Saturday, April 7, 2012

Whale Vomit Perfume Substitute Available

A lump of ambergris
"Perfume makers could soon replace whale vomit with fir tree extract, according to an article in Postmedia News by Gabrielle Tieman/Maxi Jonas/Reuters. Who knew? Whale vomit, a key ingredient in perfume, could be left out as researchers have isolated a fir tree compound that could replace the odd ingredient. Researchers at UBC identified a gene in balsam fir trees that could eliminate the need for ambergris, a strong perfume fixative created from a regurgitated mixture of seashells, fish bones and a sticky inner-stomach substance. Joerg Bohlmann, a professor at UBC and lead researcher, said enzymes found in the resin of tree bark were used to create a synthetic compound that replaces ambergris. “We are now able to create the compound,” said Bohlmann. “This would ensure that the animal is never hunted if the product cannot be found naturally and as well would protect the balsam fir from extinction.” The distinctly-scented ambergris - "bearing a musky, sweet earthy aroma" - clings to fabrics (B: does the term "upchuck" ring a bell here?), and is added to high-end perfumes to help the scent last longer on skin. Depending on the grading, a gram of ambergris can cost up to $50.” Bohlmann said although ambergris is collected by hand along the shores of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (it hardens when regurgitated into seawater), its use in perfume is controversial. “This new compound would eliminate the fear of source depletion that is only slowly regenerated,” said Bohlmann. “Without fear of losing the plant life, plant-based products could eliminate animal-based products entirely.” The research will be published Friday in the Journal of Biological Chemistry."  All I want to know is who dreamt up the use of this stuff in perfume in the first place?  The rumour that each ounce of Chanel No. 5 (my personal fragrance favourite, on my wife of course) is derived from the sweat of nine whipped Abyssinian cats is no doubt spurious, but after the foregoing revelation a guy has to wonder.