The Murky Matter of Musk
20 Musk Fragrances to Smell before You Die
(Page 2 of 2)

01st September, 2017

20 Musk Fragrances to Smell before You Die

I’ve thought long and hard about how to organize this section of the article. A list of every single musk fragrance or attar that’s ever crossed my path would be unnecessarily long and not particularly useful to the reader, then there’s the question of whether to separate the attars from the alcohol-based sprays, or the perfumes containing real deer musk from those that do not.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to simply set out a list of fragrances or attars that I think exemplify a certain theme or category very well. Readers are more than welcome to use these as yardsticks or as jumping-off points for their own exploration.


If you are curious about what genuine deer musk smells like, then contact an artisanal attar maker (any of them) and ask whether they have a tincture or maceration they’d be able to share with you. Try not to quibble on the cost, which is likely to be astronomical even for a small sample. If you’re curious about musk, it’s good to have a baseline, but be aware that the difficulty (to the vendor) of obtaining the real deal is reflected in its price.

Few attar makers openly advertize the fact that they work with natural deer musk. However, whatever you are able to arrange in a one-on-one conversation is different.


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Siberian Musk by Areej Le Doré

Contains real deer musk:

Format: Extrait de parfum; spray

Siberian Musk by Areej Le Dore
Siberian Musk is a rare example of a non-attar fragrance that contains genuine deer musk, tinctured from legally-obtained Siberian musk grains. It has proved to be enormously popular because it is a well-made perfume with real depth and complexity, not just a tincture of raw, animalic musk diluted with alcohol that clubs you over the head. It’s what I’d call a proper perfume, made in a classically French style.

After a bright citrus and pine start, the scent settles quickly into a full-fat, clotted-cream musk redolent of rosy beeswax, apricots, orange blossom, and the salty intimacy of a post-coital embrace. The musk component manages to be seriously filthy but in a refined way, with a buttery floral purr that typifies a French sort of polish.

The musk here is authentically sensual and animal-like, but it comes across as a creamy, rounded smell, not sharply urinous or sweaty. Texture-wise, it has the silky density of yellow fat skimmed off the top of raw milk. Think Muscs Khoublai Khan crossed with the decaying roses and adiposal wax of Rose de Nuit, backlit by the subtle glow of resin, orange blossom, and citrus peel. The contrast between the fresh notes and the fatty, un-fresh musk is perfectly pitched.

TL; DR: Real deer musk in a classic perfumery setting. (Won’t scare the horses.)

Available from : Areej le Doré


Muscs Khoublai Khan by Serge Lutens

Contains real deer musk: X

Format: Eau de parfum; spray

Muscs Koublai Khan by Serge Lutens
Muscs Khoublai Khan is still the best example of a Western niche fragrance that mimics the arousing, animalic smell of real musk without containing a single drop of it. The success of the fragrance might be due to the fact that the synthetic musk molecule used here (probably Tonquitone) has been woven into a rich tapestry of other animalic notes such as castoreum, civet, ambergris, and ambrette seed, so that a complex, 3-D picture of a furred animal emerges rather than a bare-bones musk dilution.

More than any other niche fragrance, it manages to recreate the textural component of real musk, which smells like the static electricity and ions in the air when damp fur or wool dries out in front of a fire. It is comforting, sensual, and intimate in a grimy way that never fails to please.

TL; DR: Complex mix of synthetics that mimics scent of real deer musk (briefly fecal)

Available from : Serge Lutens


Tsuga Musk by The Most Beautiful Scents (eBay)

Contains real deer musk:

Format: Attar (oil-based perfume)

Tsuga Musk by The Most Beautiful Scents
Tsuga Musk is a good example of how an attar maker can emphasize the quieter, more delicate facets of real musk by pairing it with similar materials. As musk attars go, this is powdery and irisy, with soft cocoa-like touches. Tsuga Musk is built around a special vintage material that once depleted can never be replaced, namely a 50-year-old musk paste found in the possessions of a Yemeni perfumer when he died. Framing the powdery, intimate scent of the old musk is an array of coniferous woods, resins, and ambergris, all set in place to accentuate a certain briny freshness at the heart of the musk’s aroma.

There is a huge amount of good quality orris butter up front, presenting as a pure grey suede purse. When the orris mingles with the vintage musk unguent, it fuses into a powdered dark chocolate or cocoa note, laced with spearmint. Under the haze of minty, starchy orris and cocoa, the fine grey leather strengthens as the true heart of the scent. The musk is beautifully placed in this attar – it is neither pungent nor strong, but soft, dusty, earthy, and slightly “stale”, like old chocolate bars turning white and brittle at the edges. This nuance of the musk melds perfectly with the flinty orris butter, and it is a match made in heaven.

It is only at the edges of the scent, and then in the far drydown, that I catch the salty, briny notes that capture the marine air the attar maker was deliberately aiming for. These notes are finally brought forth by the silty, marine breeze of ambergris, which is simultaneously sweet and salty, but not really substantial, appearing more like molecules of sparkling sea air than something you can touch. Towards the base, vetiver, civet, patchouli, and hemlock add a chypre-like woody bitterness that adds backbone to the scent.

TL; DR: Delicate deer musk meets delicate cocoa & orris (Dior Homme flanker?)

Available from : eBay seller page


Musc Nomade by Annick Goutal

Contains real deer musk: X

Format: Eau de parfum, spray

Musc Nomade by Annick Goutal
Musc Nomade is a good example of a perfume that mixes natural, botanical musks (ambrette, angelica) with synthetic musk to arrive at a complex aroma that is very skin-like and sensual. In this case, the naturals have been paired with an expensive synthetic white musk molecule called Muscone, which according to its Good Scents data entry, smells very soft, sweet, and animalic in a refined, elegant manner. By all accounts, this musk molecule does a very good job of mimicking the key fragrant component of deer musk, itself called muscone.

It’s also a good example of how many people are anosmic to certain musks, especially those with a high molecular weight. Musc Nomade is famous for smelling like, well, a big fat nothing to a large portion of the population. Personally, I can smell most of it, but my husband can’t smell a thing and my brother finds it to be incredibly diffusive.

How, then, to describe it to people who can’t smell it? Musc Nomade smells at first like baked apples and rose petals, probably due to the ambrette seed. But then it smells plasticky and rubbery, and in turn, milky and caramel-sweet, like the skin on a rice pudding.

Mostly, though, it smells fatty and warm, like the best version of one’s own skin. Sometimes, though, it smells cloudy and indistinct, and when this happens Musc Nomade simply smells perfumey, like smelling the tail end of someone’s white musk perfume at the end of a long day. It’s not fresh, but it’s lived in and warmly skin-like.

TL; DR: Imperceptible to some, to others, idealized (milk pudding) skin

Available from: Lucky Scent


Musk Attar 2011 by The Rising Phoenix Perfumery

Contains real deer musk:

Format: Attar (oil-based perfume)

Musk Attar contains real deer musk. It opens with a strangely familiar odor, which I can’t pinpoint exactly except to say that it lies somewhere between glue, plastic, varnish, and something industrial, but still warm and putty-like. Repeated wears has made me wonder if this is due to the type of sandalwood oil used in the attar, which is oily, rich, but very peanut shell-ish in aroma profile. But more likely, it is the combination of the deer musk with the sandalwood oil. Some deer musks have a sweet, plasticky or rubbery smell, akin to the waft of air that greets the nose when you open your children’s’ lunchboxes after a summer of disuse.

Behind the first wave of sandalwood high notes, there rises a familiar, skin-like aroma that combines facets of stale cocoa powder, cocoa husks, woods and newspaper, and something a little boozy and fruity, like apple schnapps. This is the musk coming forward a bit more. The overall aroma is soft, pillowy, and intimate, not just in terms of scent but also sillage and projection: this is not your typical “beast mode” musk.

