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Maison Francis Kurkdjian is supporting marine biodiversity conservation by teaming with non-profit Longitude 181  for initiatives to help protect sperm whales in the Mediterranean Sea. Founded in 2002 by oceanographer François Sarano, Longitude 181 works to protect exceptional biological and cultural diversity across the planet. 

Co-founder and CEO Marc Chaya and Francis Kurkdjian have taken this civic-minded step to protect sperm whales, which have been classified as a “vulnerable” species. This commitment has particular resonance for perfume.

“Since 2021, we joined forces with the not-for-profit organization Longitude 181 to promote the study and protection of sperm whales in the Mediterranean Sea. A civic-minded initiative in line with the preservation of the environment”.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian

What is Ambergris?

Photo: Natural History Museum

Ambergris is one of the most fascinating and sought-after ingredients in perfumery. Known for its unique and alluring scent, this fragrance ingredient has a rich history and a mysterious allure that has captured the imagination of people for centuries. Ambergris is a rare and highly prized substance that is produced in the digestive system of sperm whales. It is formed when the whale’s body tries to expel indigestible objects, such as squid beaks or cuttlefish bones, that the whale has consumed. Over time, the expelled material is transformed by the ocean’s currents, sun, and saltwater, creating ambergris.

Photo: Carousel

Ambergris has a distinct fragrance that is highly prized in perfumery. It has a complex and intriguing scent, often described as musky, earthy, and slightly sweet. Its scent is highly prized because it is both long-lasting and uniquely able to enhance and amplify other fragrances.

If the moon had a scent, it would be ambergris. It has a recognizable marine and iodine odor; a kind of salinity. It’s full of mystery”.

Francis Kurkdjian

Extracting ambergris for use in perfumery can be a difficult and time-consuming process. The first step in the process is to find a piece of ambergris that has washed up on shore or has been found floating in the ocean. Once a fair bit has been found, it is cleaned and prepared for use in perfumery.

The scent of ambergris is enhanced by exposing it to the air and sunlight, a process that can take several years. Once the ambergris has been properly aged, it can be used in perfumes. To extract the fragrance, the ambergris is typically soaked in alcohol, which helps to release its scent. This process can take several weeks or even months, depending on the desired strength of the fragrance. It has been employed as a fragrance enhancer for centuries, but given the rarity of natural ambergris, it has been replaced by synthetic molecules.

I have personally had the chance to have a piece of ambergris in my hands. By delicately scratching the surface with the nail, I experienced the most exquisite, subtle, yet powerful scent of all. It was floral, animalic, musky, and the olfactory story would continue for hours. I find it magical that we need to give time to time in today’s world as we cannot grow ambergris; we cannot raise ambergris. We must be patient and wait several years for nature to operate its magic. Then, we must be lucky enough to bump into a piece of the precious substance on the beach sands.

Photo: Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Maison Francis Kurkdjian and Longitude 181

Thanks to funding from Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Longitude 181 has launched a new mission as part of its WhaleWay program (in French, La Voix des Cachalots, or “The Voice of Sperm Whales”) in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of France’s Port-Cros national park. One of the program’s primary goals is to understand better how sperm whales live to protect their environment and enable them to thrive.

Source: Maison Francis Kurkdjian youtube channel

Longitude 181 is a French non-profit organization that advocates for protecting marine ecosystems and biodiversity. The organization was founded in 2002 by François Sarano, a marine biologist and famous former oceanographer Jacques Cousteau collaborator.

Longitude 181 focuses on raising public awareness about preserving the oceans and the marine species that inhabit them. The organization works on several initiatives, including organizing campaigns to reduce plastic pollution, promoting sustainable fishing practices, and lobbying governments to create marine protected areas. Through its various initiatives, Longitude 181 aims to promote a deeper understanding of the importance of the oceans and inspire individuals and communities to take action to protect them. The organization’s work is essential in the fight against climate change and the preservation of the natural resources that sustain life on Earth.

A sperm whale is thirty tons of grace, lightness and elegance flying through the ocean sky”.

Dr. François Sarano, Oceanographer 

Maison Francis Kurkdjian actively supports cultural institutions and eco-citizen associations to set up creative programmes for a cause. Long-term projects are developed through exchanging knowledge, human encounters and shared perspectives. This commitment is another illustration of substantial contributions by LVMH Maisons to the environmental policy set out in the Group’s LIFE 360 ecological roadmap. 

José Amorim
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