What Is Amber Scent?

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What Is Amber Scent?

If you’ve ever shopped for scented products of any kind, chances are you’ve come across the amber scent. This classic perfume element is often incorporated into products with a fragrance meant to make the wearer feel warm and cozy. However, amber itself is not an individual scent, and there is some confusion about what it actually is.

“Amber” is often used in reference to one of three things: fossilized amber, ambergris, and a popular scent created from various resins and extracts. Each of these substances has some qualities related to fragrance, making it easy to confuse them.

Definition of the Amber Scent

Before discussing the confusing part, it helps to clarify the various types of scents that may fall under this term. The amber fragrance is not an individual scent or note. Generally, it comes from a combination of these ingredients:

  • Benzoin: a type of spicy or smoky-scented balsamic resin produced by styrax trees
  • Labdanum: another plant resin produced by a type of Mediterranean shrub with a scent described as syrupy and aromatic
  • Vanillin: extract from the vanilla bean with a sweet-spicy scent
  • Ambroxan: a synthesized version of the ambergris scent from clary sage; woody and musky
  • Patchouli: essential oil from the flowering herb of the same name; described as “musky-earthy”
  • Tonka: extract from the tonka bean; similar to vanillin but on the spicier side

Many of these scents are combined together to create the classic amber scent. This means amber can vary as a fragrance, from those that lean sweet and spicy to those that are more resinous and musky. It may also be somewhere in the middle of the two. It’s a popular scent for fall and winter with the warm, sensual mood it creates.

Clearing Up the Confusion

Fossilized amber and ambergris are sometimes confused with the amber fragrance. This is not only because of their names; both of these substances have been used for their fragrance properties in the past.

amber natural

Fossilized Amber

The type of amber you might be most familiar with is fossilized amber. This refers to sap or resin from trees that has been buried for millions of years and is often found encasing insects or small plants. Although not a “stone” in the traditional sense, it is sometimes categorized alongside gemstones and may be similarly prized by enthusiasts of rocks, minerals, and crystals.

In addition to being a resin like some of the components used to make an amber scent, fossilized amber also has a history of being burned similarly to resin incense. Reportedly, it has a pine-like fragrance when burned. However, it is now primarily valued for its historic and scientific significance and is rarely if ever burned or otherwise used in fragrances.



This is a rare and unusual animal product that is highly desirable in perfumery. Ambergris comes from the sperm whale’s digestive tract, where scientists theorize it acts as a kind of digestive aid for sharp or hard parts of the sea animals the whale is known to eat. On its initial passing, it is a black substance with a foul odor. Over time, it becomes a hard, buoyant chunk of gray material with a strong scent many find desirable. It is sometimes found washed up on the shore after floating on the ocean and aging in the sun.

Even among sperm whales, ambergris is a rare occurrence, making it an expensive and impractical ingredient for fragrance-making. Its sale and use are even illegal in some countries; the United States is one such place due to the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Nevertheless, it is still sometimes used elsewhere in fragrances as a stabilizing ingredient with a musky scent — far removed from what we consider amber scent to be.

A terpene that naturally occurs in ambergris, called ambrein, is responsible for its sought-after musk fragrance, used by breaking it down into ambrinol and ambroxan. In the 1950s, ambroxan was first synthesized from the herb clary sage. Since then, it has been produced under the brand Ambroxan. Ambroxan is now commonly used in perfumery in place of the original whale byproduct.

ambergris natural whale

History of the Different Amber Scents

Amber was referenced by Greek philosophers as early as 2,000 years ago. These mentions seem to refer to fossilized amber or ambergris — or both — washing up on beaches. Considering this, it appears as though the confusion surrounding the different types of amber goes back a long time.

It seems that the connection between amber and tree sap was also known in ancient times. Amber resin was apparently used and traded throughout the Mediterranean and Baltics, while fossilized amber was burned as incense in China.

Marco Polo reported that sperm whales were hunted for ambergris in the Orient. Later, King Charles II of England was known for his fondness of eating eggs with ambergris for breakfast.

Some sources place the origin of the modern amber scent (that is, amber fragrance derived from resins and extracts) in the late 1800s. Today, it is a popular unisex fragrance found in a wide variety of products. Amber is often included as a fragrance in candles, perfumes, lotions, and other products for use on the body. It is considered to be warm, cozy, or sexy. Perfume connoisseurs may describe it as sweet, spicy, musky, resinous, or powdery, or as being reminiscent of wood, leather, or liquor.

Amber Scent in Candles

One of the most luxurious ways to enjoy amber is in the form of a candle. There’s nothing like curling up with a book or in the bath while a sweet, sensuously scented candle fills the space with aroma and flickering candlelight.

Nomad Noé is a luxury candle brand in the United States. Our 100% vegan and cruelty-free candles are made from a unique blend of vegetable waxes and hand-poured in small batches. We source our fragrances from the perfume capital: Grasse, France. These fragrances are natural and free of phthalates, parabens, and other undesirable chemicals. Browse our collection today for our amber scent plus many more.

A candle from Nomad Noé with amber notes


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