It is fairly neutral in aroma profile, as well as abstract. It does not remind me of anything definable like flowers or leather. It is just a pale, cloudy mixture of neutral musk and wood, whipped into a meringue-like texture.

The musk note is quite delicate, and towards the drydown, the sandalwood swells up once again, obscuring the aroma of the musk almost entirely. The sandalwood in the base smells very different to the varnish-like wood in the topnotes; there is no strangeness here, just a deep, aromatic, buttery sandalwood in the Rising Phoenix Perfumery fashion. The attar seems to grow in strength and volume in the far reaches of the drydown, probably the musk and the sandalwood amplifying each other until their voices soar a little higher.

TL; DR: Emphasizes the plasticky, stale-air facets of musk (sandalwood-dominant)

Available from : Rising Phoenix Etsy page


Salome by Papillon Artisan Perfumes

Contains real deer musk: X

Format: Eau de parfum, spray

Salome by Papillon
Salome is a great example of a niche perfume that uses a complex array of cruelty-free natural musks (hyraceum), indolic florals, smoky resins, cumin, and synthetic castoreum to create a perfume that smells authentically like a very dirty musk. Hyraceum is the main driver behind the animalism of this scent, hyraceum being the calcified urine of the Cape Hyrax, a small animal who defecates on one area of the rocks and urinates in yet another, an unusually tidy habit that makes harvesting a breeze.

Salome is almost indecently dirty. In my original review of this scent, I said it drew on older classic animalic fragrances like Femme and Bal à Versailles. Forget that, I don’t know what I was smoking. I don’t think that even vintage Joy was ever this dirty. It’s great, and almost hilariously filthy.

TL; DR: Niche scent that uses ethical animal musks to slut-shame real deer musk.

Available from: Papillon, Luckyscent


Body Musk (Jism) Blend by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

Contains real deer musk: X

Format: Solid musk cubes, attar (oil-based perfume)

Body Musk Blend
This is the best white musk on the market. It's a luxuriously creamy, powdery oil (or solid cube) that slides right onto the skin without any tackiness or stickiness. It smells like clean skin, cream soda, vanilla ice cream, and warm, folded cashmere blankets straight from the laundry basket. There is none of the attendant sharpness that usually mars the cottony feel of white musks.

Beautiful on its own, it can also layered under sharp rose oils or even darker musks and ambers to give whatever you’re wearing a soft, musky undertone. For anybody who loves creamy, clean musk fragrances like Serge Lutens' Clair de Musc, give this one a try and you won't ever look back. Also, a drop or piece crumbled into your bath is amazing.

TL; DR: The best whiter than white musk on the market.

Available from: eBay


Musc Tonkin by Parfum d’Empire

Contains real deer musk: X

Format: Eau de parfum / extrait de parfum; spray

Musk Tonkin
Musc Tonkin is a good example of a fragrance that utilizes the innate muskiness of indolic flowers to create a fragrance that smells authentically like some aspects of deer musk, especially its almost cloying sweetness and its dusty-stuffy feel that can sometimes feel claustrophobic.

There’s no notes list for this fragrance, but at a bare minimum, I’d guess that it features lily, orchid, ylang ylang, rose, synthetic civet, tonquitone, ambrette seed, amber, tree moss, sandalwood, and perhaps either natural or synthetic ambergris. The primary characteristic of the muskiness here is the salty, almost meaty element coming from something like lily or ambergris.

If Muscs Khoublai Kahn recalls the sweet muskiness of the male perineal region, then Musc Tonkin, with its oyster-like brininess, recalls a female sort of muskiness. What’s wonderful about Musc Tonkin is that all this is wrapped up in a silky, creamy warmth that makes it truly comfortable to wear on the skin.

TL; DR: A fragrance that relies on salt and indolic florals to create the illusion of real musk

Available from: Lucky Scent


Kiswat Al Kaaba by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi

Contains real deer musk: ?

Format: attar (oil-based perfume)

This is a good example of an attar that, while it is not likely to contain much if any deer musk, smells authentically musky if one takes Muscs Khoublai Khan as the bellwether. Although the surrounding notes are different – patchouli and green notes replacing MKK’s rose and castoreum – the faintly fecal taint of the musk note is roughly similar.

Roughly translating to the scent that comes from the cloth covering the Ka’aba in Mecca, this is an excellent attar that mixes a pungent, fecal musk note with loads of camphoraceous Indian patchouli for a greenish, antiseptic effect. It would be quite close to Abdul Samad Al Qurashi’s Ajeeb Musk Blend, a rather heavy duty patchouli musk, were it not for the labdanum, and perhaps a touch of fruity Cambodi oud providing a pleasantly woody, oriental background. The overall feel is rich yet dusty and serene.

The musk is properly dirty in tone, with that flat, inky indole that some sambac jasmine oils possess, a hint of tar and smoke dancing around the edges of the aroma. On the skin it is dense, fragrant, and almost sweet, with a sillage and trail that is quite impressive (although not loud or overbearing). The musk becomes steadily more animalic in character as the day wears on, but the effect is subtle and woven seamlessly into the other notes.

Available from


Egyptian Musk by dearmusk (eBay seller)

Contains real deer musk: X

Format: Attar (oil-based perfume)

This is the best version of an Egyptian-style musk I’ve come across. Practically every attar company in the world produces their own version of this, possibly the most famous one being the oil produced by Abdul Kareem Essential Oils - the personal scent of the late Caroline Bessette Kennedy.

The Egyptian musk trope is popular in commercial perfumery too, and we are probably all familiar with a famous example, namely Narciso Rodriguez for Her, created by the same designer who made Bessette Kennedy’s wedding dress (leading one to assume that the designer was originally inspired by Bessette Kennedy’s use of this oil).

Although all Egyptian musks are based on the same synthetic white musks found in white musk attars, they used to be 100% natural, drawing upon costly ambrette seed, wild herbs, and florals for their musky effect. Nowadays, Egyptian musks differ in “flavor” from white musks simply through the addition of patchouli and rose.

This particular oil uses a fruity, bubblegummy jasmine that brightens the topnotes and gives the wearer a bit of childish glee. But then it settles into a very sensuous, warm musk aroma that closely mimics the scent of real skin, unlike white musks which simply broadcast laundry-fresh cleanliness. This is a real “my skin but better” musk oil and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Egyptian musks. Other Egyptian musk oils with a good reputation include Auric Blends Egyptian Goddess and the Egyptian Musk Oil by AgarscentsBazaar.

TL; DR: An Egyptian musk oil with a real “my skin but better” sensuousness.

Available from:  Etsy store


Musk Rose Attar

Contains real deer musk: X

Format: Attar (oil-based perfume)

Musk Rose
I’ve already reviewed Musk Rose Attar in this interview with JK DeLapp of The Rising Phoenix. But I include it here again because it is such a good example of how an attar can draw upon botanical musks, and particularly hina musk attar, to create a musky feel that is authentically animalic and deer musk-like in feel.

The muskiness in Musk Rose – which doesn’t appear, by the way, until the far drydown – comes entirely from plant-based sources, and specifically by way of a rare Hina musk attar, a traditional Indian shamama distilled from hundreds of different aromatic materials, including charila (Indian oakmoss), henna flower, ambrette seed, herbs, vetiver root, saffron, davana, and kewra (screwpine flower). A genuine, traditionally-made hina musk attar costs in the region of several thousand USD per kilo, even within India itself, where prices for attars tend to be at their least inflated, which I mention only to highlight the fact that some botanical musks are as expensive as deer musk.

Anyway, the hina musk attar gives Musk Rose a drydown that is authentically “musky” in smell, with a lingering, body odor sourness mingling with sweet mustiness, and something sweetly saliva-ish. Deer musk or not, Musk Rose occupies the same sort of mental space as Bogue Perfumery’s creations, Maai and MEM, which is to say scents that seek to recreate the musky, animalic richness and complexity of older, pre-IFRA-era fragrances.

