Anya McCoy founded the USA's first modern natural perfume line in 1991. Since then, she has nurtured and educated natural perfumers and hosts a discussion group for them. Anya is the Head Instructor at the Natural Perfumery Institute that she founded in 2007 to provide a professional course for perfumers. In 2006 she revived the Natural Perfumers Guild, a trade association. She is a recognized leader in the art and the 'go-to' person for anyone interested in natural perfume.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Ask the Perfumer Sunday Oct 21, 2012
Ask the Perfumer - and an Ambergris hypothesis
Guild member Lisa Coburn posted a link on Facebook that took me to a video on how cephalopods--squid, cuttlefish and octopus, are masters of disguise. As I watched it, I made a perfume connection, straight to the elusive, mysterious, rare and valued ambergris, a gorgeous material used in perfumery.
Photo of the famed 'Yeti' chunk of ambergris.
Ambergris is produced by the stomach/intestinal secretions of the sperm whale to protect its insides from the sharp beaks of the squid and cuttlefish, two main items in its diet. The whale evacuates the chunk of ambergris when it becomes large enough to be an irritant on its own, albeit a softer, rounder irritant compared to the beak and cartilage of the squid or cuttlefish. As a perfumer, I often have to gently remind excitable newbies ;-) that the scent of the ambergris is secondary to its major contribution to a perfume, which is its ability to 'marry' and allow the other aromatics in the perfume to coalesce into a beautiful 'one'. Well, 'one' isn't a common term used, unless you're thinking of a seamless perfume, one with no 'stepped' drydown.
After viewing the video, linked below, try to follow my line of thinking. Just an hypothesis, and one that makes sense on an intuitive level. The same 'blending in', 'camoflague', or 'marrying with the surroundings' attributes that we give to ambergris is already obvious when the squid or cuttlefish is alive. Perhaps there is something inherent in the DNA of these creatures that gets transferred to the ambergris, sharing the same properties?
Just a thought.
Any questions about ambergris? Do you think I may have hit on something? Oh, last week's winner of the eight-year-old ambergris tincture was Leann of Trinidad, Colorado, and it's on its way to her. I suppose I'll have to have another ambergris giveaway today, given the theme of the blog. Leave a question or comment and you'll be in the drawing for this mysterious, gorgeous substance!