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  1. #1
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    Default Musk 'Types' - definitions / defining notes or character. Help please.

    I am a bit confused as to what the notable difference is between the following:

    White Musk
    Soft Musk
    Red Musk
    Woody Musk
    Animalic Musk
    Dark Musk


    Japanese Musk
    Tibetan Musk
    Oriental Musk
    China Musk
    African Musk
    Arabian Musk
    Indian (Cashmere) Musk
    Egyptian Musk
    Himalayan Musk
    Nubian Musk


    I know there may be blurrying of lines but would still like to know, for example, what is the difference between a Tibetan and Oriental Musk. I am also confused by the fact that I would think a Nubian Musk was an African Musk but the African Musk I have tried was a green fresh musk similar to Egyptian musks I have experienced and as for the Nubians: one was rose dominated and the other a smoky coconut!

    How do you understand the differences (Can you give a quick definition and a few examples to illustrate)?
    Which do you prefer? Your favourites?
    Favourite (Winter) Crazy Combos

    Tabu + Orange Blossom * Hermes Rouge + Bellodgia* Voleur du Roses+ Rose Ispahan * Rasa Extreme + Paris * Wood Coffee + Cafe Noir *

  2. #2

    Default Re: Musk 'Types' - definitions / defining notes or character. Help please.

    To me, the difference between a "light" and a "dark" musk is basically a distinction between clean and dirty. White musk especially is very soapy and bright. A fragrances which feature it prominently are Helmut Lang, Les Nereides Musc de Samarkand and Body Shop White Musk. Dark musk is ambery and sweet, possibly animalic depending on the molecule or accord. Fragrances I consider to be dark musks are Kiehl's Musk and Coty Wild Musk.

    China Musk is something I saw either at Body Shop or some other "hippie" store. It is somewhat like white musk in that the liquid is colorless, and the scent is clean. It has been a long time since I smelled china musk, so my recollection is rather vague.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Musk 'Types' - definitions / defining notes or character. Help please.

    Great list, to which I have nothing to add. I always wonder what musk is, exactly, and where the musk ends and something else begins when you're smelling something like MKK or Kiehl's No.1. It's such a woolly note and typically such a woolly genre. As usual, I find what Asha says very useful.
    Specifically I'm trying to figure out whether the similarity I find between Mazzolari Lui, Laura Tonatto Re and Musc Ravageur is actually musk or maybe patchouli spun some weird way. I don't find the common note nearly as prominently in Kiehl's or in MKK. Anybody?

  4. #4

    Default Re: Musk 'Types' - definitions / defining notes or character. Help please.

    Gee, this should be an interesting thread. Currently, I only think about musk as light/white or heavy/sexy. Obviously there's more to it than that.

    I don't always pick up musk as a separate base note alongside ambers, woods, and incense. I don't think I'm anosmic to it, just lacking the experience to single it out in the more complex fragrances.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Musk 'Types' - definitions / defining notes or character. Help please.

    I'm not sure, but I think that they are all basically similar structure aroma chemicals - the development companies are always making new ones. I read somewhere ( I think from Turin) that almost all perfumes contain several different musks as they are very large molecules on the edge of our olfactory sense and many people are amnosic to various ones so they put in a range in the hope that some of them will be smellable by a particular individual. I would imagine the names are just marketing suggestions of combinations of different musk molecules, maybe different ones lean a certain way in their smell - i.e. have some similarity to, and thus would combine well with another accord (some may go well with amber - therefore called oriental musk?). I doubt there are specific qualities associated with these names but IFF may well make a mixture which "smells soft" and market it as a "soft musk" base for perfumers to pick when they want that quality.
    Last edited by hirch_duckfinder; 28th March 2009 at 06:46 PM.
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  6. #6

    Default Re: Musk 'Types' - definitions / defining notes or character. Help please.

    Can't help with the others, but... isn't "Cashmere Musk" Cashmeran?

  7. #7

    Default Re: Musk 'Types' - definitions / defining notes or character. Help please.

    The definition of "musk" is a personal pet peeve of mine. The problem stems from the fact that all of them are synthetic. Every time I smell what I think is real musk, somebody notifies me that I have been fooled, yet again. Apparently the real substance is so hard to get that few people these days will ever smell it.