TL; DR: No deer musk but smells convincingly deer-musky (Indian shamama attar)

Available from:


Al'Ghaliyah by Kyara Zen

Contains real deer musk:

Format: Attar (oil-based perfume)

I’ve written about Kyara Zen’s Al’Ghaliyah before, but I include it here again because it is a good example of how an attar can use real deer musk to give a subtly animalic undertone without allowing it to overshadow the key players of the perfume, which in this case are the rose and the oud. Ghaliyah attars are common in Middle-Eastern perfumery but the bulk of them appear to be synthetic in nature. Kyara Zen has confirmed that their Al’Ghaliyah is all natural and does not contain any synthetics.

That makes their achievement in this beautiful attar even more impressive. It is one of the very few rose-oud mukhallats out there that successfully manages to achieve perfect balance between the elements in the blend – a rich, perfumey oud that smells like liquid calf leather, a winey rose with no sourness or sharp corners, and what smells to me like a golden nectar of apricots, peaches, plums, and osmanthus soaking into all the other notes. And all this without any heavy lifting from synthetics, therefore doubly impressive!

The deer musk in Al’Ghaliyah is very soft and subtle, demonstrating that natural musk is not as loud and overbearing as modern synthetic reproductions sometimes make it out to be. The presence of the musk is simply to imbue the base with furry (clean) animal warmth.

TL; DR: Attar that shows that deer musk doesn’t always have to take over in a blend.

Available from: (Al Galiyah is only available sporadically and is not being advertised for sale at present)


Musk Gazelle AA by Ajmal

Contains real deer musk: ?

Format: Attar (oil-based perfume)

Ajmal’s Musk Gazelle (issued under two different names or versions, which seem to vary only in concentration) is a great example of what most people believe real deer musk smells like and should smell like, and, therefore, to a certain extent, this famous musk has become something of a benchmark. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to contain any real deer musk and therefore has probably fooled many people into thinking that this is what deer musk must smell like.

It is loud, very dirty to the point of being downright fecal, and quite harsh. Wearing it sometimes feel like one is on the losing end of a bet. In case anyone is in any doubt about how this one smells, it is like being forced into a barn with a thousand defecating animals.

TL; DR: Liquid slurry, only not as subtle (gives deer musk a bad name)

Available from: eBay


Al Lail by Sultan Pasha Attars (SPA)

Contains real deer musk: X

Format: Attar (oil-based perfume)

Al Lail is a good example of an attar that recreates the feel of a musky 80’s masculine without using a drop of natural musk or civet. This attar, whose name is Arabic for “The Night”, is Sultan Pasha’s tribute to one of the stinkiest, muskiest, most civet-laden fragrances of all time, the notorious La Nuit (The Night) by Paco Rabanne.

However, Al Lail is not a literal copy, thankfully side-stepping the pissy tones of the honey in the original and using instead a combination of muscone and Muscenone instead of real animalics to recreate its musky depth. Moreover, while La Nuit always smells a little bit like heavy horse sweat to me, and therefore impolite for use outside of the home, Al Lail takes a more elegant approach, folding the animalic musk and leather notes into a dusty, spicy floral musk that owes more to the carnation-heavy fragrances of the past, such as Caron’s Bellodgia and even Opium, than to La Nuit.

Al Lail is an elegant little stinker made with love for those who revere the huge, floral-animalic fragrances of the past such as Ubar by Amouage, Joy parfum by Patou, Jasmin Eugenie Imperatrice by Creed, and indeed any of the older Carons. Think Bellodgia and Tabac Blond with their spicy, powdery clove-tinted glove leather, but wrapped up in a fuzzy straight jacket of rude musks, civet, and dried flower petals.

TL; DR: A more elegant version of La Nuit using complex cocktail of synthetic musks and naturals for a retro, classic floriental feel.

Available from: ebay 


L’Animal Sauvage by Marlou

Contains real deer musk: X

Format: Extrait de parfum, spray

L’Animal Sauvage is a cross between the furred animal intimacy of Muscs Khoublai Khan and the basic, sweet musk profile of Kiehl’s Original Musk, but the real reason I am putting it on this list is because it is a good example of a musk perfume that apes the sweetness of natural musk by using sugary floral notes such as orange blossom and heliotrope.

L’Animal Sauvage is a softly animalic musk that smells a bit like the furry underbelly of kittens and their nesting box, but it gains most of its character from the huge dose of orange blossom and caramel, notes that give the scent an almost candied feel. Think wet puppy or kitten paws doused in powdered sugar. The contrast between the dirtiness of the synthetic musk used and the extreme sweetness of the flowers and gourmand notes is what gives the scent such an authentic “sweet n’ dirty” musk character.

I chose L’Animal Sauvage as an example of the theme because I like its raunchiness, but there are other great musk fragrances that pair synthetic musk molecules with candied florals and semi-gourmand notes to create musk accords that are as powdery and sweet as some natural musks. Among these I would list Musc by Mona di Orio (powdered almonds, heliotrope), Pure eVe by The Different Company (candied almonds and dried fruit), and Teint de Neige by Lorenzo Villoresi (rose lokhoum). These are all great example of musk fragrances that leave a powdery, sweet, candied-floral trail in the air when wearing them - sort of boudoir-ish and feminine, but utterly seductive.

TL; DR: Example of candied sweet florals creating a musky effect

Available from: Lucky Scent


Phoebus by Arcana

Contains real deer musk: X

Format: American indie perfume oil

Phoebus is a good example of use of the red musk that is so often cited in the descriptions of perfume oils composed by American indie oil companies such as Arcana, Solstice Scents, BPAL, and Alkemia. Red musk does not exist in nature, of course, and is simply an imaginative way of dressing up synthetic white musk as witchy or mysterious-sounding. But indie perfume oils are imagination-driven, not raw materials-driven. What’s important here is that the result smells good and matches a certain atmosphere or effect the consumer is looking for.

Phoebus is built around the same resin-beeswax-woody-vanilla axis found in many of Arcana’s perfumes, but differs significantly in by way of the addition of a big bubblegummy red musk, a shot of barbeque-strength smoke, and an interesting (and probably unintentional) whiff of sulfur as richly gassy as a kitchen where broccoli is being cooked.

Somehow, it works. At first, the nose is hit with the weird but wonderful smell of squares of strawberry Hubba Bubba gum catching fire and smoking on a BBG grill, then a rich, salty vanilla and tonka heart overlaid with sulfur, and finally a resiny woodsmoke and vanilla blend. It doesn’t feel grown-up in the slightest, but that’s probably half the fun here.

TL; DR: Great example of an indie “red musk” (bubblegum on a grill)

Available from : Femme Fatale Cosmetics, Pretty Indulgent 


Kiehl’s Original Musk by Kiehl’s

Contains real deer musk: X

Format: Perfume oil (rollerball) or Eau de Toilette (spray)

Kiehl's Original Musk
Kiehl’s Original Musk is a great example of how a basic musk fragrance can get the job done. On the sliding scale from dirty to clean, this sits on the “slightly sullied” mark. The top notes briefly recall the fecal shock of Musc Khoublai Khan’s opening but then the fragrance settles into a clean, oily musk accord that strikes some as clean and others as dirty. It’s the clean-dirty dichotomy that makes it so sexy.

The EDT version has more florals (ylang and rose) than the oil version, which goes straight to the musky heart and stays there; however, the EDT projects more generously. Either version is a fantastic entry-level musk for people who are unsure of how musky they want to go just yet.

