mythique d'Orient as well as Ambre Aurea by the Italian niche house Parfumum.
To me, ambergris smells like the breath of a whale. Maybe one that has not brushed its teeth :P It smells a little funky and poopy; a little bit like the taste of sea water–saline, translucent and sheer; and a bit sweet too. I don’t quite know what it is about the stuff that drives me and many other people into a frenzy, but one thing is for certain: you will not find this note in mainstream designer perfumery! As we discussed, this is an acquired taste, but I will say that it is by far my favorite animalic note in all of perfumery, after suede (which is actually a synthetic accord).
And who can resist that gorgeous bottle? Well if you don’t like Ambergris, Guerlain has bottled two other juices in the same bottle, so you might try your luck with one of the other perfumes in this series.