I really don't like super ambers

polysom

Basenotes Junkie
Apr 4, 2021
Very early in my perfumery experience I found out, that I don't like super ambers (ambrocenide, norlimbanol...), none of them. They smell all the same to my nose, independent of concentration. Even in very very low concentration. I just don't like them. And since my nose has learned how super ambers smell like, I smell them everywhere. Recently I visited the beautiful city of Salzburg and in the city centre I suddenly found myself standing in a heavy cloud of super amber every now and then. So that I almost lost my breath every time. This weekend there was a folk festival nearby, the same here. Every few minutes I found myself in a cloud of super amber. And these "perfumes" didn't smell of anything else either, only of super amber. I suspect they were extremely cheap "perfumes". What do you think of super ambers?
 

Horst

Basenotes Member
Oct 12, 2019
Paco Rabanne's Invictus is a populair culprit, it has 1% AmberXtreme. According to Scent&Chemistry. One Million has a lot of ambrocenide. All their clones are also very populair. The sillage clouds on the street, horrible. Very recognisable and very uninspiring.

But when blended well it can be so nice to have this powerful force lifting everything. I can really dig a masculine with a nice Norlimbanol infused dry down. I find MFK Amyris Homme has a fantastic super-amber note, not overpowering. Lovely.
 

mnitabach

Basenotes Dependent
Nov 13, 2020
IMO & IME, saying "I don't like superambers" makes as little sense as saying "I don't like linalool". These aromamolecules are just individual components to be used to construct accords & create effects. I suspect what you mean is that you don't like some of the very common accords & effects superambers are frequently used to create.
 

parker25mv

Basenotes Dependent
Oct 12, 2016
Very early in my perfumery experience I found out, that I don't like super ambers (ambrocenide, norlimbanol...), none of them.
Just for clarity, does this include Iso E Super, Cashmeran, and Kephalis?
How about Ambroxan? I'll assume Okoumal falls into the same group too?

It is interesting. "Super ambers" are pretty much considered indispensable in modern perfumery, especially men's fragrances.

I don't think I can share your opinion. I am an amber enthusiast. But I can relate in the sense that there are several other things very commonly used in men's fragrances that I really don't like. Individual preferences and dislikes can be very interesting.

For me, on the other hand, things like Galoxide, any more than a small bit of Cashmeran, and musks in more than tiny quantities can all be overwhelming. Hedione, while beautiful and essential to many smells, can also be overwhelming at more than small levels.
 
Mar 26, 2022
They're extremely useful in perfumery and imo best used like other powerful materials like civet and ambroxan: in amounts that are not overwhelming within the finished fragrance. I also think many of people's reactions to them in fragrances is because of the way they're often combined and overdosed for maximum impact in many commercial frags.
 

Bmaster

Super Member
Sep 24, 2021
I’ve learned to not discount each aroma chemical based on solely scent. I would concur that super ambers may not be a desirable scent to everyone. Try to evaluate its effects and to what end it may alter an accord. However, keep in mind that super ambers are tenacious and may be the last note in your dry down, unless you intervene with another substantive AC.
 

mnitabach

Basenotes Dependent
Nov 13, 2020
I’ve learned to not discount each aroma chemical based on solely scent. I would concur that super ambers may not be a desirable scent to everyone. Try to evaluate its effects and to what end it may alter an accord. However, keep in mind that super ambers are tenacious and may be the last note in your dry down, unless you intervene with another substantive AC.
This is a very important post & should be read & grappled with by all novice perfumers. What an aromamaterial "smells like" in isolation is in many many cases only very weakly relevant to what it does in accords or more complex compositions. This is also why whether an aromamaterial (particularly single molecules) smells "good" or "bad" in isolation is particularly misleading.

(This is also why the too-common threads & posts on this forum of endless streams of long paragraphs of speculation about what this that or the other aromamolecule "smells like" & how it could be used in various accords are totally worthless. It is completely illusory & a terribly misleading concept to think about creating accords & bases as some sort of linear combination of "smells". The bankruptcy of the vast majority of these streams of verbiage is further indicated by the near-complete absence of any discussion of evaporation rates. That is just not at all how perfumery works & it is tbh frustrating that such enormous quantities of misleading verbiage sit here protected institutionally from critique of a clarity commensurate with their harmful potential.)
 

mnitabach

Basenotes Dependent
Nov 13, 2020
I’ve learned to not discount each aroma chemical based on solely scent. I would concur that super ambers may not be a desirable scent to everyone. Try to evaluate its effects and to what end it may alter an accord. However, keep in mind that super ambers are tenacious and may be the last note in your dry down, unless you intervene with another substantive AC.
More specifically relating to this correct observation regarding superambers in the long drydown, good things to think about to create pleasing long-drydown accords with tenacious super-ambers (amberxtreme is actually not that tenacious IME) are molecules like ethylene brassylate (or other super-tenacious musks), benzyl salicylate, rose crystals, and super-tenacious florals like lyral, lyrame, magnol (not magnolan).
 