More than any other musk fragrance, commercial or niche, Kiehl’s Original Musk demonstrates the enormous attraction of smelling not quite clean, not quite dirty, but something poised irresistibly in between. It is also one of the biggest attention getters around: wear this and prepare for random strangers to want to snuggle up.

TL; DR: The OG musk, still showing other fragrances how it’s done (no bells and whistles).

Available from: Kiehl's


Musk au Chocolat by Duftkumpels

Contains real deer musk: ✓

Format: Attar (oil-based perfume)

A good example of how deer musk can be made to smell almost entirely gourmand! Musk au Chocolat goes on dusty and flat, but soon fluffs out into a warm, furry musk tucked inside swaddling blankets of thick, dry vanilla and tangy cocoa powder.

The Mysore sandalwood used here adds its own quasi-gourmand touch, because, as everyone who loves Mysore sandalwood knows, it is as foodie as it is woody: thick, buttery, salty and sweet, with a balsamic tang that recalls both buttermilk and caramel. The Kashmiri musk in the blend is soft and bright, its pungency only really noticeable when you take your nose away from the skin for a while and then return it.

Actually, Musk au Chocolat smells rather like a musk-impregnated Ore (Slumberhouse), minus the smoky guaiac and Carmex lip balm notes. I make this observation not to imply that one might substitute for the other, but to suggest that Musk au Chocolat performs the same trick of smelling delicious but not candy-like.

This attar is a great showcase for how an artisan can accentuate and extend the sweet, powdery, and cocoa-like facets of real deer musk, nudging it in a gourmand direction, while maintaining the characteristic animalistic furriness of musk and thus making sure you wouldn’t want to eat it.

Available from: contact the attar maker, Shafqat, at: shaft1405[at]web[dot]de


Musc by Bruno Acampora

Contains real deer musk: X

Format: Oil, extrait, and Eau de Parfum

Musc by Bruno Acampora
Musc is a great example of how musk can be both vaguely repellent and mysteriously attractive at the same time. I love Musc, but it’s a total mind trip. It is not in the slightest bit sweet, powdery, or milky – but neither is it dirty, hairy, or scary. It’s just….odd. And it’s this oddness that makes it so memorable.

Musc is a musk scent that smells of places and things rather than animals or humans. Opening with a hugely musty patchouli and what smells to me like the clay-like pungency of pure lavender, I am not surprised that most people interpret it as mushroomy. It occurs to me now that the famously fungal opening to Acampora’s Iranzol is also due to this very Italian, very pungent (almost saline) medley of wet kitchen herbs and patchouli. The clove note here is dusty and stale-smelling, like radiator dust mixed with sweat. But I’m also betting on some myrrh in there, myrrh being bitter, anisic, and mushroomy in essential oil form.

The salty, aqueous nature of Musc makes me think of the peat bogs of Western Ireland, where clods of wet, minty soil mixes with the salt air from off the Atlantic. It smells a little like cold cellars full of hearty parsnips and roots.

But its mustiness also reminds me of woolen sweaters taken out of storage, and the ramshackle home of an old friend of mine, where everything they had was handmade by their ex-hippy mother, even their shoes. I loved their home and its musty smell, and I will always remember the “summer of love” that I spent there, getting paid peanuts by the dad to paint flowers and peace signs on huge recycling bins, and listening to the Beatles on repeat.

Musc is a fragrance that will be entirely personal to its wearer because of its refusal to conform to conventional ideas about how a musk should smell. It is cold rather than warm, salty rather than sweet, and so on. It smells both of the outside (peat bogs) and the inside (closed up rooms and hand-me-down clothes), but also intimately yeasty, like the moist neck fold of a fat baby. Genre-shaking stuff, and 70’s enough to make you feel like a shag pile carpet and a full bush are required to wear it.

Available from: Lucky Scent


Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker

Contains real deer musk: X

Format: Eau de Parfum

Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker
Lovely is a good example of the Egyptian musk oil theme translated into a Western, commercial spray format. It is broadly similar to the Narciso Rodriguez For Her Eau de Parfum, but contains a nose-burning topnote that I find more exciting, especially as it flirts a little with those harsh white musks associated with functional perfumery. This topnote smells half-way between a cheap lavender soap and the skin of a green apple, and is chemical enough to stand my arm hairs on edge.

But this soon merges with a creamy, rosy musk that makes the wearer feel like they have just emerged pink and naked from a steamy bubble bath, like Venus on the half shell. One of the best throw-on-and-forget-about-it floral musks out there, and at a fraction of the cost of other designer perfumes, it is difficult not to recommend. Personally, I recommend the body cream over the perfume itself, but both are very nice.

Available from: Show stockists




How about you? Do you have any musky loves that are not included in this list? If so, let me know what I left out or overlooked, and why you think they should have been included!

About the author: Claire Vukcevic

Claire Vukcevic is an Irish freelance writer, contributor at Basenotes,, and author of the blog



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      • epapsiou | 1st September 2017 14:23

        Holy shit.

        This is the greatest Musk article. Perhaps your top 5 ever. Definitely mine :).

        Jasmine Award - 2018

      • | 1st September 2017 14:46

        Wow. This was like a graduate seminar.

        I think I have questions, but will re-read before posting to make sure I didn't miss anything.

      • Bonnette | 1st September 2017 15:50

        Marvelous article, the most informative and thorough I've ever read on this subject. Thank you, Claire.

      • camorr | 1st September 2017 16:46

        Wow, what a fantastic article! Thank you Claire. I didn't know about Josh Lobb tincturing his own Siberian Musk. Does anyone know if he uses it in any of his fragrances?

        Also, I had a hearty laugh at TL; DR of Salome:)

      • Natural_Juice | 1st September 2017 17:07

        There is only one CITES-approved seller of musk grains and tincture in the USA, anyone else is viewed as an illegal seller under CITES.

        There is another non-cruelty musk source, the tinctured hair from around the scent glands of a rutting billy goat, which I pioneered in 2007 in my perfume Pan.

      • hednic | 1st September 2017 17:11

        Enjoyed reading this article.

      • Starblind | 1st September 2017 18:19

        Thank you so, so much, ClaireV!

        This amazing and intricate and utterly educational article is my new Bible/Torah/Qur'an! As someone who adores musks and animalics in all forms, I will be re-reading and studying this and sending for samples from now till who-knows-when.

        I am genuinely grateful for your extensive work on this, and for your astute and accessible writing style. Love this!!

      • chypre | 1st September 2017 18:39

        I'm a fan of both white and dirty musks, and all varieties in between. Thanks so much for this fantastic article, Claire!

      • ClaireV (article author) | 1st September 2017 19:15

        Thanks so much all for your lovely comments! This has been a huge learning experience for me, and I think I re-wrote the article several times over as new information was coming in! I hope that it's helpful. I have to thank all the artisan perfumers and attar makers who were willing to talk to me behind the scenes, and even those who weren't. It's a controversial subject, so I understand that people might have misgivings about this article. But as a famous British telecommunications company says, it's good to talk.

        Thanks for joining the discussion, Anya. I have great respect for you and the work you do in the natural perfumery community. Interesting about the billy goat hair tincture - is that the same material that was later used by Josh Lobb in his New Sibet by any chance?

        Camorr, Josh does not use the natural musk in any of his fragrances. He doesn't believe his customer base would be open to it. Who knows what might happen in the future though. I think that the success of Areej Le Dore with Siberian Musk might get some indie perfumers thinking.

      • purecaramel | 1st September 2017 20:21


        Again a superb Article and has me feeling that I am a child, out on a School Outing with a competent Teacher.

        Many points that reinforce my view, change my view and challenge my view of Musks.

        I really like this

        "As with the use of oud and ambergris, the skill of a perfumer and the composition of a perfume almost always transcend the question of its raw materials. In other words, when a perfume is beautiful, it is enough to sit back and enjoy it, without worrying too much about what is natural and what is synthetic."


