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Amber: Ingredient Guide, Info, Smell & More!

Amber might sound like a familiar scent, but it’s probably one of the most complicated fragrances to describe since it’s a combination of different scents.

It can be warm and slightly sweet, musky and rich, or even powdery and spicy.

The thing is, unlike other plant-extracted fragrances, amber is considered a “fantasy” scent in perfumery. It’s not a stone, as most people assume. 

Instead, it’s a scent created around various ingredients to emulate golden amber (the fossilized tree resin).

Three components are used to form the amber scent profile—labdanum, benzoin, and vanilla. When blended, these ingredients form a sultry, plush, and sweet fragrance.

In ancient China, burning amber was considered customary during large celebrations. They heated real amber to produce amber oil, then mixed it with nitric acid to create a pleasant, artificial smell. 

Today, however, perfume companies use fossilized amber since it gives off a faint scent.

Moreover, since the fragrance is a versatile smell, it’s easy to pair with florals and spices to create feminine and masculine perfumes.

What is Amber?

The term ‘amber’ calls to mind a form of tree sap or a fossilised tree resin that many cultures in northern Africa use as a gemstone in jewelry.

The scent of the fossilized tree resin varies based on the type of tree it’s extracted from, but it gives off a pine-like aroma when burnt. Perhaps the most popular plant resin smell is frankincense, which possesses some similarities to the modern-day amber scents. 

The “fantasy” fragrance might also be inspired by a substance called ambergris or grey amber—a waxy, solid resin found on beaches, said to come from sperm whale or whale vomit. 

Since fresh ambergris doesn’t smell pleasant, the extracts are dried out to form a musky, earthy scent that’s popular in high-end fragrances.

Ambrein, a unique synthetic ambergris ingredient, is also used to help odors last longer.

While the use of ambergris was more popular at the height of the whaling industry, today, naturally occurring ambergris is only used in luxury fragrances.

Not only is it daunting to secure natural ambergris, but most people are skeptical about using products taken from animals.

Thanks to today’s technological advancements one can achieve an amber fragrance that mimics ambergris by blending natural and synthetic ingredients. One of the most commonly used constituents is Ambromax. 

The substance is extracted from the essence of clary sage, creating a lasting animalic and sexy aroma that perfume connoisseurs refer to as “modern ambergris.”

What Does Amber Smell Like?

The “amber note” is one of the most baffling scents of the 21st century.

You can’t place it in a single fragrance category since it’s an amalgamation of many scents. It comes off as warm, musky, sweet, and spicy.

Amber also features various ingredients that help form its unique scent. These scent notes include:

  • Vanilla – The sweet aroma of vanilla is standard in various amber scents. It’s mostly paired with patchouli, labdanum, and Tonka bean to form the musky, unique amber perfume.
  • Labdanum – Extracted from the Cistus Ladanifer plant, the syrupy scent features notes of balsamic and caramelization that help reduce the heaviness. 
  • Benzoin – Often listed as “styrax benzoin,” the balsamic resin is extracted from a tree called styrax. The ingredient primarily offers spicy, balsamic notes. 
  • Tonka bean – Many perfume connoisseurs describe Tonka as a warmer fragrance featuring various spicy elements. 
  • Patchouli – This musky and earthy scent provides a touch of sweetness and spice. 

What Scent Family is Amber?

Amber perfume is extensively used in oriental-style fragrances, giving rise to the Amber oriental category.

Unlike citrus, sandalwood, and oud oil, one can’t pick up on amber fragrances immediately.

The scent note is mainly used to add exoticism and vibrancy—that’s why perfume firms use it as a base note to create a canvas for middle and top notes.

As a result, amber is paired with several aromas to give them some mystery and added dimension.

Other notes that marry well with the base note include:

  • Citrus – Citrus fragrances marry perfectly with amber and add a zestier edge to the odor.
  • Sandalwood – Its intricate scent profile enables the herb to temper the musky nature of amber – the two work as the perfect base notes.
  • Musk – Most odors are classified as musky, but real musk is so sensual and overpowering that it can’t be compared to any other scent. Due to its rich scent profile, it perfectly pairs with amber. 

What are the Benefits of Amber?

Apart from providing exquisite scents, amber oil is also used to:

  • Moisturize your skin. The essential oil helps rejuvenate dull skin and reduces acne breakouts to promote healthy-looking skin.
  • Calm your mind. If you want to sleep soundly, mix the essential oil with your massage oil to calm your mind. You can also mix it with other aromas to improve your cognitive function.
  • Work as a home diffuser. Since amber smells like a dream, you can use the essential oil to boost your home’s odor. If you’re looking for amber products, Eden Botanicals is said to make incredible “pure ambers.” 

Is Amber Feminine or Masculine Scent?

Since the fantasy perfume smells heavenly, it perfectly works for both masculine and feminine scents. It’s primarily used in men’s perfumes due to its deep, musky smell and in women’s for its fruity and floral scents.

Best Perfumes with Amber Notes

Some of the best amber-based scents include:

1. Ambre Sultan Serge Lutens

If there’s one perfume you need to invest in, it’s this amber perfume. It features incredible middle notes that give it an aromatic, spicy, and woody aroma.

2. Ambre Gris Pierre Balmain

The new perfume gives off animalic, balsamic, and musky vibes. It serves as the perfect signature scent. 

3. Maison Francis Kurkdjian Grand Soir

This evening pick-me-up smells dreamy. It features vibrant hints of vanilla, white musk, and cedarwood

The Bottom Line

Figuring out the answer to “what does amber smell like?” can be a daunting process.

The fragrance features a variety of scents that give it its unique, exotic odor. 

So, if you’re looking for a specific smell, ensure that the amber fragrance has the notes you want.

In any case, the best way to find your signature perfume is by putting it to the test!

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