What is Amber in Perfume

16 November 2019

A blend of ingredients that gives us that warm and fuzzy feeling. We share why we love it so much and the top three ambery ingredients.

What is Amber and where does it come from?

When it comes to primal instinct, the smell of Amber triggers something comforting in all of us. Would you like to wear a fragrance that contains ‘tiger’s soul’ or ‘tears of the sun’ ? It’s a yes from us!

Contrary to popular belief, amber is a ‘fantasy’ perfumery note. Amber is a blend of ingredients that describes a warm, powdery, sweet scent. It consists of a soiree of ingredients (natural and synthetic) such as vanilla, patchouli, labdanum, styrax, benzoin and a few more. It is used to create oriental fragrances that convey a rich, spicy and powdery feel.

Contrary to popular belief, amber is a ‘fantasy’ perfumery note. It consists of a soiree of ingredients (natural and synthetic) such as vanilla, patchouli, labdanum, styrax, benzoin and a few more.

Natural by Nature

True natural Amber takes millions of years to form. That’s a long time! It’s not sap from any old tree but rather soft and sticky fossilised tree resin, you know the stuff that you see insects kept in! It has a stunning fiery yellow, red or orange colour that draws you in, in the most mesmerising way. The resin has very little scent unless burned when it then gives off a pine-like aroma.

The term ‘Amber’ comes from the arabic ‘Ambar’ or french ‘Ambre’ relating to Ambergris, a waxy substance found in the intestines of the sperm whale! We no longer use ambergris in perfumery for obvious reasons, but it has inspired a very special synthetic ingredient ‘Ambroxan’ which we’ll talk about a bit later on…

If you’re looking for a more accepted and natural amber, labdanum absolute is a plant based resin that carries ambery notes and is more commonly used in perfumery.

Benzoin resin is another ingredient that recreates an amber aroma with yummy smokey balsamic notes.

Ambergris

Synthetic by Scientists

We say it a lot, but synthetic ingredients is a must in the perfumer’s organ! They give variety to what can be a one dimensional scent and inspire greater creativity within perfumery.

Ambroxan (as we mentioned earlier) is a synthetic amber that is very common and extremely popular. It’s a wonder molecule that is loved by all! In fact, it’s so good you could wear it on its own.

Ambroxan is a synthetic ingredient that comes in powder form

Three Ambery Ingredients to create a Rich, Warm and Oriental Fragrance

1. AMBROXAN

Ambroxan is an ingredient with natural origins. It’s naturally found within ambergris extracts. After the whale ‘releases’ the ambergris, it spends many years floating in the salty sea under the sun. Only then does it harden and develop it’s sweet mineral smell. Now, because we don’t use animal products in perfumery, very clever people have created a synthetic superstar to replicate this scent.

The crystal powder of Ambroxan is synthetised from ‘Sclareol’, a molecule naturally extracted from the essence of clary sage. Ambroxan is a fascinating molecule that has warm woody, leather and spicy facets. It leaves a lasting sweet, creamy, musky impression and is known as the “modern ambegris” thanks to its animalic and sexy yet very subtle scent.

2. LABDANUM ABSOLUTE

You’ve heard of the term hair of the dog, but what about hair of the goat?! Many years ago, Labdanum used to be extracted from goat hair! Of course we don’t do this any more, but instead look to the plant that goats ate from.

Labdanum is the gum produced from the Cistus Ladaniferus plant that grow in Mediterranean countries. Before it can be used in a perfume, the solid resin needs to be heated so it can become soft and sticky before being used in fragrances. Labdanum’s scent has a heavier, balsamic, caramelised (slightly burnt effect), syrupy scent with a slight aromatic accent.

Its essential oil counterpart extracted from the same tree is Cistus Oil, a yellow liquid with a fresher, aromatic note than the absolute.

Labdanum absolute is a sticky brown resin obtained from the Cistus ladanifer and Cistus creticus shrubs, or rockrose.

3. BENZOIN

With hints of vanilla, benzoin (or styrax benzoin) is another plant resin from the bark of a tree called Styrax. Traditionally it is used in incense but has become more popular as a base ingredient in perfumery.

The Benzoin Resinoid used in perfumery comes as small rock crystal that needs to be heated and diluted in a solvent before using in a formula.  Benzoin has a strong, sweet smell, similar to vanilla with more balsamic, spicy, animalic ever so slightly burnt note.

It’s a brilliant ingredient for slowing down the release of other aromas, meaning it really helps your fragrance last longer! If you like whisky, you might like benzoin (not to drink but to sniff!) thanks to its smokey facet.

Benzoin is a resin expelled from the tree when the bark is deliberately damaged.

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