It is pretty hard to pass up the ubiquitous Whale post…but this one is all about Whale crap and it is pretty amazing stuff:
Ben ShattuckÂ reviewsÂ Christopher Kemp’sÂ Floating Gold: A Natural (& Unnatural) History of Ambergris:
People have used ambergris (â€˜gray amber,â€™ French) for a long time â€”Â Moctezumaadded it to his tobacco,Â CasanovaÂ to his chocolate mousse, Englandâ€™sÂ King Charles IIÂ to his eggs; 17th-century French physicians used it to cure rabies, Floridaâ€™s American Indians as an antidote for fish poison, and today, companies like Chanel and Guerlain as fixative in their most expensive perfumes.
So what does it smell like?
Here is a solid lump of whale feces, weathered downâ€”oxidized by salt water, degraded by sunlight, and eroded by waves â€” from the tarry mass to something that smells, depending on the piece and whom youâ€™re talking to, like musk, violets, fresh-hewn wood, tobacco, dirt, Brazil nut, fern-copse, damp woods, new-mown hay, seaweed in the sun, the wood of old churches, or pretty much any other sweet-but-earthy scent. Borne in whale guts to be crushed and dabbed on the wrists and necks of the elite.
Synthetic alternatives have been discovered but KempÂ isn’t convinced:
Scientists may be able to produce compounds that can mimic the fixative properties of ambergris, but the odor of the ambergris is itself indescribable, let alone replicable.