    Modern synthetic musks include nuances of unrelated notes, such as florals, woods, amber, and fruit. Some of them are hardly recognizable as "musk" in a perfume. Certainly, they all have a soft, diffusive, somewhat powdery characeristic, but that is the only aspect I can hang onto, like a drowning man to a stick of wood in the ocean.

    Like everyone says, the major difference is in whether they are clean or dirty. The clean ones usually have floral or fruity notes and remind me of soap. The dirty ones are a bit fecal, musty, sweaty, or oily. I assume that musks named White, China, Japanese, Soft, or Egyptian are going to be clean. The ones named Dark, Red, or Animalic are usually going to be dirty. As for the names of countries, such as African, Nubian, Tibetan, Indian, or Himalayan, I cannot venture to guess what they imply.

    So, in answer to your question, I doubt that there is any standardization of the nomenclature. It is arbitrary.

    What we need is someone without anosomia to line them all up and smell them side-by-side.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Musk 'Types' - definitions / defining notes or character. Help please.

    The colorful, romantic names of musks have nothing to do with anything but marketing executive's ideas of what will sell. Habanolide, Exaltolide, Velvione, nitro-musks, and so on, are the chemicals that go into making these basenotes. About 40% of the population are anosmic to synthetic musks of one kind or another. So companies come up with mixes like Auranone which uses many musks and soft, floral, powdery notes, so everyone will smell it. It's a very nice musk, by the way. The famous (dirty, dark) nitro musks are banned now, because they are unstable chemicals, but you can buy samples to sniff if you're curious. I'm anosmic to most macrocyclic musks, it's a genetic thing. Can't smell Narciso at all. It's a very interesting topic!

  9. #9

    Default Re: Musk 'Types' - definitions / defining notes or character. Help please.

    It is my understanding that there is a sharp difference to the concept of Musk between "Western" and "Eastern" perfumery and culture.
    Musk plays a fundamental role in traditional Arabian style perfumery, for instance, and the most sought-after seems to be musks derived from an animal source: the musk deer, but also some species of gazelle.
    In Arabic the former is Misk Fakher and the latter Misk Ghazal.
    Since the animals from which these substances are becoming increasingly endangered, there has been greater emphasis on cruelty-free farming and cultivation since it is entirely possible to remove a musk pod without causing death or unnecessary suffering.
    Similar to the production of civet in Ethiopia and SE Asia, where farmers obtain the animal product without killing the animal that produces it.
    Anyhow, real musk is certainly available and many commercial producers promote cruelty-free cultivation.
    Companies like Abdul Samad al Qurashi, Ajmal and Arabian Oud are probably the best known brands offering traditional musk, and it smells nothing like the synthetics.
    The principal varieties of animal-derived musk are Black Musk and Red Musk.
    An alternative, White Musk, which smells completely different, almost sweet and floral and totally without the "sexiness" of the animal varieties has become extremely popular and is generally known as "body musk".
    I don't know enough about this kind of musk to say how it is manufactured, but I believe it is made from plants and flowers.
    In terms of scent profile the Western versions of musk are totally different, and to my mind bear no relationship to the original product.
    If you want to know what musk really smells like, it is entirely possible to sample the real thing via eBay.
    My main concern about synthetic musks is that they often seem to be highly toxic and to have long-term health implications - such as became apparent with the nitro-Musks.
    There has been a lot of debate in recent years about the neurotoxicity and hormone-disrupting potential of synthetic musks in particular (although the same is probably true of all aroma chemicals to some degree.
    This is only my opinion of course.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Musk 'Types' - definitions / defining notes or character. Help please.

    Quote Originally Posted by Elf View Post
    The colorful, romantic names of musks have nothing to do with anything but marketing executive's ideas of what will sell. Habanolide, Exaltolide, Velvione, nitro-musks, and so on, are the chemicals that go into making these basenotes. About 40% of the population are anosmic to synthetic musks of one kind or another. So companies come up with mixes like Auranone which uses many musks and soft, floral, powdery notes, so everyone will smell it. It's a very nice musk, by the way. The famous (dirty, dark) nitro musks are banned now, because they are unstable chemicals, but you can buy samples to sniff if you're curious. I'm anosmic to most macrocyclic musks, it's a genetic thing. Can't smell Narciso at all. It's a very interesting topic!
    To me, a "white musk" or even Narcisco For Her smells like nothing. No different than water. It's a little frustrating in that so many modern perfumes rely on these for their bases.

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