Beachcombers hope fragrance makers will buy whale vomit

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Two beachcombers in the UK have stumbled across a lump of whale
vomit washed up on a beach in North Wales and are
hoping to sell it to the fragrance industry.

Sean Kane and Ian Foster found a 110lb lump of Ambergris, which is one of the most coveted scent ingredients in the industry and known in the marine world as 'floating gold' because of the high prices it can command. Indeed Kane and Foster are hoping that their haul could fetch up to £500,000 (€600,000) if they can find a fragrance manufacturer that is interested in buying it. Bile from sperm whales​ Ambergris or grey amber, is actually bile secreted by sperm whales to help them digest food. Once discharged it can float on water until it is either pulled in by fishermen or washed up on land. The substance is at its optimum following several years of exposure to the elements, after which time it dries out and forms a smooth outer surface that contains a dung-like substance. Newly deposited Ambergris is said to smell absolutely foul. But following a few years of exposure to salt water and sun, the lump eventually boasts a sweet, musky and alluring smell that many leading fragrance makers say adds a distinct and highly appealing character. Antipodean variety is best​ Although it is found all over the world, it might come as bad news to the British beachcombers that Antipodean Ambergris is particularly sought after as the waters and environmental conditions are said to produce a purer substance. Likewise, there are not likely to be too many individuals with the capacity to ready the substance for use in the fragrance industry, point being that the only facility in the world that processes Ambergris is found in France. Even more discouraging is the fact that in recent years there has been a move away from expensive natural ingredients such as Ambergris, particularly as the mass market fragrance producers rely increasingly on chemicals as the main part of their fragrance formulation. But still a number of popular fragrances continue to use Ambergris as a part of their formulations, including Black for Him by Kenneth Cole and Miss Dior by Christian Dior.

Related topics: Formulation & Science

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