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on 6 June 2013
I love perfume and have as long as I can remember but I never thought about the history or chemistry behind it.
Not all perfume is made from ambergris...some still are and there is a lot of false information about where ambergris really
comes from. It's not a pretty beginning to something so filled with luxury and beauty.
This book is well written and kept my attention but most of all...taught me something !!!
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on 10 June 2012
I devoured this book in one weekend - the author tells a truly riveting tale, describing his own journey from near complete ignorance of the subject to being something of an expert. On the way he brings the reader through a continuing adventure story, both historical and modern day, complete with treasure hunters, ancient and secretive businesses, veiled and overt threats, and scientific interest. I generally enjoy books that trace the history of some particular, valuable substance (Vanilla, Tea, or Chocolate for example) and this one is a fine example of the genre. Also I think the chosen subject is quite possibly the weirdest one ever, which adds to the interest. It is almost enough to make one want to don the anorak and head to the beach just after high tide, in the winter, the stormier the better... well, almost.

Highly recommended!
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Christopher Kemp is a scientist (molecular biology and neuroscience) but
he is also a romantic. His subject (some may say obsession) concerns the
nature, history and trade of ambergris, one of the most mysterious and
elusive substances on the planet which, as the title of his book denotes,
is also extremely valuable. Essentially ambergris is the undigested
by-product of the sperm whale's epic appetite for squid (their beaks!),
consumed in vast quantities on their forays into the ocean depths and
ejected (or removed after death by opportunistic fisher-folk) to roll around
the globe, often for decades, until it washes ashore in pieces of vastly
different size (from a few grams to lumps weighing over two hundred pounds)
and in varying states of transformation and quality until it finds its home,
through highly secretive trade routes, in the hands of the world's most elite
perfume manufacturers (it is used both as a "fixative", its essential molecules
binding a fragrance to skin for longevity and for its own intrinsic odour).

Mr Kemp's fascination with this rare commodity becomes all-consuming and
his descriptions of his own beach combing along the shores of his New
Zealand homeland; discussions with other scientists, perfumers and
professional ambergris hunters (some of his accounts of the turf - or
perhaps more accurately surf - wars are really rather disturbing!) leads us
to the heart of this highly specialised and closely guarded area of knowledge.

Although a tad repetitive at times the book is, nonetheless, totally absorbing.

Recommended.
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on 19 June 2012
A most unusual book about an unusual substance, Christopher Kemp shares his passion and enthusiam to find out more about ambergris excreted by the sperm whale. His descriptive passages many set on the beaches of New Zealand make interesting reading. His many visits to museums to obtain first hand knowledge and actual smell a real specimen result in one almost experiencing the fragrance. His persistence in uncovering the background to the world wide marketing of the the substance reveals a flourishing trade kept out of the public domain. Well written, this book is recommended both for the scientific reader and the layman.
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on 16 October 2012
I was not sure what to expect when I picked this up, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the author's narrative style. It was quite engrossing and made a fairly obscure quite interesting. The story was compelling as the author went on a search for knowledge and the elusive substance he was tying so hard to find out about. I was hoping to read a bit more about its use in perfumes, but I may pick that up in other books.
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on 16 January 2013
I had been waiting a while to read this book by Christopher Kemp. There's not much published information on ambergris, therefore I thoroughly enjoyed his journey and insight within this wired/hidden industry.

However, If I see you combing my beach there will be a price to pay!!! :)
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on 21 October 2015
The content of the book is somewhat diluted among repeated walks on the beach of the Author looking for ambergris. However fun to read.
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on 18 January 2015
Very interesting book and very readable. Makes you feel like you know the author. Highly recommended
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on 8 September 2014
Most informative in depth examination of a subject I am as obsessed with as the author.
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on 11 August 2016
VERY INFORMATIVE. GOOD SERVICE AND GOOD PRODUCT. WELL PLEASED.
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