Perfume Notes by James Peterson
Most people are confused by mentions of amber since we associate it with the beautiful golden orbs used for jewelry. In most cases, so-called amber comes from other sources.
In fact, the word “amber” can mean three things. Most common is an accord between labdanum (sweet, earthy and balsamic), and vanilla. An accord is when two or more substances combine to create an aroma that is unlike each of its components. Amber of this type, while rarely used alone, gives a lovely balsamic sweetness to many creations.
Second, “amber,” sometimes spelled “ambra,” can mean ambergris. Ambra–or ambergris—is excreted by whales (no one’s sure from which end) and ends up, looking like rocks, on beaches after years in the ocean. It is tinctured in alcohol and allowed to rest in the sunlight for several months before it can be used. It works as a fixative (an ingredient that causes the perfume to last longer) and an exultant (an ingredient that helps the perfume radiate) in very small amounts in the very finest creations.
Last, “amber” can mean fossilized amber. Fossilized amber is the kind of amber we’ve all seen as jewelry. Amber chips and dust residue from making jewelry is distilled to produce a distinctive thick liquid—almost a semi-solid–with a powerful aroma of woods (with somewhat burnt tones) and resins. This is the kind of amber used for this perfume. It’s very unusual to find this substance in perfume, much less as its main theme.
Because fossilized amber is very strong, it’s combined with other aromatic compounds, primarily vanilla absolute, to soften its effect. The resulting perfume, while not to everyone’s taste, often acts as a powerful aphrodisiac, probably because it contains pheromone-like substances.
I witnessed this effect when I brought along a sample one afternoon when I was meeting a French couple for lunch. After they each got a sniff, they looked at each other rather intensely, and as soon as lunch was over, cancelled their afternoon plans and ran back to their hotel room.
There is much debate as to the existence of pheromones and whether there are such things as aphrodisiacs. It seems to me, that since pheromones are so essential to the mating activities of most mammals, that they can exhibit a similar function in humans. And while I won’t claim that I’ve created authentic aphrodisiacs, I have discovered that my various perfumes “excite” people and draw them to one another. In particular, it seems that those compounds that exhibit a bit of “funk,” are pheromonic. Such aromas, many of which control animal behavior, are found in woods, musk, civet (a smelly compound released by a civet cat), ambergris, jasmine and other flowers designed to attract bees and other insects. Brooklyn Perfume Company’s amber contains many compounds that are arguably pheromonic.