How to Make Ambergris Tincture
This is very easy to make, and very rewarding. You do need to age it a minimum of six months for the scent to fully mature and develop into a wondrous product. In the old days, the perfume houses had machines built that agitated the mixture, but that is nearly impossible for the artisan perfumer. In the past, I’ve simply shaken the jar when I remember, and one time, I did put it on a magnetic stirrer but didn’t actually notice any difference between that and the occasionally shaken solution. There is a bit more information on animalic tinctures, including ambergris, on the Tinctures and Infusions page.
Some use a mortar and pestle to pulverize the ambergris, but that is not acceptable to me, because too much precious ambergris remains adhered to both objects. I prefer the stainless steel Microplane, a tool originally mean for woodworking, but since adopted by cooks ‐ and this perfumer! :‐) It quickly and efficiently reduces ambergris to a fine powder, and none remains behind on the object.
You’ll want to make the ambergris solution an industry standard of 3‐4 percent. Here’s where your knowledge of using a scale comes in handy. If you have three grams of ambergris, you’ll grate that and use 97 grams of alcohol, which equals a total of 100 grams of tincture at 3%. You can adjust the numbers up and down, according to the amount of ambergris you have.
‐ Ambergris chunk of known weight (ex. three grams)
‐ 190 proof alcohol or oil, such as almond or jojoba. Substitute oil for alcohol in instructions below, if you wish.
‐ Microplane grater*
‐ Piece of large paper, letter size
‐ Jar with an airtight lid
Assemble all of the above materials on a table and make sure there isn’t a fan or other strong breeze in the room.
- Open the jar and put it to the side, with the lid next to it.
- Write the name of the tincture, type of ambergris, ambergris supplier, date, and tincture percentage on the label with a waterproof pen, and place it on the
- Place the beaker, alcohol, scale, ambergris, and grater to one
- Place the piece of large paper in front of
- Pick up the grater, and hold it at a 45-degree angle to the
- Pick up the ambergris, and begin to grate it, making sure the powder is falling within the perimeter of the edge of the
- When finished grating, pick up the edges of the paper, and gently tap it to move the powder to the center of the
- Lift the paper, and using it as a “slide”, allow the ambergris powder to slide into the Tap the bottom of the paper to make sure all the powder gets dislodged into the jar.
- Turn on the scale, and place the beaker on
- Tare the
- Add the appropriate amount of alcohol to the beaker to reach the percentage you (ex. if using three grams of ambergris powder, you’ll need 97 grams of alcohol.
- Pour the alcohol into the jar with the ambergris powder, and place the lid on the
- Gently “swirl” the alcohol and ambergris to put them into
- Put the tincture in a cool, dark place and shake daily, if possible, or use a mixer. You can see mixers and Teflon mixer bars on eBay if you are interested in obtaining Use of them is covered in the Intermediate Level of the course.
- Allow your ambergris tincture to mature for a minimum of six
- I do not filter the tincture when it is finished, I pipette the amount I need from the clear part of the tincture, leaving the grated bits on the bottom undisturbed. When I make the next batch of tincture, I add the leftover grated bits from the previous tincture (unweighed, a bit of lagniappe) to the new batch, a trick from the wine and liquor industry!
* Microplane graters originated in North America, and I’m not sure about their availability worldwide. You can find them on eBay and also Amazon, and many kitchen supply sites. You may substitute something similar, of course. Here is what one type of microplane looks like, the type I use:
I’ve been working with ambergris for about fifteen years, and I have some vintage tinctures that are as beautiful as you can imagine. I wrote a review of a book on the subject https://perfumeclasses.com/Floating%20Gold%20Review%20in%20Fragrantica
I was one of three people that vetted the Carolina piece mentioned in the book. It was originally sold by Eden Botanicals. Adrienne of Ambergris NZ is quoted extensively in the book and provided a great photo of ambergris and fake ambergris for the big NP group years ago, and I included it in the review.
Happy ambergris adventures!