It breathes, it moves, it reproduces, and it is a living organism! Although part of a rather small, and rare perfume category, Musk, is one of the few ingredients that fall into the group of perfume ingredients that derive from animals.
Animalistic in its nature, with a strong, and distinctively bold, yet light, powdery and woody complexity, with even sweat-like undertones; this ingredient is undeniably sensual and perfect for ‘second-skin’ fragrances. Often used as a base note, fixing the more volatile notes, there is a wide variety of facets: from woody, ambery, powdery, fruity, and even floral profiles, to waxy notes, and fainted metallic.
With an endless list of the most prominent fragrances, and endless classics containing the notes of Musk, such as Voyage d’Hermes by Hermes, CK One by Calvin Klein, Musc Ravageur by Frederic Malle, it is no secret that this ingredient is truly a favourite for perfumers and a must-have!
Dating back as early as the 6th Century, Musk was initially brought from India by Greek explorers, and it was specifically the Arabic and Byzantine perfumers, including the famous Al-Kindi himself, in the later 9th century, who perfected the art of capturing the scents aphrodisiac powers, and subsequently, Musk’s popularity began to spread along the silk and spice routes.
Over decades and centuries, the use of Musk for perfumery only strengthened, yet with this, does come to a tragedy...
Natural musk, also known as ‘Tonkin Musk’, most commonly comes from the male Musk deer, native to Asia, or from a cat with Musk Civet. In perfumery, it is specifically the pungent, brown substance, which is secreted from the sex gland during rutting, that is treasured by perfumers. To render the use of Musk, the glands are removed from the mammal, and the substance within is collected, dried, and crushed into a powder, to be then soaked in ethanol to mature for months, or ideally even years. At this point, it unveils the musky scent and accords that we adore.
With the trade of Musk reaching its peak at the beginning of the 20th century; consequently, approximately 50,000 animals were killed each year, merely to obtain around 400 kg of Musk. Thankfully, as our world became more conscious and ethical regarding animal products, severe measures were taken to restrict the trade of natural Musk, and by 1979, the vastly endangered Tibetan Musk deer was fortunately finally protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES), and since, has been raised in captivity.
Although attempted methods of extraction without animal excretion have been developed in China, they haven’t been greatly efficient as it has been found that the bucks secrete less substance when held in captivity.
With the fight for musk increasing the deers' risk of extinction, it has also enhanced the ingredient’s rarity, where it costs three times more than gold. Perfumers turned to the lab, with the hope to one, preserve and recreate this unique and intoxicating scent, two, protect the animals, and three suggest a cheaper option! Although the use of Musk in perfumery was abandoned for some time, with the creation and exploration of synthetic versions, it is back on the market!
There are three divided families for synthetic Musk. Firstly, nitro-musk’s, such as musk ketone and musk xylene. However, due to safety concerns, utilizing this ingredient has been deemed a controversial issue. Next, we have polycyclic musk’s, which includes galaxolide and tonalide. Although they are popular, this group similarly raises questions on its potential harm, due to issues of biodegrading. And lastly, macrocyclic musk’s, or better known as Muscone, is currently and most fondly used within the perfume industry, as well as in hygiene products.
The search and investigation of the macrocyclic Musk compound initially began in 1888, when Albert Baur by chance created a substance with a musky scent. However, it was soon found to be toxic and dangerous towards humans' health and was aborted. It was not long after, in 1926, when Croatian-swiss scientist, Lavoslav Ruzicka finally succeeded in establishing the molecular structure of Muscone, as well as synthesising it in small quantities.
With each having its own specific characteristics, the different variations of macrocyclic musk’s, or white musk, collectively share the largest resemblance to natural, Tonkin Musk. In addition, they are precisely the chemicals, that are most commonly found, and used for bringing roundness and suppleness to fragrance structures.
Nevertheless, aside from the popular synthetics, nature has not said its last word, as a few natural ingredients can similarly mimic and deliver this light musky, sensual scent to a fragrance. These include the Ambrette seed, Galbanum, and the Angelica root. Despite these alternatives, Musk remains a coveted material, though difficult to obtain and export.
Our first recommendation for your custom perfume recipe, bringing prolonged freshness during the day, is our MUSK MIRAGE perfume, and ORANGE BLOSSOM scent. A fragrance of embodied innocence with the soft and subtle, tender, earthy body of Musk, envelopes the freshly green and purely alluring Orange Blossom. This union of ingredients reinforces harmony and creates a second-skin feel, making it easy to wear for the whole day.
For those who instead seek a fragrance that will be seductive and charming in its nature, then the elixir of MUSK MIRAGE infused with the scent of MUGUET MUSE is exactly what you need. Crisp, fresh, sparkling, green, and sensual, yet not overpowering, and perfect for date night! It is an exotic duo that demands attention, so be prepared for bypasses to lean closer, to fully indulge in your perfume!
Lastly, we propose a fragrance that is designed to encapsulate a trendy, confident, and younger aesthetic: MUSK MIRAGE and our RASPBERRY REDEMPTION perfume. A spray, and you will have personal on-neck cheerleaders! Fruity, juicy, flirty, warm, creamy, and loaded with high levels of sensuality and tenacity. This twist of modern composition is grounding and although not intensely strong, it for sure is very memorable!