Thread: Natural Musks?
I know that the musk deer is now an endagered species and it is not permitted to use musk from it for perfume. However, are there any other natural musks in perfume and could you name the source and perfume please.
There are a number of botanical sources for musk lactones, the two best known being ambrette seed and angelica root, but none has a high enough concentration of musk to make them particularly useful to perfumers.
Otherwise, I understand there are a number of alternate musk-producing animals, but I don't believe any of them are used commercially for that purpose, so I wouldn't expect to find any perfumes containing those musks. It is possible to find natural castoreum and (I think) civet, but those aren't musks, and I think synthetic versions are mostly used now.
Other natural musks that are used are mostly vegetable based. Ambrette seed is a commonly used musky plant which has a high natural concentration of macrocyclic musk molecules (in the same family as the molecules found in animal musks). Other plants like spikenard, costus, musk thistle (never smelled it myself), angelica, etc. are used in various ways to get that familiar "musky" scent.
As you probably know, however, most "musk" used in modern perfumery is synthetic. White musk, etc. are all synthetic compounds. Synthetic "nitro" musks are very toxic are were banned a while ago by the IFRA (they were used extensively in older, classic French perfumes). Polycyclic musks have come under fire recently, and are being investigated for "health concerns". Generally speaking, however, synthetic macrocyclic musks are safe, and those are the kind most often used in perfumery.
(Some people are using the, uh.... fossilized poo... of the African rock hyrax as a natural cruelty free musk substitute. I guess it's high in musk compounds and pheromones. I've never smelled it myself.)
Last edited by Maxwell; 29th November 2007 at 07:44 PM.
I'm fond of Galaxolide for synthetic musks. It was used in Mure et Musc and Tresor (along with a million others).
Some interesting reading on Deer Musk and other animal tinctures can be found at www.profumo.it
An all-natural perfume with a distinct musk and leather accord is Ayala Sender's Espionage - it's swoonworthy. She uses ambrette seed as well as a number of other botanicals for this warm and sensual skin-scent.
I own one bottle each of their 100% pure "White" Ambergris and Agar Musk (Deer) Black w/Cambodi Oudh. Plus i have samples of many of their other oils. These musks are the real deal! They are beyond comparison.
They are very generous with giving samples when you buy something. If i were you, i would buy one thats on the cheaper side and then ask for samples of some of the higher end musks. My recommendation would be the Musk Gazelle (Deer). This stuff is incredible -- it smells much more expensive than it is.
The more i think about it, Sharif (the owner) just might send some samples for free. He is very gracious when answering questions and he sounds like he is one of us -- a true lover of scents.
Tidbit from Christopher Brosius' site. If he hasn't smelled the real thing, I doubt it would be easy to find (tonkin musk that is).
"True Tonkin Musk no longer exists in the contemporary world and I personally loathe synthetic versions generally they make me sick. I've learned over the years that I have particular chemical sensitivities to many of the aromachemicals used to recreate musk and I'm not alone in my dislike for those scents.
So this is my own interpretation of what I'd always imagined real musk to smell of. Whether it does or does not, I cannot know. I can say however my version is unlike anything currently called musk.
I make CBMUSK only in absolute form. This is a very rich scent that wants to be worn only in specific places."
Last edited by Dane; 30th November 2007 at 01:24 PM.
I don't meant to be pessimistic, but that site seems like a bunch of bs to me.
"This is 3 ml Of Indian Red Musk Pure ~ This is it, the absolute best red musk unparallelled. There is nothing on the market like it, its rarity & purity are unsurpassable. If you are in the market for Musk, then this is it. Distilled the old way, captures the therapeutic & medicinal qualities associated with pure red musk. Red Musk is slightly spicy, potent and enduring...the aroma kindles thoughts of love, peace and joy, stimulates healthy conversation, attracts positive energy & healthy interaction. The wearing of this majestic oil is truly an experience of un-comparable proportions...I am certain that this quality of musk has not been on market for the last 200 years...apply one drop, it will last the whole day, perhaps two."
You'd think for $400 they at least tell you more about the product rather than just a bunch of marketing wishwash.
Vegetale musks are musks from botanical origin - neither synthetics nor animalic. You can read my article about it on SmellyBlog:
Aside from the notes mentioned there (costus, opopona and ambrette seed, which are the closes to musk in character), there are other notes which can be used in musk compounds to impart either a more woody/animalic/floral musky characteristics, such as:
Agarwood (woody and animalic, some are more woody, others are more animalic)
Vetiver (woody, earthy)
Spikenard (earthy, woody)
Snakeroot (earthy, animalic) - this is difficult to find
Angelica root (earthy)
Tobacco (animalic, woody)
My last travel there was just after the earthquake in 2006 for helping in reconstruction and I published a report on muskdeer.
You cannot smell real muskdeer but you can at least see it.
I have also knowledge about the siberian muskdeer and it's trade (legal for russian Cites, illegal for the rest of the world).
