Friday, May 14, 2010

Ambergris! That's the stuff they use to make perfume, isn't it?

I'm going to interrupt our story here for the benefit of any readers who don't know what Ambergris is.

from Wikipedia (the sum total of ALL human knowledge):

Ambergris (Ambra grisea, Ambre gris, ambergrease, or grey amber) is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull gray or blackish color produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated by sperm whales.

Freshly produced ambergris has a marine, fecal odor. However, as it ages, it acquires a sweet, earthy scent commonly likened to the fragrance of rubbing alcohol without the vaporous chemical astringency. The principal historical use of ambergris was as a fixative in perfumery, though it has now been largely displaced by synthetics.

Ambergris occurs as a biliary secretion of the intestines of the sperm whale, and can be found floating upon the sea, or in the sand near the coast. It is also sometimes found in the abdomens of whales. Because giant squids' beaks have been found embedded within lumps of ambergris, scientists have theorized that the whale's intestine produces the substance as a means of easing the passage of hard, sharp objects that the whale might have inadvertently eaten.

Ambergris is usually passed in the fecal matter. Ambergris that forms a mass too large to exit via the anus is expelled via the mouth, leading to the reputation of ambergris as primarily coming from whale vomit.[1]

Ambergris can be found in the Atlantic Ocean; on the coasts of Brazil and Madagascar; and on the coast of Africa, of the East Indies, The Maldives, China, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand and the Molucca islands. Most commercially collected ambergris comes from the Bahama Islands and Providence Island in the Caribbean.

Um... yuck?

Now, back to Diana and her treasure trove of stinky whale puke...


  1. If you want a great book on perfume, and who doesn't, get luca turin's 'perfume'. The descriptions are strangely phrased, very esoteric but evocative.

  2. Great research. Ambergris just seemed like a term that was made up.


    Steven G. Willis

  3. sharpyoungbull: Well, I'm interested in knowing something about nearly everything... still, not sure about a book about perfume.

    nyrdyv: I actually already knew what ambergris was, but I turned to Wikipedia to explain it :)