      • camorr | 1st September 2017 20:41

        [QUOTE]Camorr, Josh does not use the natural musk in any of his fragrances. He doesn't believe his customer base would be open to it. Who knows what might happen in the future though. I think that the success of Areej Le Dore with Siberian Musk might get some indie perfumers thinking.[/QUOTE]

        Thanks for the answer Claire. I totally understand Josh's reservations considering the whole animal cruelty controversy.

      • Vernona | 1st September 2017 21:19

        What an amazing article this is! So easy to read and so interesting, I read it one breath! Thank you Claire!

      • Suspended | 1st September 2017 21:48

        Well done Claire!! Fucking Fabulous©

        All that talk of scraping sacks and morning breath has me unable to sit in one position. I'm half way through, but I think I'll save the rest for some red wine later (hopefully it can relax my clenched butt cheeks.)

      • nelamvr6 | 1st September 2017 22:19

        Great article! Very informative!

        Thanks Claire!

      • Mellifluence | 2nd September 2017 08:58

        Brilliant article Claire. A very in depth look into the world of musks.

        Thanks so much for including my Tsuga Musk too, i was very happy to read your thoughts on it.

        Wonderfully descripive article and i look forward to reading more from you.

        Warmest regards


      • Mellifluence | 2nd September 2017 09:43

        Brilliant article Claire. A very in depth look into the world of musks.

        Thanks so much for including my Tsuga Musk too, i was very happy to read your thoughts on it.

        Wonderfully descripive article and i look forward to reading more from you.

        Warmest regards


      • ClaireV (article author) | 2nd September 2017 12:21

        Thanks everyone, thanks Abdullah!

        Adam from Feel Oud just sent me a pic of the Siberian musk pod and grains he will be using for Siberian Musk Intense. However, I can't seem to locate the insert image button - does anyone know how I can insert an image without linking to an external file sharing site?

      • hitman | 2nd September 2017 12:27

        add the picture in your profile gallery on basenotes and insert its path here.

      • ClaireV (article author) | 2nd September 2017 12:38

        Thanks Hitman! Hope this works:

        Just to add to the information:

        This musk is going to be used in the Siberian Musk Intense, which despite the name isn't necessarily stronger but contains even higher quality raw materials such as Indian sandalwood (replacing the Aussie one).

        Adam is also using grains from the previous stock to make a new musky perfume called Flux de Fleur, which he's hoping to release with the other new perfumes, Atlantic Ambergris and Oud Piccante.

      • hitman | 2nd September 2017 14:09

        This article would my "reference" in the subject of "musk". A bundle of thanks @ClaireV on this descriptive article. As a hungry man for "musk" and living in UAE, I have tried (and own) many varieties of musk and I'm fully agree with these words. Superb and great work in fact, I prepared my "test-list" for the mentioned beauties on page 2 :)

      • hitman | 2nd September 2017 14:12

        The link seems invalid or not public.

      • grayspoole | 2nd September 2017 14:56

        Dear Claire-

        I've been eagerly awaiting this article, and I am completely awestruck by the depth of your research and insights. This a dissertation, not an article! Everything here is so intelligently, so generously communicated, and your judicious and balanced discussion of the ethical issues surrounding the use of deer musk is worthy of Solomon. I snorted my coffee a little when I read your description of yourself as "not an expert" but again, that is just the humility of a true seeker of knowledge I will be reading this over and over, and I will follow up on more of your suggestions for musk perfumes. (Already have my sample of Siberian Musk....)

      • StellaDiverFlynn | 2nd September 2017 21:23

        Thank you Claire for shedding light on this complicated matter! What a thoroughly researched and detailed article! Very easy to follow and entertaining to read. I especially appreciate the openness of the discussion on the legality and ethics of using deer musk. It helped me to better understand this tricky situation. I only tried most of the spray perfumes here, and I found myself constantly nodding while reading your beautiful descriptions. Another white musk that I enjoy is The Body Shop White Musk perfume oil. I find the EDP and EDT limpid, kind of "diluted", but the perfume oil version gives out a lovely powdery, enveloping effect of musk.

      • ClaireV (article author) | 2nd September 2017 22:54

        Thanks so much for your kind words, StellaDiverFlynn and Grayspoole - high praise from the two of you!

        Grayspoole, with your interest in the classics, I'd be very curious to know what you make of the Siberian Musk. Yellowtone mentioned to me that she thought there was something of vintage No. 5 in it. Stella, I used to wear TBS White Musk when I was much younger, but I didn't know they still made the oil version (do they still make Dewberry?). I will check in my local department store to see if they have it. I have been eyeing TBS White Musk shower gel, as well as the Kiehl's one, so if you have an opinion on either one of those auxiliary products, let me know!

        Can people check the updated link I posted a few comments up to see if I've correctly made the photo of the Siberian musk pod and its paste available to public view? Thanks.

      • ClaireV (article author) | 2nd September 2017 23:38

        Excellent! Thank you, Hitman, for the advice!

      • furrypine | 3rd September 2017 07:04

        I am feeling inspired to explore more musky perfumes, but I'm going to stick with the synthetic and plant based options. I think the risk of accidentally buying an illegal product is just too great to justify trying something with real deer musk. I'll be happy to just smell real ambrette seed oil! I didn't know that it was a rare and expensive product, as I've seen it listed as a basenote in many fragrances, but it must be the synthetic variant. I need to seek out a scent with real ambrette in it.

      • ClaireV (article author) | 3rd September 2017 10:24

        I completely understand your point of view, Furrypine. For ambrette, I think two benchmark perfumes would be Chanel No. 18, and Musc Nomade.

      • Le vagabond | 3rd September 2017 12:05

        Thank you for writing this excellent article, Claire. It is a extremely valuable source of knowledge on an often confusing subject.

      • grayspoole | 3rd September 2017 14:47

        Hello again-

        Claire, you know me too well. As a vintage-loving geek, I am always going to compare new perfumes to old, so of course I immediately began comparing Siberian Musk to vintage.

        But I wasn’t the only one! As I tested Siberian Musk for the first time, after ripping open the package (at the dinner table, no less), I offered my wrist to my patient DH, who took one sniff and said mildly: “It smells like one of your vintages.”

        And it certainly does. No need to overanalyze this: Siberian Musk smells just wonderful. The bergamot in it made me run to dab on one of my treasured vintages on my other arm, a perfectly preserved Emeraude parfum from...the 1930’s?...which has the most beautiful bergamot of any bottle I own. Very similar in their opening phases, but SM develops into a much more musky perfume. To me, there’s nothing fecal or indolic about its muskiness, just a warm umami effect that supports the floral notes so beautifully--orange blossom and surely some rose, yes? No pine, no galbanum, no vetiver appear for me, but that’s okay, I don’t need them. I am reminded of vintage Joy parfum, vintage No. 5 (from my 1950's bottle), vintage Bal a Versailles parfum and my oldest Vol de Nuit extrait, from a 1930-40’s bottle.

        But Siberian Musk is its own, unique creation. Bravo Russian Adam!. It is very heartening to see artisanal perfumers equalling the achievements of the great perfumers of the past. As in cooking, the ingredients come first, then the skill of the cook.

        I’d be curious to hear any additional thoughts you have (and those of others) on the subject of musk in vintage perfumes, Given what I’ve read about the immediate commercial success of nitromusks in the 1890’s, I have assumed that the musks I smell in my vintage perfumes are always these now-banned musks, and not natural deer musk, as suggested here by another researcher:

        Until the interwar period, for economic reasons, the perfume and cosmetic industries only relied on three compounds: musk xylene (2), musk ambrette (3), and musk ketone (4). These became universally employed ingredients even when polycyclic and macrocyclic artificial musks appeared. The famous Chanel N°5 by Ernest Beaux for Parfums Chanel, 1921, originally contained 3.5 % of musk ketone and 2.5 % of musk ambrette.

