The Fascinating World of Ambergris in Perfume: Unearthing The Ocean's Treasure

Written by: Echoes Says



Time to read 6 min

"Like stardust washed upon the shore, ambergris is the sweet, earthy treasure of the sea - an elusive gift from the waves that has confounded and intoxicated explorers, perfumers, and dreamers for centuries. This peculiar solid of paradise lost appears along remote beaches in misshapen grey-white lumps, its origins a whale's digestive mysteries. Ambergris now draws seekers to wander coastal sands in search of its bewitching aroma. For those fortunate to uncover its waxy shine, ambergris promises unmatched fragrance riches - carrying the perfumes of enchanted memory across the tides of time."

Echoes Says

A rugged  shore line

The Fascinating World of Ambergris in Perfume

Floating amidst the vast expanse of the ocean, a rare and mysterious substance in the intestines of sperm whales. Known as ambergris, this peculiar material has a lengthy history of intriguing humanity. From its use in perfume to its legality being hotly debated, ambergris continues to fascinate us today.

What Is Ambergris?

Ambergris begins its life in the gut of sperm whales as a dense, compacted mass of indigestible squid beaks and other byproducts. It causes irritation and eventually is either vomited up or passed through the whale's system. Once expelled into the ocean, ambergris floats on the surface, where sunlight and saltwater transform the lump into a aromatic, waxy substance. Ambrein, a complex organic compound found in ambergris, is central to its enduring fragrant qualities.

The Mystery of Ambergris

The rarity and chance nature of finding ambergris adds to its mystery. Ambergris only forms in an estimated 1% of sperm whales, making it an extremely uncommon product. Ambergris' scent also evolves as it ages, a process not fully understood. Fresh ambergris has an unpleasant, fecal smell. After years of oxidation and exposure to the elements, it develops a rich, earthy scent. The complexity and changeability of ambergris has captivated people throughout history.

Ambergris in History

Use of ambergris dates back centuries, with references to its unique properties found in ancient texts. Once known as "floating gold," ambergris was highly valued for use in medicines, aphrodisiacs, spices, and ambergris perfumes. During the Black Plague years, people believed ambergris could protect against infection. Its scent made it a popular additive for perfumes, providing longevity and depth to fragrances. Some of history’s most coveted perfumes featured ambergris, also earning it the nickname “scented gold.”

Harvesting Ambergris

For those who pursue it, ambergris offers the lure of unexpected treasure. Ambergris is often found along shorelines and can be harvested from beaches. The search requires patience and a keen eye. Telltale white, black, or grey speckles in the sand may reveal the presence of ambergris. Ideal conditions include remote, sparsely visited beaches in regions like New Zealand, the Bay of Bengal, and the Caribbean. Once found, the legality of harvesting ambergris varies by region. In places like the United States, ambergris is subject to regulations about whale byproducts.

Ambergris Today: Uses and Controversies

The perfume industry continues to be the primary destination for ambergris. It is highly valued as a fixative, enabling perfumes to stay on skin for longer. Designer perfumes from Chanel, Lancôme, Yves Saint Laurent, and other luxury brands have used ambergris. However, controversy exists around the ethics of harvesting ambergris. Whale conservation efforts have questioned the morality of using whale byproducts. Synthetic alternatives to ambergris have been developed, but perfumers still debate whether true ambergris can be replicated.

Synthetic Alternatives to Ambergris

With the controversies surrounding ambergris, perfumers have searched for synthetic alternatives to replicate its unique scent and properties. A molecule called ambrox or ambroxan has become the dominant substitute used in perfumes today and is widely available under different trade names manufactured by numerous companies. First synthesised in the mid 20th century from clary sage and other botanical sources, ambrox provides a musky, ambergris-like odour and fixative performance without whale byproducts. It has enabled perfumers to continue capitalising on ambergris’ abilities, while moving away from animal-derived ingredients.

Legal Status of Ambergris

The legality of ambergris is complicated, varying across different geographies and claims about its status as a byproduct. In the U.S., possession of ambergris is illegal under the Endangered Species Act if it comes from a protected sperm whale. In other areas like the UK and New Zealand, ambergris is only lawful if found ashore instead of harvested directly from whales. The debate continues around the ownership and acceptability of collecting this rare ingredient.


