For many, the perfume of musk is part of their daily olfactory ritual… And our noses melt every time for its soft fragrance that reveals itself on the skin. But what is behind this sensual ingredient prized by perfumers? Its history has been written since antiquity and continues to evolve today. Let’s dive into the origins of this addictive note.
Where does the perfume of musk come from?
Musk, an animal ingredient
Baby smell, rice powder or fresh sheets… It is difficult to resist the perfume of musk. Yet the origin of this ingredient is quite disturbing. Let’s go back in time to millennia, on the highest plateaus of Asia: between the Himalayas, China and Siberia. This is where we find the musk deer, an animal species that looks like a small deer. These Moschus Moschiferus, of their scientific name, produce secretions to charm the females during the rutting period which come from a gland nestled in the abdomen of the animal. This gland contains a brown odorous liquid: the musk.
From exploitation to prohibition
Wanting in turn to take advantage of this so singular odor, men decided to extract this precious liquid. But musk only retains its olfactory properties when it is kept warm, under the animal’s skin. The harvesting of musk led fatally to the death of the deer. However, the hunting of the mammal was practiced intensively in the 1900s and even more so between 1960 and 1970. The production of musk was also a very lucrative activity as it sold for up to 400,000 francs per kilo. To protect this overexploited and endangered species, the hunting of musk deer was totally forbidden from 1979 on.
What is the fragrance of musk?
Did you know that before being appreciated, the perfume of musk is difficult to breathe? Once out of its pocket, its smell is so strong that even the fastest ships would not carry it at the time! Strongly ammoniated, it gives off scents of wood, fur and… feces. After a refinement in an alcoholic dye, the musk perfume becomes irresistibly sensual and enveloping. Very persistent, it is used as a fixative by the perfumers to give amplitude to their creations.
Musk, a prized perfume with legendary virtues
Since ancient times, musk has been used for its many virtues and was considered a luxury product. The Arab people incorporated it into many rituals to fight the evil spells of the deities. It is evoked in the Muslim religion as the perfume that the blessed will smell in heaven.
Oriental medicine claims that it purifies the air and expels parasites from the body. In the Middle Ages, animal substances such as musk experienced a veritable frenzy. If between East and West the effects of musk sometimes diverge, the aphrodisiac power of the ingredient is always mentioned! Some people drink it through a straw to make themselves more attractive, while Baudelaire emphasizes its sensual side in the Flowers of Evil.
White musk, clean scent
From an animal ingredient to laboratory musk
Before the banning of animal musk, researchers have been working since the late 1800s on synthetic ingredients to reproduce musky notes. Their perfumes did not completely replace the natural smell so characteristic, but evoked more of a “clean” odor. These molecules were quickly adopted by laundry merchants to add a fresh scent to their products. In 1926, Lavoslav Ružička, a future Nobel Prize winner and employee of the Firmenich company, succeeded in synthesizing an element of natural musk, muscone. From his research, a multitude of synthetic compounds were created to reproduce the perfume of musk. They are called white musks, as opposed to animal musk.
The perfume of white musk
Musky notes, or white musks, offer a very wide variety of facets. Their shades can be mellow, coppery, cottony, floral, sensual… Beyond these scents, synthetic musk has the capacity to be an excellent fixative. It is used a lot as a base note to bind the materials and fix the more volatile ingredients.
White musks are gathered into three families:
- Nitro-musks, which have long been used in perfumery during the 20th century but are now prohibited.
- Polycyclic musks whose smell is rather generous. They are only used today by a few laundry companies, as they are known to be poorly biodegradable.
- Macrocyclic musks are the most used in perfumery today. In this category we find various molecules with a variety of notes, including the famous muscone, but also exaltolide with floral shades and ambrettolide with powdery facets. All of them have particular characteristics, but each will bring roundness, sensuality and suppleness to a composition.
Which musk-based perfume to choose?
Musc, a discreet and sensual eau de parfum
In the eau de parfum musc, the warm fragrance of white musk is made even more caressing thanks to cotton flower. To bring freshness to this composition, fruity notes of melon at the top and raspberry at the bottom are invited. A musk fragrance for women that has character but is discreet, whose sensuality is revealed closer to your skin.
A home fragrance with musk
The scent of musk will also gently settle into your home with the burning incense. With the strike of a match, the stick impregnated with our musky fragrance will diffuse all its bewitching heat in your home. The powdery softness and the amber notes of musk will invite you to relax…
Did you know the meaning of white musk? Do you like musk perfumes?
Discover the fragrances mentioned in the article