The Mysterious Ambergris

Several years ago, I came across an advertisement for “ambergris CO2 absolute.” Normally, I would turn the page since as far as I know, ambergris isn’t treated in this way. But this product, listed under “essential oils,” was expensive—very expensive, as in $10 a gram. 

I ordered a bottle and it didn’t smell at all like the ambergris I had experienced. It came as a thick, syrupy, oil. It was way funky such that at one point I thought it might be civet. I couldn’t figure out much use for it because it was so deeply fecal. 

I tinctured it, some at 10%, some at 3% in two jars set in front of the window. For months, it seemed to do nothing, but after about a year, I thought I noticed a slight decrease in the funk. As far as I was concerned, it was still useless, but I kept the tincture nonetheless. 

It took almost three years, but the funk has finally diminished to the point to which it lends a nice complexity, but is barely discernible. The stuff smells like my best ambergris tincture.

Interestingly, the 10% tincture didn’t change odor, so I re-tinctured it to 3%. 

One of the many peculiarities of ambergris, is that a 10% tincture is no more powerful than a 3% tincture.  

The fecal character makes me think that it comes from black ambergris, which is ambergris that hasn’t spent as much time on the sea as more-mature white ambergris. Lower-quality black ambergris may also be taken from a “harvested,” whale. What confuses me most is that it’s described as both C02-extracted and as an absolute. The two are completely different processes. 

When I called the company to inquire, I was rudely put off and abruptly told that it was a special process, but with no detail. 

I’ve only seen this substance available from this vendor. Mysterious.