There is nothing like red musk or distilled musk. It is pure invention and complete absurdity in the chemistry sense, only absolutes can be obtained from pheromones (castoreum, civet) they do not stand heat, and I do not dare imagine what is sold there.
I am ready to expertise whatever muskdeer product you buy online and publish the report along with the seller's name.
Anybody has the right to sell any kind of aromachemical as a perfume, the buyer is always aware of what he buys, but cheating Basenoters on their own ground with a product that is not what it says has to be stopped straight away.
If a chemist member like Dcampben accepts to doublecheck my expertise we can clear the matter about the muskdeer on basenotes.
Very interesting Profumo. Thanks for the link to that page.. Your sincerity is heartening.
I was wondering when you were going to comment.
The only musk I'm interested in is from the Musk Beatle.
I apologize for recommending this misleading site. But mostly i am embarrassed and i feel like very much the fool. I like to think of myself as a little smarter than this when it comes to fragrances.
But i still think their ambergris is the real stuff. It smells like the ambergris in Eau des Merveilles magnified a thousand times. And i have to say, their "musks" smell unlike (in a good way) any other musks i have smelled.
Again, i apologize.
Now i'm getting pissed as well...!
Dear Ajmc, I am sorry myself for having embarassed you. I had understood wrongly that the seller was trying to push his false musk to basenoters. It is not the first time that my lack of attention misleads me. Is it age?
Do not worry too much because very few people know anything about muskdeer although musk it is probably the most famous name all over the world of an aromatic substance.
My experience is that the search for muskdeer is like the search of the holy grail; it is long, full of delusions (cheatings) of dangers (loss of money), the outcome of which is uncertain.
At least from my pictures you know what it looks like so that you may recognise it when you see it for real.
Last edited by Profumo; 1st December 2007 at 12:59 PM.
I was about to reply here and I saw Profumo did his usual wonderful job of straightening out the musk question, and like him, well, I confuse replies sometimes when quoting, so I can relate to that. The original poster amjc was being a bit hoodwinked. I'm no expert on musks, but when I saw the word "distilled" that was enough to warn me. Musk and ambergris are only tinctured in alcohol, or sandalwood perhaps, or a base oil. I never heard of them being distilled. What's great about these forums, amjc, is that so many folks can chime in and help suss something out
On the natural musks, it is quite interesting to notice the difference between the tincture of whole ambrette seed and crushed ambrette seed, the former spicy and typical "musk" scent, the latter warm and creamy and skin-like.
Hyrax, the fossilized animal feces and urine that is distilled is a good musk substitute, not true to musk (nothing is) but performs in much the same matter. Same goes for goat hair tincture. If you've ever eaten goat cheese or milk, you've gotten a taste of that musky scent, and in fact, the tincturing of the hair snipped from around the horns is no more distasteful that the milk that leeches out some of that musk scent when the goat is milked.
Profumo can wax on poetically and show how the human/animal interaction through the ages has made us receptive to the animalic smells, so if he wishes to continue on this, or link to his pages with this information, you'll receive a great learning experience.
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I've purchased both of Agarscents White and Red Musks (the expensive ones)..Now I'm no expert when it comes to discerning quality but I have sniffed enough in my time =) ...I would like to state what I've observed of these:
First off his in his description he says it's been distilled..I haven't asked him about it.. Does seem odd.. But in my discussions about the musks with him he said that its a mixture of 0.02% rose and the rest is musk..The rose gives it a more palatable fragrance.. So it seems that its a non alcoholic infusion..i.e. something similar to what is done with musk & sandalwood.
Now what has me convinced that it is genuine is the smell itself.. Also when I put on half a drop on the skin it lasts about a day.. Okay maybe longevity is not enough. Another thing that bolsters the case for me is that my family complained that I smelt of deer literally..This was also when I put on half a drop..I slept in my brothers bed and the next night he couldnt sleep in it cause he could smell the deer on his comforter lol..
Maybe even thats not enough for ppol, but this one certainly is for me...I put on a quarter of a drop and both my cats just went CRAZY!!.. They're males and started displaying mating behavior..lol.. I had to wash it off but the damage was done.. I think an animal would be the best judge..If you want to know if its real or not, take it to them..!!
P.S I finally got to ask him about the word 'distilled' in the description..He said it is meant for the sandalwood which the musk is infused in.
Last edited by Taz; 10th June 2008 at 01:40 AM.
Last edited by jdnba; 5th March 2008 at 08:39 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
I've just spoken to my mom, and apparently, my nan does have some musk powdery stuff, that hasn't been mixed in with anything, and is just the stuff from the Indian Musk Deer! It's called Kasturi in India, and was oftenly used as a food flavouring/religious offering amongst the very affluent until about 30-40 years ago If any of the musk/perfume experts want me to send them a bit of this 'musk' powder to see what they can do with it, i'd be more than willing to after i'm back from India !
