Ambroxan Perfume Ingredient: What is It? What Does It Smell Like?

Ambroxan is a modern synthetic compound with a sweet, woody, and musky smell that lasts long on the skin. However, others find the aroma smooth and salty, like the aroma of the ocean. 

One of the fascinating parts of perfumery is building and blending different perfume scents to make something new. For many perfumers, the abstract quality of ambroxan makes it an essential base for perfumes, especially in crafting complex aromas. 

One reason why it became widely used in modern fragrances is because of the ubiquitous appeal of the aroma. In a perfume blend, it’s the aroma chemical that can give an overall punch. 

What is Ambroxan?

If you’re not a perfume aficionado, you probably have no idea what ambroxan is.

The aroma chemical is a compound with natural origins, initially found in ambergris or grey amber, a waxy, solid substance from the intestines of sperm whales. 

Once the whale releases the substance due to indigestion, it floats for years in the salty ocean until washed up on the beach. As it ages, it develops the signature sweet, and earthy aroma that perfumers love to include in their fabled perfumes. 

However, because of the origin and short supply, this compound became incredibly expensive and isn’t used in a commercial perfume anymore. Only luxury perfume producers use ambroxan derived from ambergris in their fragrances. 

Now, with the high price of the compound, some clever people synthesized it from the clary sage plant in 1950, mainly from its “Sclareol” molecule. The modern ambroxan is now often called the “synthetic ambergris” or “modern ambergris.”

What Does Ambroxan Smell Like?

It specifically sits within the base note of many perfume formulations and adds a woody, ambery, and musky aroma to a perfume.

Since this synthetic substitutes the expensive ambergris, it doesn’t have an aquatic character reminiscent of “whale vomit.” It smells like the ocean still, but in a mineral way, giving an impression of wet stones and salt.

The aroma is fascinating and multifaceted, with the subtle warmth of sweet-earth odor, and a long-lasting animalic impression. It also comes with leathery and spicy nuances, adding to its expansive odor profile. 

There’s also a tad of sweetness in there, but without hints of sugar or floral notes. Sexy and animalic marine, yet modest, sums up ambroxan’s aroma. 

It’s a fixative with an aroma that stays on paper blotters for up to 17 days, as well as preventing a perfume from evaporating. The modern ambergris acts as an olfactive magnifying glass, making top notes shine whilst extending fleeting ingredients and aroma chemicals of a perfume. 

The complexity of the aroma makes it a perfume on its own. But, ambroxan also carries excellent transformative properties to any perfume formulation. 

It exalts and marries other fragrant materials in a way that no other notes do. 

What Scent Family is Ambroxan?

The complexity of its aroma led it to go beyond the traditional fragrance family classification. It has facets that belong under families and subfamilies, including oriental/amber and wood.

The oriental fragrance family, also known as “amber,” stands out for its unique mix of warmth and sensuality with hints of exotic spice. The warm amber note is also a large class in perfume dominated by animalic, vanilla, tobacco, woodsy fragrances, and leather. 

But unlike amber that comes from plant resin, it originally comes from an animal source.

What are the Benefits of Ambroxan?

Although used as a perfume ingredient, for the most part, it has benefits beyond perfumery. In fact, in ancient times it wasn’t used for perfume, but rather a drug.

The substance is under stimulant and antispasmodic categories in the Indian Materia medica. They utilized it for treating fever, typhoid, general weakness, hysteria, epilepsy, and other nervous disorders.

It may also amplify aphrodisiac and hormonal activity. The substance has encouraging effects on sexual desire, testosterone rise, insulin, prolactin, and cortisol levels.

Is Ambroxan a Feminine or Masculine Scent?

It’s a popular base for both feminine and masculine perfumes. It’s widely used in modern perfumery, thanks to its abstract quality loved by almost everyone. 

The complexities function properly as a diffuser, adding depth to perfume formulations to create nuances and unisex appeal. 

It has enough eccentricity to be a unique perfume while also appealing to everyone’s senses. 

Best Perfumes with Ambroxan Notes

Here are three examples of how the “marine gold” substance works its magic in a perfume. 

1. Baccarat Rouge 540

The critical components of this graphic perfume from one the most extraordinary living perfumers, Francies Kurkdjian, are ethyl, maltol, and ambroxan. 

The fragrance profiles are polar opposite but blend well to create a luxuriously strong identity. 

2. Hermes Eau de Merveilles

This masterpiece perfume perfectly recreated the ambergris aroma without using the real thing. It gives a pyrotechnic display of pepper, elemi, and candied oranges. 

It’s a strong perfume from the brand, especially with its mineral facet. 

3. Escentric Molecule 02

This perfume is an example of a more traditional formulation than other perfume bottles.  

Escentric Molecule 02 has a unique concept of creating a perfume bottle that contains 13.5% of the substance, the maximum range before it becomes unusable. 

The perfume features a fantastic marine-like musk. 

The Bottom Line

The synthetic compound derived from sperm whale’s intestines is one of the most important active ingredients from the entire grey amber substance. 

It’s a fragrance unlike any other, standing as a perfume on its own or blended with other fragrance notes. 

It has an aroma profile that fits almost everyone’s senses, with its strong but not overpowering woody-amber, musky, and earthy facets, while its complexity is encased in a soft and neatly delicate animal tonality that sticks to the skin.