        David, O. R. P. (2017), “Artificial Nitromusks, Stories of Chemists and Businessmen.” Eur. J. Org. Chem., 2017: 4–13. doi:10.1002/ejoc.201601249. This article is a wonderful resource, referenced by Paul Kiler, if memory serves, on the DIY Forum.

        If the classics are all built on nitromusks, then the enthusiasm for these compounds was well founded, because they really do resemble deer musk quite closely, it would seem to me, based on my experience with Siberian Musk. Newer musks, not quite so much, in my opinion.

      • Scarce | 3rd September 2017 15:03

        Terrific stuff, of course.

        (Am I the only one who found Papillon's Salome not quite filthy enough?

        Interesting take on Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely as well, as it sells for pennies nowadays. Proving that there are still bargains around if one knows where to look.)

      • ClaireV (article author) | 3rd September 2017 20:25

        Thank you very much, le vagabond! I appreciate that.

        Grayspoole - sounds like your husband has been unwillingly exposed to your vintage obsessions over the years! Well, sometimes the virgin nose can peg it even quicker than we can. I agree that the pine/citrus notes in Siberian Musk aren't aggressive or jarring, although a few have found them to be intrusive or distracting - to me, they appear only briefly as a pop of bright lime or bergamot, before the sweet orange blossom, waxy notes, and musk move in - and yes, rose too. Starblind has compared the bright citrus/pine effect to modern re-workings of the chypre theme such as Diaghilev and Maai - I don't have any experience with the former but plan to do a side-by-side with Maai soon. Of course, I realize that the associations drawn are loose. But your mention of the older Joy and Bal parfums is intriguing. I can definitely see where you are coming from with those comparisons.

        I don't think that No. 5 ever contained deer musk, but I have heard that nitro-musks were a very accurate representation of what deer musk actually smells like, especially in its powdery, sweaty-intimate, and sweet-grimy facets. I have not been exposed to nitro-musks much beyond a 1950's No. 5 parfum I used to own, and a vintage Cuir de Russie Eau de Cologne that reeked to high heaven with costus (it smelled more like No. 5 than Cuir de Russie), but if I remember correctly, the effect of the nitro-musks was far more subtle than many modern "dirty" musk fragrances.

        Scarce, yes, you were the only one who thought Salome wasn't filthy enough :-D

      • Scarce | 4th September 2017 03:14


        I liked the attempt at making a retro animalic perfume, but it never smelled all that convincing to me. Certainly not anywhere near what Cuir de Russie is in terms of quality. I'm not sure dialing Salome up to 11 is the answer either, but it wasn't the home run for me that it was for other people.

      • StellaDiverFlynn | 4th September 2017 06:03

        TBS still offers the perfume oil version, but since about two years ago, they've changed the packaging of their fragrance range and I haven't yet compared my old packaging with the new one. As for the shower gel, sadly I haven't tried either of them.

      • grayspoole | 4th September 2017 19:24

        Hi Scarce!

        You're not the only one. On me, Salome opened with a little filth but turned into a nice polite girl. Lovely perfume though.

      • Ebenas | 4th September 2017 19:45

        Great article!

        I am finally starting to get my head around notes and will keep this as homework for later (once I have a smattering of iris!)

      • Diamondflame | 5th September 2017 03:30

        Thank you, Claire for another wonderfully informative piece on a murky subject. I love how you use readily accessible imagery to describe these notes though 'morning breath' is something one can eliminate easily with a pre-bedtime ritual of teeth-brushing, flossing and gargling antibacterial mouthwash. I've added a few more names to my 'to try' list while I patiently wait for Siberian Musk Intense...

      • Juxtapozbliss | 5th September 2017 17:11

        This article is a musk-read.

        Brilliant as always!

      • ClaireV (article author) | 5th September 2017 20:48

        Thank you very much, Ebenas, Diamondflame, and Juxtapozbliss!

        Unfortunately, I was informed today that JK DeLapp has been expelled from the IPF (International Perfume Foundation) for his participation in this article, because the article is deemed to be "promoting the use of musk". The IPF charter requires its members to refrain from talking about either natural deer musk or its synthetic replacements in public. (It took me a while to understand this, but the IPF is against both synthetic musk and natural animal musk). However, I'd like to clarify that the aim of the article was not to promote but to inform. JK DeLapp wasn't proselytizing - he simply answered my questions as openly as he could, in the interest of educating readers. I am truly sorry that being open cost him his membership in IPF.

      • | 6th September 2017 01:50

        I'm having trouble grasping the finer points of this argument. Has the IPF issued any kind of statement explaining their position on this matter?

      • Diamondflame | 6th September 2017 03:40

        Yikes! I'm so sorry to hear that. Sounds more like a rule for The Fight Club...

      • deadidol | 6th September 2017 06:41

        You've set the bar high many times, Claire, but this piece blows the bar into orbit. A fantastic article that I plan on reading multiple times to fully absorb.

        I'm a huge fan of stinkers, and the Areej le Doré line is riding high on my must-sniff list. I've smelled one of those deer musks listed above, and it reminded me more of leather than a musk. Kind of a trippy material overall.

      • Vernona | 6th September 2017 08:25

        I will not pretend that I understand the logic behind this or the higher reasons, but so many perfumes use synthetic musk today. So you're allowed to use it, but not to speak about it. Same goes for legally obtained deer musk. It's ok to use it as long as you don't say so? I am very sorry about what happened to JK DeLapp and I hope it will not be a permanent thing. It makes the whole perfume industry Game of Thrones a little bit more murky doesn't it? This article is probably the best and most informative piece ever written on the subject and clearly no sides were chosen, noone was applauding or promoting use of any ingredient, just providing informations. I can't believe that would lead to such penalty.

      • gandhajala | 6th September 2017 08:30

        It's like Trotsky and the Communist Party all over again...

      • ClaireV (article author) | 6th September 2017 10:28

        On the IPF matter, I am repeating information given to me by JK DeLapp himself, but the IPF is very welcome to come and make a comment here to correct me if I am wrong in understanding it:

        - The IPF is against animal musk because of cruelty to animals; but the organization also opposes the use of synthetic musk (because they are against synthetics of any kind)

        - The IPF disapproves of this article because they think it promotes interest in the use of musk - both synthetic or natural (not sure which one is more evil)

        - The IPF expelled JK DeLapp from the organization because he gave me information for the article and thus contributed to growing interest among readers for both natural and synthetic musk

        - To be a member of IPF, you have to commit to not using animal or synthetic musk, not using synthetics of any kind, and talking about musk (either natural or synthetic) in public for fear of creating more interest among the public for musk (either natural or synthetic)

        - JK talked about musk publicly and allowed himself to be quoted/featured, so out he goes.

        I understand that many, if not most, people do not like the idea of animal musk and cruelty to animals. I also understand that there is a segment of the natural perfume sector that abhors synthetics of any kind, including many isolates. To have both those beliefs combined in one organization doesn't leave one with much wiggle room, but that's really none of my business. However, to punish a member simply for talking openly about a raw material is mind-boggling to me. Surely it benefits everyone - from the customers to the scientists, the perfumers, and even the deer - to have an open and free discussion on musk? Pushing it under the carpet doesn't achieve anything.

      • ClaireV (article author) | 6th September 2017 10:32

        Thanks so much, Deadidol! I appreciate that greatly. If you are having trouble locating a sample of the Areej Le Dore, let me know and I will send you a sample. Which one of the deer musks reminded you of a leather more than a musk? Interesting you say that because most of the natural deer musks I smelled displayed a fascinating array of notes that are not present in synthetic musks, like glue, cocoa, dry newspaper, mold, plastic, rubber, etc.

