scent . music . culture

  • 18th July
  • 18

Raw Materials: Ambroxan

I could possibly go into the chemical properties of this aroma chemical. I could tell you how much it costs and all that sort of thing. But I’ve decided to share my love and admiration for it instead. The scent of Ambroxan is unmistakable.

The first time I smelled Ambroxan, I was sitting in my Synthetics class, surrounded by all my classmates who seemed to have the same reaction to the ingredient.

"Whoa! This is goooooooood!"

We were doing the Ambery family that day, and let me tell you, it’s not easy learning that family, only because there are quite a few that smell similar yet different (Cetalox for example.) At one point, my professor Laurence Fauvel said: “the difference between Ambroxan and Ambrox DL is that it is finer

What?? How can you tell something smells finer? It made no sense to me at the time. In my defense, it was still the beginning of the year. By the end though, I understood what she meant, it was a matter of quality. When you smell a great perfume, with carefully chosen ingredients, all from a reliable and enviable source, it smells better. Quality is something you cannot replace and it is definitely something you can detect.

Ambroxan is one of Firmenich’s babies, related to Clary Sage (sclareol is a by product which is used to synthesize Ambrox if I’m not mistaken) and was first created to replace Ambergris (not in terms of exact scent, but in function), which was becoming rare and exceedingly expensive at the time.

  (courtesy of

If you’ve smelled Olivier Cresp’s Light Blue, you’ll smell Ambroxan. You will also find it a great deal (that’s the association I made) with Armani Code for Men. The general consensus was that it has a sexy man smell. Really! It’s clean, crisp and has a mysterious depth that is very attention grabbing. It is fresh, woody, long lasting, with a hint of powder. It has a subtle ambery sweetness that changes because it is very non-linear, so it changes with your skin, very much like Iso E Super.

It is used as a base note in many perfumes these days and is quite strong in formulation. Remember when I mentioned Geza Schoen’s Molecule 01? Well, he also made Molecule 02, entirely centered around Ambroxan. I’ve been wearing Escentric 02 for the last month now, as it gets hotter and more humid in Montreal, it just seems to be the perfect fit for whatever mood I’m in.


It’s been all the rage to focus on one or two ingredients in perfume, which is a strange concept considering that perfume is generally ‘supposed’ to be built out of many harmonized ingredients. Schoen has done something new. With that said, many other companies, including Juliette Has A Gun have decided to hop on the bandwagon and do the same (Not A Perfume, using Cetalox instead) I think that once it is done, it shouldn’t be done again. If only to avoid risking over-exposure.The thing is, in perfumery, understandably, imitation is the best form of flattery. But people these days need constant change, so if there is a great idea out there and you find that you want to do something similar, you have to find a way to still make it different. You HAVE to, otherwise, the work will always be comparable.

Ambroxan is used in so many perfumes, more than we think. So don’t hesitate to stop someone in the street if they grab your nose! Ask them what they’re wearing! Also, get a sample of Molecule 02, it’s delicious!  You’ll get to experience Ambrox at it’s finest.

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