Ambergris remains a cherished product from the natural world. Its rarity and mystique have made it a subject of fascination through the ages. The treasure pursued by perfumers and beachcombers invites us to look closer at the wonders of our oceans and value their gifts. Wherever it floats and washes ashore, ambergris represents the enduring magic of the sea. As we learn more about this curious substance, ambergris continues to remind us of the mysteries and treasures we have yet to uncover from the expansive oceans around us. Perhaps someday we may fully understand its perplexing qualities and role in the natural world. For now, the peculiar and enchanting ambergris beckons adventurers, perfumers, and dreamers to delve deeper into its secrets.

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This perfume oil showcases a single synthetic musk note for purity of experience from one key ingredient: Cetalox, which is a synthetic Ambergris scent.

Its velvety, skin-like woody floral musk blooms on you uniquely.

Fall into this minimalist mystique with this featherlight veil.

This crisp musky, woody perfume creates an intimate trail that reacts with your skin's chemistry.

Its transparency amplifies the sensuality of a clean musk on its own.

Bottle of  Echoes of Not a perfume

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Our twist on this is straight up addictive. This fragrance oil just nails that perfect balance of fresh and sensual. 

While it tips a hat to tradition, this perfume oil totally transcends eras and trends. There's a ruggedness to it that's so damn appealing.

One of the keys to its cracking aroma? The note of Ambroxan - the synthetic ingredient renowned for replicating the elusive scent of ambergris perfume. 

With its ambery undertones, Ambroxan adds depth and staying power.

Bottle of Echoes of Sauvage

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Notes of blackcurrant, lychee, mandarin, peony, jasmine, oak moss, vanilla and praline create a harmonious, comforting scent. 

The Ambroxan note adds depth and longevity to the arrangement. Uniquely unisex, this perfume encapsulates energy and creativity. 

Let its enticing aroma transport you to a place of artistic expression.

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Including notes similar to those found in One Million, this men's fragrance oil captures captivating charm in a spicy leather accord.

Sweet mandarin and refreshing peppermint open the scent. 

The Ambroxan note, known for its ambery richness reminiscent of ambergris adds depth and staying power. 

Combined with white woods, blonde leather and patchouli, Ambroxan creates an irresistible sensuality.

Bottle of Echoes of Sauvage

Walk the Streets of NYC with Echoes of Lafayette Street

Take a walk on vibrant streets with this woody aromatic fragrance.

The opening electrifies with bergamot, cardamom and violet leaf. Floral tones of orris and geranium soon combine with earthy vetiver and smokey leather accords.

A key ingredient note? Ambroxan, the synthetic replacement for prized ambergris. With its ambery character, ambroxan provides a sophisticated sensuality.

Wear this perfume oil to channel the energy of downtown. Unisex and boldly modern, it's crafted for urban explorers and pioneers.

Bottle of Echoes of Greenwich village

Experience Sweet Saffron Seduction with Echoes of Baccarat Rouge 540

This is likened to the celebrity of extravagant gourmands, blending saffron and jasmine with ambergris like notes. 


Its sublime candy floss sweetness has made it a contemporary hit. The sweet amber woods contrast decadently with whispers of floral nobility.


Treat yourself to sensory euphoria with this luxury fragrance jewel. 


This perfumes notes feature ambroxan, the synthetic alternative to prized ambergris known for its sensual ambery facets. Ambroxan lends a nostalgic depth and radiance.

Bottle of Echoes of Baccarat Rouge 540

“Like a message in a bottle that washes upon the shore, ambergris carries an air of mystery and enchantment. This peculiar treasure formed within the depths of whales entices us to delve deeper into its secrets. Though once rare and elusive, the wonders of ambergris now live on through devoted perfumers and scientific alternatives. Through Ambroxan, ambergris retains its sensual charm and connection to the sea. We need not harvest ambergris to experience its magic - simply an appreciation for the gifts nature provides. The ocean's greatest treasures cannot be contained - only felt, revered, and left to enchant once more.”