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I wanted to list some products I especially used, or even discovered in 2014. I picked up the rarest, most strange/exotic, or simply very useful raw materials, synthetics or naturals.

Cassie absolute (Acacia farnesiana): the key ingredient in a true-to-nature leather accord. Extremely powerful. Smells green, foliage (with hints of cabbage on topnotes), then it dries down on a powdery, dry, acidic, fatty hearth. Reminiscent of tanned leather. It is quite difficult to dose as the material has tendency to give off unpleasant topnotes (my personal opinion), difficult to mask in a simple composition.

Musk Z4 (IFF): the same molecule as Exaltenone (Firmenich), but slightly more animalic, less sandalwoody, more close to Exaltone, with its metallic, extremely fine powdery facets. Quite powerful, more than Exaltone. Interesting to note that Musk Z4 solidifies at room temp (20° C), while Exaltenone is in the liquid state.

Styrax resinoid: solvent, toluene, styrene-like topnotes, sweet and sharp. Slightly leathery (oldfashioned “cuir”), mineral, cinnamic, rubbery heartnotes. Sweeter, incensey upon drying. Interesting with floral notes (rose, orange flower).

Cypriol essence: a nice replacer for agarwood (aquillaria spp. extracts), with bitter, green terpenic topnotes, rhubarb, vetiver-like, leathery. Quite powerful and longlasting, powdery, incense, sandalwood-like in the dryout. You can smell this orange, amber-coloured product in certain oud blends.

Mate absolute: a beautiful green, tea topnote. Bitter, dark, dense, smokey, very close to cured tobacco leaves upon drying. In the dryout it nicely resembles oakmoss absolute, with salicylate tones.

Fatty acids esters: oily odour, at times slightly rancid, very interesting in leather accords and floral reconstitutions (mimosa, for instance). They are: Methyl/Ethyl linolenate, Ethyl laurate, Ethyl ricinoleate.

Muskrat glands: in the 60s Arctander explained how this material was suggested as a musk deer replacer during WW II in the USA, but lacked the power of the original product. I wanted to try out this one and ordered some from a Russian supplier. Well, it doesn’t resemble musk deer in any way that could encourage its use as a replacer. It lacks the civet-like, animalic, skatolic notes found in the more prized material. It lacks its fine, well rounded, rich, powdery body. It smells less dirty, more fleshy, quite unpleasantly fatty and dry. It is more sebum-like. I am planning another order and I would like to suggest a different drying method.
Muskrat glands are said to contain Exaltone (a molecule very close to muscone). I am not so sure to smell it in my product, but I can guess it is there.

An old De Laire base (much probably reformulated today).

This base was created in the 20’s (1915-1926?) by the French company De Laire. In the 1939 de Laire’s ‘Notice des produits pour la parfumerie’ (a perfumery products catalog for their customers) the Amber 83 is described as follows:

“Produit de choix pour les notes orientales et parfums ambrés très aimés aujourd’hui.

Sa finesse, alliée à beaucoup de puissance et de ténacité, explique aisément le succès qu’il a rencontré dans des genres très différents d’emplois, en France comme à l’Etranger.
[…]
Son point de ramollissement assez bas nous permet cependant de le mouler en petits morceaux d’égales dimensions, et de couleur relativement claire […]”

Translation: “The best product for oriental notes and ambery perfumes, very much enjoyed today.

Its subtlety, combined with much power and tenacity, easily explains the success it has achieved in many and very different uses, in France and abroad.
[…]
Nevertheless, its quite low softening point allows us moulding in small pieces of the same size, quite light in colour […]

It is interesting to notice how the original amber was sold in a solid form, pale in colour.
This may suggest that much of the formula were nitromusks, vanillin and maybe resinoids (like benzoin).

The sample I have is physically different.

Appearance: pale yellow, pourable liquid (DPG’s like viscosity). May form a crystallin precipitate in the cold. This is sort of a diluted version of the original base that I suppose was a yellowish solid.

This is the archetypal “amber” of perfumery. Nothing in common with the ambergris, the sperm whale secretion.
This one is based on vanillin or similar products (a heavy dose), powdery musks, some patchouli (but not earthy and terpy), sandalwoodbalms (Tolu) and resins (labdanum, benzoin and styrax), plus a rosey, geranic note in the heart. Nutmeg and maybe cardamom lend some spiciness.
Everything is wrapped and smoothed out by the vanillin overdose. I also detect a civetty facet.
Long lasting and musky, powdery, vanilla absolute-like in the drydown, The sharp, incensey labdanum signature is still alive till the very end, discreetly.

A masterwork of balance, good structure, fine details, simplicity. Easy to recognize.

As almost any bases do, it needs incorporating into a fragrance, to give some boost and projection, especially in the very beginning. The high vanilla-musk dose is something that won’t come out easily, laying down close to the skin.

Here is a (solid) amber type formula from a 1931 book (Le livre du parfumeur – Félix Cola, chimiste-parfumeur), to give us an idea of the composition of such bases:

AMBRE SYNTHETIQUE N°3      
 
Musk Kétone     425 grammes
Muscambrette     100
Héliotropine     75
Vanilline       225
Résinoïde de Benjoin   100
Baume de Tolu     75
Ambréine absolue     50
Résinoïde d’encens     50
Vétyvert Bourbon     10
Patchouly     10
Acétylisoeugénol     110
Stéarine       170
        1400 grammes

Musk ambrette is now forbidden, but could be replaced by the flowery-type musk: ambrettolide, galaxolide or Romandolide (not powdery, but more ‘vegetal’ and clean in comparison to ancient musks, Romandolide in particular).
The ‘ambréine absolue’ is sort of a purified labdanum.
I don’t really know why stearin appears in the formula.

The composition in this photo was inspired by the Ambre 83 base. You can notice Tonka seeds, vanilla pods and geranium leafs. Photo: perfumechemicals.com

The still life in this photo was inspired by the Ambre 83 base. You can notice Tonka seeds, vanilla pods and geranium leafs. Photo: perfumechemicals.com