rococo

New member
Jan 1, 2010
OP, have you had a chance to test the effect of say .1% of Norlimbanol in a woody composition? Or even .02% of the hateful Amber Xtreme in a rich amber? The powerful materials that one tends to smell everywhere in "beast mode" fragrances (which have seemingly exploded even more in popularity in the last few years as a new generation gets jobs and discovers Invictus) are radically different when blended in a way that clips their claws. If you can find a way to work with them you'll be delighted in what they can do
 

polysom

Basenotes Junkie
Apr 4, 2021
IMO & IME, saying "I don't like superambers" makes as little sense as saying "I don't like linalool". These aromamolecules are just individual components to be used to construct accords & create effects. I suspect what you mean is that you don't like some of the very common accords & effects superambers are frequently used to create.
For me it does make sense. Same as it makes sense to say "I don't like spinach" (I do like spinach, by the way). In this example spinach would then just be an individual vegetable to construct food. This is just my personal preference. Even in 0.001% concentration, my nose does not like them. And I have tried many accords and sample perfumes with super ambers. Even after month of aging, my nose finds them very prominent. I have a commercial oud accord, which for my nose smells only of super amber. Maybe my nose is just super sensitive for this kind of molecules, I don't know...

This is a very important post & should be read & grappled with by all novice perfumers. What an aromamaterial "smells like" in isolation is in many many cases only very weakly relevant to what it does in accords or more complex compositions. This is also why whether an aromamaterial (particularly single molecules) smells "good" or "bad" in isolation is particularly misleading.
Yes, this is true. There was a nice scientific paper I was reading recently, explaining why this is. I need to see if I can find it.
Edit: Found it https://www.embopress.org/doi/full/10.1038/sj.emboj.7600032 (I refer in particular to Figure 5, which shows the whole thing very clearly.)

OP, have you had a chance to test the effect of say .1% of Norlimbanol in a woody composition? Or even .02% of the hateful Amber Xtreme in a rich amber? The powerful materials that one tends to smell everywhere in "beast mode" fragrances (which have seemingly exploded even more in popularity in the last few years as a new generation gets jobs and discovers Invictus) are radically different when blended in a way that clips their claws. If you can find a way to work with them you'll be delighted in what they can do
Yes, I did. But if you know a sample formulation that can show me the "nice" way of a super amber, I will also try that.
 
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Quay Limey

Basenotes Junkie
Nov 1, 2020
(This is also why the too-common threads & posts on this forum of endless streams of long paragraphs of speculation about what this that or the other aromamolecule "smells like" & how it could be used in various accords are totally worthless. It is completely illusory & a terribly misleading concept to think about creating accords & bases as some sort of linear combination of "smells". The bankruptcy of the vast majority of these streams of verbiage is further indicated by the near-complete absence of any discussion of evaporation rates. That is just not at all how perfumery works & it is tbh frustrating that such enormous quantities of misleading verbiage sit here protected institutionally from critique of a clarity commensurate with their harmful potential.)
This irks me, too. It seems these days to be prefaced with “I might be wrong on this” or “I’m just guessing here…” which is all one really needs to know to assess that which follows. I’ll paraphrase someone else that had an opinion on this self-aggrandising fraud - they talk BS with conviction and that’s a dangerous combination. Most regulars know what he’s all about for the most part, but newbs can easily get caught up in the glamour. The guy’s a bit of a lemon, if you ask me…

Anyway - super ambers. If I can smell them, for me that’s too high in the mix. I’ve been experimenting with Hydroxyambran in gourmands over the last year or so and it’s a great material. I’d go so far as to say indispensable for what I want to achieve. Gotta keep it low, though, so get diluting. I couldn’t use Ambermax in the same setting and Norlimbanol would be the wrong direction unless you were going for a dry/woody gourmand.

They all have their own place and it's worth experimenting with all the variants available. Avoid them to your detriment regardless of whether you consider yourself a creator of trendy perfumes or the genius behind groundbreaking stuff.
 

Casper_grassy

Basenotes Dependent
May 5, 2020
Not to go off the case of super ambers, but I can stress how sometimes things we initially dislike will keep us away from making use of those things. I was grossed out by Seaweed abs, until I began using it in the right way and I can’t NOT have seaweed abs in stock at all times. Same goes for superambers.
 

Alex F.