      • Vernona | 6th September 2017 11:44

        Thank you Claire, for clarifying that. Now there's one organization I'd never want to be a member of then. I'd rather not have anyone sit on top of my freedom of speech, as long as it is not offensive or damaging to anyone, which this article was not (deer included), in any way. Such rigid and pointless rules, that actually stand against an intelligent discussion.

        Seems to me that nowdays one can't possibly write an intelligent, informed piece on any even slightly delicate matter without getting punished for it one way or the other.

        But thank you for writing it in spite of that.

      • camorr | 6th September 2017 13:54

        I don't imagine they have a large number of members with rules like this.

      • Scarce | 6th September 2017 14:29

        Considering the speed at which the expulsion occurred from the time of publication, it was probably an arbitrary decision made by a few people, or even just one person alone. I'm leery of such organizations anyway, as too often they turn out to be just marketing vehicles for goods and services for those involved. On their website, it says they've been around since 1995, so perhaps they're well-intentioned and legit, but I wouldn't take any of these places at face value until looking into them further.

      • Diamondflame | 6th September 2017 16:05

        "Against synthetic of any kind"?? Lol. How ironic. The whole idea of wearing fragrance is 'artificial' to begin with!

        To keep on topic, don't you think a blanket ban on musk-related information only serves to trigger greater demand for a 'forbidden fruit'?

      • epapsiou | 6th September 2017 16:24

        I guess no one at IPF knows about Streisand effect. But then given their contradictory policy on musk, smarts must not be an arrow in their quiver.

        Hope the increased interest of BN community overcomes this setback for JK DeLapp.

      • schnozz | 6th September 2017 18:02

        A Russian jury is in deliberation and asks the judge for instructions. "How will we deal with these New Russian litigants? The defendant gave us $7,000 and the plaintiff gave us $5,000. What should we do?" After ten minutes of thinking, the judge says, "Well, I have an idea. Let's return $2,000 to the defendant and then we'll decide according to the law"

        This is a very informative article written with characteristic sparkle, but I do think it suffers from one fallacy. While Claire plainly acknowledges the rampant illegality in the musk trade where hunting is forbidden, she repeated and painstakingly details the manner in which Siberian musk is “legal.” Based on my business experience in Russia, this strikes me as involving vertiginous levels credulity about the Russian kleptocracy. When the simplest commercial transaction in Moscow is fraught with corruption, we are to believe that in regions where the zip code is E-I-E-I-O hunting “is tightly controlled, with hunters applying for licenses in a seasonal lottery that determines what number of deer they can kill”? I would bet a lot of money that this system is 100 percent effective roughly 10 percent of the time, and to categorically state otherwise is like believing that Godot’s bus is just running late.

      • ClaireV (article author) | 6th September 2017 19:31

        Schnozz - absolutely, no doubt about it, there's a lot of corruption going on in Russia. But that doesn't mean that everything that comes out of Russia is illegal. I've talked to two people who import deer musk from Siberia, and both confirm that the hunting is properly controlled through licensing. As for how thoroughly it is checked, I was told of one hunter who was arrested for not properly documenting his kills. Hunters are asked to show their licenses before entering the hunting zone. Of course, I can't speak to how thorough or even oversight is, but my impression is that because the deer is a valuable local resource, it's controlled. Makes sense, as deer hunting is as much a source of income for Siberian officials and local government as it is for the hunters.

        Edited to add: 100% of Ireland's laws are effective roughly 10% of the time....

      • Terry Johnson | 6th September 2017 19:49

        I wanted to clarify the situation with JK and IPF.

        IPF developed Natural Perfume Guidelines and Standards that specifically exclude the use or promotion of musk whether natural or synthetic. These Guidelines and Standards were created by a panel of IPF Natural Perfumers, not by IPF itself.

        Each person is free to agree or disagree with these Standards, but they are IPF Standards and anyone wishing to be IPF Certified has to promise in writing to follow IPF Guidelines. JK not only signed our Certification Application promising to abide by these Standards, but promised verbally and in writing to remove all references to musk from his website. He made these promises to IPF freely.

        Providing content on musk to this widely read publication was determined to violate IPF’s Guidelines and Standards which was the second time he had done so.

        The first time he violated the Guidelines, IPF discussed the situation with JK and decided (after many assurances from JK that he would not use or promote musk again) to take no action. This second violation resulted in IPF and JK separating.

        IPF feels very strongly that musk should not be used in perfumery and synthetics cannot be used by IPF Certified Natural Perfumers. We have a fantastic group of Natural Perfumers who gladly follow IPF Guidelines and Standards.

        We don’t profess to be in the mainstream at this time, but we have the right to join together to promote Natural Perfumery the way our group believes it should be done.

        Any Natural Perfumer who agrees with these Standards can apply to join our great group. Anyone who does not agree has the same right not to join.

        Terry Johnson

        IPF Vice Chairman

      • schnozz | 6th September 2017 22:41

        Having owned a business in Russia, Claire, I do not share your optimism -- and forgive me if I am actually tickled by your statement, perfectly reasonable by Earth-logic, that effective controls and regulation likely does exist because, after all, we are dealing with a "valuable local resource" and it "makes sense." The presumed enlightened policy self-interest you describe perfectly applies to the lion's share of the Russian economy. Despite this, not only is it the case that "there's a lot of corruption going on," corruption is astoundingly pervasive. Siberia in particular has one or two slightly more valuable local resources than deer musk, and those sectors are notoriously corrupt. Indeed, the major demonstrations in Siberia's capital city earlier this Summer had nothing to do with political repression and had everything to do with corruption -- the protesters literally marched under the banner, "corruption is robbing us of our future."

      • ClaireV (article author) | 7th September 2017 01:47

        Just because I used mild language to speculate about the corruption in Siberia doesn't mean that I'm optimistic or naive about corruption. Having spent 17 years in the post-war free for all frenzy that was Bosnia, Serbia, and Montenegro, it's rather to the contrary. I ran an anti-corruption program in the Balkans for many years that financed lawsuits against public officials for conflict of interest and corruption, but I was also a private citizen, and like all private citizens, ran up against corruption at all levels of ordinary life, from having to give doctors money for operations to paying for legal documents.So when I say that self-interest influences how well a local official will enforce a piece of legislation, I speak from direct experience.

      • Ebenas | 7th September 2017 11:54

        I'm really sorry to hear about JP and the IPF.

        I have an allergy to supression of any knowledge and also to that too easy black and white thinking that often passes for 'awareness'. I am very queasy about animal suffering of any kind, but happily suspend any qualms to eat meat and fish, so I can understand the cognitive dissonance involved in these matters, although I don't like it to be pointed out to me, as I have to consider my ethics and can't keep claiming credit for my intentions so easily ;-)

        Claire's interview with JP and musk article were very informative, balanced, and unsullied by hectoring about anything. In other words, journalistic rather than campaigning. In clearly describing the process of musk extraction, it provides food for thought and allows the reader to consider the question for themselves and seek further information if needed. I can see how, to someone completely convinced on the wrongs of musk extraction, it may have been somewhat disconcerting to be presented with information on the practice they oppose strongly, but that information is not pushing the practice. As to the corruption point, I know nothing about Russia, but have worked for a long time with refugees, so I've seen 'initiatives' of all kinds. I have little faith in them doing what they set out to, but have come to appreciate that they keep issues in the public mind which may provoke discussion and further action, and at the very least, publish standards to which they can be held in the court of public opinion, even if enforcement is less than great.

        I've tried and really liked some of JP's oils and hope he is not affected much by this storm in a teacup.

        Anyway, back to musk sniffing! As the only definitely musky perfumes on the list I own are the Acampora Musc and (now!) Musc Gold, on Claire's advice I can avoid any razor-based interference in my own nether regions - have to say I first read that as 'full BLUSH'! Now where can I find a shag carpet?