I also am curious about whether natural musk is ever used, because Creed Virgin Island Water supposedly contains "musk from Tonkin". (see this page from authorized Creed dealer Parfums Raffy).
If it is not natural musk, then what are they talking about? Synthetic musk from Tonkin?
Wikipedia states "Today the trade quantity of the natural musk is controlled..." which implies that there is a certain quantity that is allowed to be sold and used. (yes, I know Wikipedia is not a valid primary source).
This seems to be your typical fantasy fragrance pyramid. Created by marketing people as a poetic description of the fragrance but not to be taken literally.I also am curious about whether natural musk is ever used, because Creed Virgin Island Water supposedly contains "musk from Tonkin". (see this page from authorized Creed dealer Parfums Raffy).
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The purpose of reviving this dormant thread can be gleaned here
I am selling some agarscents musk (red n white..sorry no blue) which had the unfortunate effect of permanently destroying any fancy I could have had for my musk decants MKK, MRavageur, Kiehl's original musk..The last one I find now to evoke the most revulsion.
Last edited by Taz; 11th June 2008 at 10:50 AM.
Agarscents Dhen Black Musk smells like something one can get at a headshop, only at 10x the price. It is very powerful, lasts forever and projects wildly, as do all of the agarscents line that I have tried but this is not how I want to smell.
I sampled natural musk oil at the Arabian Oud store in Paris off Champs Elysee and it's very potent. A drop on your wrist stays on your skin for days and it's a rather an unpleasant smell. Nothing at all what we perceive as musk. It took me three days and several washings before the scent went away. I'm sure they still have it in their store if you ask for it.
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I just had to add my 2 cents...
I agree w/Taz above. I tried the Agarscents Red and White musks plus the Dhen Black Musk.
While I certainly understand that this may not be real deer musk, these musks are from another world.
I have absolutely no desire to ever go back to MKK, Kiehls, LV, Etro, etc., etc.,etc.
The depth, complexity, longevity and power of the Red, White and Black are unmatched by anything I have previously encountered.
I think I am anosmic to some synthetic musks but with these scents everything comes through loud and clear.
While the Red and White are cost prohibitive, the Dehn Black is priced in the low end of niche territory and lest ye think that "it's only 3ml" because if you applied the 1 drop a day it would take for the full effect, the bottle would last you a good long time.
I sure wish I had the capability to analyze what's in those bottles.
Edit to add: I tried it with my lovely cat, a spayed female and she was repulsed by the scents...whatever that means! She is usually fine with any SOTD but with these musks, she refused to even sniff my arm.
Last edited by evogel; 13th August 2008 at 11:02 PM. Reason: add text
I've always wondered about the legality issues. I see several eBayers offering musk grains, oil infused with musk grains, oud infused with musk grains, etc.. The ones I am thinking of are in Singapore, where the laws may be different, but I can't help but wonder if I would be visited by a SWAT team from the Dep't of Fish and Wildlife (ok - showing my ignorance - from customs or some similar organization) if I placed such an order.
There are also incense companies in Japan that sell musk as part of their incense blending kits.
From time to time, I hear of farm-raised musk deer that are used to produce a lower grade but useful product, but I don't know if this is real or not.
MrP, that's what I question; the laws outside of the United States and the EU.
Could it be possible that things are formulated elsewhere where it is legal and/or possible to use in small quantities and then shipped for sale elsewhere? I am ignorant to this as well.
If the grains are available, why is it not possible to create the real thing? Maybe the grains are something else? Ambrette seeds? I would think it would be easier to identify/verify the grains than the oil???
The Theme From SWAT is now going through my head.
According to an article in Animal Science (Vol 82:1) there are about 2000 musk deer (3species Moschus Berezovskii, M. sifanicus and M. moschiferus) being farmed in China solely for the production of musk. These farms first started in 1958. Musk produced through these farms could be used in perfume without breaking any laws. However, most of it is used in traditional Chinese medicine, and its cost for mass perfumery is probably prohibitive. For those of you in SF or NYC go to a Chinese Herbalist and you may be able to find dried musk glands that could then be tinctured
Last edited by surreality; 14th August 2008 at 04:48 AM.
Seek not the favor of the multitude; it is seldom got by honest and lawful means. But seek the testimony of few; and number not voices, but weigh them. - Immanuel Kant
What surprises me is that musk products can be sold in plain daylight to US markets on eBay - I thought this was illegal for sure. I do know that Chinese herbalists are not exactly up-front about their musk products. I have seen musk pods, ambergris and other exotic aromatics (including sandalwood and aloeswood logs and blocks) but the musk was never kept up front. I never bought any, but got a whiff - wild stuff.
You can see good detailed pictures of muskdeer grains and pods at http://www.profumo.it/cashmir/englis...rt_moschus.htm, along with my 2006 report on Kashmiri Muskdeer.