Super Member
Nov 29, 2019
I'm reviving this thread, because the subject of superambers keeps popping up again and again. But there's no clear consensus on what constitutes a "superamber". Here's my take on it.
There seem to be marked differences in sensitivity for odorants from the amber-family in general and for strong woody-ambers in particular. I haven't found any concrete information on the subject, but this study touches on parts of the topic: Thomas Hummel et al.: Brain responses to odor mixtures with sub-threshold components, 2013, open-access on the publisher's site. (It's interesting also because it investigates the possibility of odorants influencing people below the threshold above which they consciously detect them.)
I'm one of the sensitive ones. So I've tried to identify some of the woody-ambery materials I particularly dislike. I found some, but gave up fairly soon, because I didn't want to amass lots of materials I dislike just for the sake of knowing that it's them that I dislike.

As a personal mnemonic, I use the term "superamber" for woody-ambery materials that have a strong effect (bringing up associations such as glass, splinters, daggers) that reminds me of pain, making them very annoying to me. There's an article in the magazine "Nez", nr. 7, 2019, p.18-19, called "Woody ambers" that lists quite a lot of materials from the amber family with their main odour characteristics (amber, animal, woody and/or spiky woods). It's the materials from the "spiky woods"-category that I've tentatively identified as matching my "superamber"-mnemonic. The list is as follows:

Amber Xtreme, Ambrocenide, Ambrostar, Cedramber, Karanal, Limbanol, Okoumal, Piconia, Timberol/Norlimbanol/Karmawood, Vertofix/Lixetone.

As I get to know more ambery materials, I may be able to add/remove one or the other from this list.

---
As for the point of using or not using them personally - I have found perfumes that I like and that I'm fairly sure contain notable amounts of what I consider to be superambers, e.g. (both more or less current versions, less than 5 years old) Rocabar by Hermès and Encre noir à l'extrême by Lalique. (Eau de citron noir and Terre d'Hermès eau intense vétiver by Hermès on the other hand are no-goes for me.) So I'm going to experiment with Norlimbanol etc., because they can be used beneficially even for one as sensitive as me.
 

Citroasis

Super Member
Jul 24, 2021
To me, "super" ambers are simply the woody-amber materials that are an easily detectable odor threshold at extremely low dose amounts....like in the 1ppt range in a full formula. These to me are Amber Xtreme, Ambrocinde, AmberMax. These were intended to be dosed in traces up to 1ppt to get a desired effect.

Then you also have other woody-amber materials that are considered not so "super" like Kohinool, Amberwood F, Okoumal, Karmawood, Ysamber K and those are not nearly as strong as the "super-ambers".

The reason why most people are put off on "super-ambers" is because some fragrances OVERDOSE the crap out of them, like 10x times the intended dosing of that material, and they stick out in a big way.

Point being....dont hate the material......but hate the fragrance that purposely overdosed it.
 

AdamE

Super Member
Jul 15, 2019
I was at the grocery store a couple months ago and could smell the "Super Amber" radiating off this dude from the other end of the isle the moment he turned the corner. It was insanely strong.

After the third time of walking head first into this massive cloud I approached him and asked him what he was wearing. he said it was Azzaro Chrome, which I assume is an overdosing culprit. Either that, or this guy bathed in the stuff before hitting the supermarket. It was intense and has kind of turned me off to the material entirely (i still experiment with it, but have since then found it uninspiring)
 

Yuri-G

Basenotes Junkie
Sep 13, 2020
I am in London right now & people in the shopping districts of Piccadilly & Oxford Street are absolutely bathed in modern perfumes... 😹 😹 😹
Welcome to our shores Mike.

I work at a University and if I go anywhere that the students congregate, the air is just a fog of super ambers and ethyl maltol.

Having long disliked these amber materials and the fragrances that overuse them, I'm currently quite enjoying norlimbanol for its dry spiky quality as a foil for richer notes like javanol and muscenone.
 
Mar 26, 2022
The reason why most people are put off on "super-ambers" is because some fragrances OVERDOSE the crap out of them, like 10x times the intended dosing of that material, and they stick out in a big way.

Point being....dont hate the material......but hate the fragrance that purposely overdosed it.

I agree 100%, with the caveat that overdosing depends on what they're blended with. Imo, it is possible to use them successfully in relatively high concentration, just not along with certain materials (like some muguet chems and polycyclic musks) that amplify them in an unpleasantly artificial direction, which seems to be the intent of many commercial fragrances. Ambrocenide in particular is great for boosting natural materials without adding a noticeable signature unless it's overdosed relative to what it's paired with, but it can also amplify other woody ambers like AmberXtreme and Norlimbanol and is probably part of the secret Satanic accord that is so prevalent in commercial frags designed to emboss their logos onto your brain.

I'll also second the point about wild differences in individual sensitivity. I have one fragrance that contains an overdose of a woody amber and because it's well blended, there's only been one person so far who has noticed. On the other end of the spectrum, I know people who are completely anosmic but who seem to smell the effect in blends, similar to people who don't smell musk chems.
 

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