Ingredient Spotlight - Ambrox Super
We intend to share lots about the delicious essential oils in Ocean, from the woody Haitian vetiver to the aromatic lavandin grown at high altitudes in France. But we're conscious that we have spent a lot of time exploring the lovely natural ingredients that are a huge part of Undo, and the mineral based molecules that we sometimes depend on are often left behind in the story. This week we are claiming the space for ‘safe’ synthetics (1) by spotlighting a key ingredient in Ocean, Ambrox Super, a molecule produced using white biotechnology with eco credentials that are worth shouting about.
Over 70% of the Earth’s surface is water, therefore it feels completely necessary to have an aquatic blend in the Undo range. The entire candle collection is designed around the celebration of different ecosystems and Ocean is such a crucial one. Our perfumer advised us that this concept would be one of the most challenging to evoke. Water isn't a smell as such but more of a feeling and our designs tend towards realism as we aim to represent places on the planet that inspire us. In this blend we were searching for something that celebrates the sea but wasn’t stereotypical; fresh familiarity with sparks of added wonder!
-images from OCEAN moodboard during scent development
To evoke senses of the ocean we became obsessed with the inclusion of an ambergris note. Natural ambergris, referred to as the treasure of the sea, is very evocative of the ocean. This very rare and high end earthy material, is derived from the digestive system of a sperm whale and therefore is not vegan.
The ingredient is a waste product from the whale, making it possible to collect on a beach without harm to the mammal, however, there’s a history of whales being hunted for ambergris and other valuable products. The Natural History Museum’s leading whale expert, Richard Sabin, explains that although these mammals are now protected in many parts of the world, it's not the case everywhere and there is still risk for further exploitation in the future if their resources continue to be viewed as valuable. He advises that “Synthetic alternatives to ambergris do exist and the use of these should be encouraged”
Finding An Alternative
We did not wish to use an ingredient derived from animals and through our commitment to future proofing the protection of nature, we wanted to follow scientific advice to find a synthetic alternative.
Reducing environmental impact is a key element of Undo ingredient selection and so we needed an alternative that was just as high in quality, that was safe for the air and our ecosystems. Ambrox is produced using white biotechnology (2) coupled with green chemistry, it is readily biodegradable (3) and has 100% renewable carbon content.
“As an alternative to the natural ambergris, we selected Ambrox Super, a molecule that has the odorant of the raw material. It’s nature identical, but without the ethical issues attached.” Harry Sherwood, Perfumer for Undo : Ocean.
Ambrox Super adds a musky, woody tonality to the blend. Paired with salty vetiver, watery citrus, orange blossom and lavender makes this an exciting and almost spa-like composition..
(1) Safe synthetics is a term we use cautiously, as all ingredients included in formulations are required to meet the same safety standards for their intended purpose in the UK, natural or not.
(2) the synthesis of products that use less energy, less waste and are biodegradable
(3) As per our anti greenwashing policy, we will not claim an ingredient/material as biodegradable without explaining the length of time needed to biodegrade. This molecule takes less than 28 days and is officially classed as 'readily biodegradable'.
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