      • DuNezDeBuzier | 7th September 2017 17:19

        Excellent journalism! Made my morning. Keep 'em coming Claire!

      • dogma | 7th September 2017 18:39

        looks like someone is a little defensive about declaring that Russian-sourced musk is presumptively legit.

        implausible, but a particularly tough sell for a crowd who generally wouldn't even buy a designer fragrances from Russian-based ebay sellers.

        I hope readers slogged through to the reviews -- the best part.

      • purecaramel | 7th September 2017 20:16

        I hope that readers choose to read through the superb reviews and the banter following. As a whole, it holds the exercises necessary to understand the views of others and further, to assist in the development of critical, listening, reading and thinking skills.

      • MzM | 7th September 2017 21:39

        Excellent article Claire! Quick question, does Abdullah of beautiful scents have a website?

      • hitman | 7th September 2017 22:08

        appreciate the link :)

      • rynegne | 8th September 2017 16:30

        Claire, thank you so much for contributing such a fantastic write up to basenotes. You are such an asset to the fragrance community!

      • Kiliwia | 11th September 2017 22:46

        Thanks for the great article, Claire!

      • ClaireV (article author) | 12th September 2017 21:15

        Thank you Kiliwia, Ryan, and DuNezDeBuzier!

      • cazaubon | 15th September 2017 13:36

        Thank you for this extremely detailed and informative article. I also appreciate you pointing out the hypocritical stance of those who decry the use of real musk because of animal cruelty while at the same time consuming farmed animal products and fish.

      • therese19 | 16th September 2017 16:23

        Thank you very much for this morning's read!

      • dunkybase | 21st September 2017 23:13

        Holy shit Claire! What a fantastic piece of writing. I particularly enjoyed your description of the Bruno Acampora musc. This is one of my all time favourite scents and one which I've always struggled to put into words as I find it maddeningly dirty and clean at the same time. Thank you so much and keep up the good work, Duncan

      • Starblind | 22nd September 2017 02:06

        I adore this scent, and was VERY sad to have my husband claim it smelled exactly like Comet(!)

      • ClaireV (article author) | 22nd September 2017 11:10

        Thank you very much, Cazaubon, Duncan, and Therese! You know, when anyone says Holy Shit to me, I always think of Holy Shit, the perfume by Pekji perfumes - have any of you tried this one? It's very, very dirty, as well as smoky and dry, like a dirt-encrusted leather jacket thrown on a campfire, with a side of wet, sulfurous cow pat for good measure. Then it dries down into a rich, musky leather and resin scent. I love Mick Trick's review of it for Basenotes:

        It's all musty catacombs, dust covered remains of resinous altar offerings, smoke impregnated cassocks and sweat infused leathers, pain followed by ecstatic howls and mewling. A light slightly damp movement of air from adjoining tunnels is slightly cooling but unrefreshing. This is what I wanted 1740 Marquis de Sade to be. It's creepy, liturgical, and a little scary, but in parallel possesses a kinky charm that beguiles.

      • fumeguy | 27th September 2017 14:17

        OMG . This article is the most detailed and best researched I have ever read on Musk.

        Thanks for this, it will go to my bookmarks as a reference for anything related to Musk.

      • oudaddict | 7th October 2017 18:18

        Brilliant musk article, very informative. I have been trying different musk scents, especially in the Arab world, for over 18 years and have noticed a sharp decline in natural musk. It's useful to know that it can be synthesised almost as good as the natural.

      • Gin&tonic | 8th October 2017 12:12

        What an informative article. Going to revisit this from time to time. Answered a great deal of questions I had and I myself owned and Attar that I wasn't sure if it was musk or not. The description of the scent is so varied (from medicinal to spicy, fecal to woods) that I was confused as to its origins. I can now after reading this assure myself that my Attar is indeed Musk. Thank you again :)

      • fazli | 7th November 2017 23:04

        An interesting articles on musk, the articles rendered more on the experience of a few perfumers point of view of musk when referred to smell. I do applaud your effort. However , when referred to old scriptures, it does mentioned that musk smell sweet. i am a bit perplexed on the articles available on the net pertaining to the smell of it. Animalic is the main ingredient of the smell, dirty earthy and others protruding the smell of musk is such.

        in the late 70's , i remember the smell of pure musk worn by people who attended the wedding reception or ceremony. The whole room smell of musk. It is so cloying and overpowering and induced a bit of headache to me. Now it is rather difficult to obtain a pure musk. My greatest fear on the misconception of musk is that it will be a legend. No one knows, just like the legend of a dragon where the shape differ greatly between european and the east.

        I would propose that a more detail research is done on musk pertaining to the originality of the smell that is mentioned in the old scriptures. I believe a search on kamrup musk should be able to assist. As far as the smell of the musk i can still recollect is more incline towards flowery which magnolia flower or champaca is the nearest. ref

        My apologies if it offend anybody but, i love perfume and i always love that the true smell of musk mentioned in old scriptures as sweet never animalic, dirty or earthy is proclaimed is considered to be searched thoroughly and compared. please write another articles on kamrup musk where it explained by researchers , among them is Dr K.M Nadkarni and others

      • Mellifluence | 8th November 2017 06:54

        This is very interesting Fazli.

        I think it will have a lot to do with the way the musk is rendered.

        When you smell raw deer musk grains, the smell is always animalic and earthy. But when it is macerated in sandalwood it becomes much sweeter over time, notes emerge thar were not evident. Yet when tinctured it tends to bring out the raw notes of the grains again.

        So these different methods bring about different facets of the musk, much the same with other methods of extracting a scent.

        If you extract vetivers scent by C02, you'll lose a lot of its beautiful freshness, yet an essential oil distillation will bring a much more enchanting aroma.

        I will love to read more on the old scriptures of musks smell too, i know in Islamic texts the smell is also referred to as a sweet one.



      • fazli | 8th November 2017 08:08

        Thank you abdullah..what you are saying is true in one aspect. However the type of deer where musk is obtained is also a determining for how the oils is obtained i seen the maceration and other techniques, but i was told verbally, my apologies for the lack of reference, that in the olden days musk is applied straight away to the skin, it contain fatty acids thus it is oily, it require a lot of musk to milk it though. I also heard about distillation of the strong and pungent smell to obtain a clear colored musk oil, again no reference my apologies.

        I have an argument with numbers of perfurmers that insists musk is animalic, i told them that it depend on species and how the oil is obtained.

        Again my concern is i do not want knowledge is lost and i want it to conserve, beside conserving the wild deer, knowledge is very important too. If one knows the true smell of something one can appreciate and benefit from the creativity of perfumers in interpreting musk.

        Yes abdullah the hadith mentioned musk to be sweet, so does ayurvedic and chinese old scriptures.

        Thank you

        ps: i am still trying to find people that had smell species of aqualaria rostrata, there is only one tree that was found in malaysia, the elderly often describe to me as being really sweet and even there is a legend that even animals like to linger around it. ( my apologies for deviating from the topic), The reason is there are articles describe oud as smelling like lavender and other weird things, i am concerned that similar fate happen to musk happen to oud too in years to come.

      • jazztweety | 12th May 2018 23:03

        Dear Claire,

        thank you for this amazing and incredibly well researched article, the most complete one I ever came across.

        I would like two add my very small two scents: even if Musk Deers are not killed in the Chinese farms, they suffer terribly because they are wild animals that cannot be domesticated. They are traumatized, in panic and literally go up the walls. There are videos on youtube on this, google ''musk deer farming''.

        I would never, ever rely on terms like ''legally hunted'', many deer are caught in steel traps and two out of three die in vain since they are female or young!

        All in all a very nasty business that I personally definitely don't want to support. I also consider Hyraceum as a great ingredient to add an ethically derived animal note.