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  1. #1

    Question What does "Musk" actually mean?

    I here fellow BN'ers here talking about musk, perfumes with this ingredient, a "musky perfume", musk coming from the musk deer. I am getting a bit confused.

    A few days ago, a friend of mine said I will suit more musky perfumes. I had no idea what he meant?

    Can someone enlighten me and give me some examples of fragrance with musk (recommendations because I might consider them for wearing)? What are the characteristics of musk?

  2. #2
    rogalal's Avatar
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    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    You'll get two basic types of musk. There's the serious, old-school kind that actually smells like animal butt. It's often listed as civet (pretty much no one uses deer musk any more). The textbook example is Guerlain's Jicky, but you'd probably be more likely to enjoy Musc Ravageur, which pairs it with spicy sweet vanilla. For many people, the textbook musk is Coty's Wild Musk (available super-cheap at many drug stores), which was really popular in the 80's. Officially, it's for women, if you're worried about that sort of thing.

    There's also white musk, which isn't funky at all. In fact, it's kind of the fragrance equivalent of "plain", because it's the scent used in "unscented" white soaps and deodorants and things like that. You've probably smelled it a million times and never given it any thought. Scents with a lot of white musk often smell like you just took a shower and there's soap left on your skin. For examples, check out the Tom Ford White Musk collection.

    Similar to white, there's also gold musk, which is a lot like white musk, but more "perfumey", in the sense that it smells more like an ingredient you'd smell in old-school women's perfumes. But it's used a lot in soaps, too (mostly the "fancy" classic soaps), so it has that connotation as well. The best example I've smelled is Santa Maria Novella's Gold Musk.

    Honestly, musks are pretty out-of-fashion right now, so there's not really anything you can smell at your average mall store that's really very musky. At least I can't think of one, but I'm sure other people here will...

    As a side note, many people who don't know the specific descriptions about fragrances think that men's scents with a lot of sharpness smell "musky", just because they don't know the technical terms. I hear this all the time. If that's what your friend meant, there are thousands of options, maybe D&G The One for Men or YSL L'Homme?
    Has everyone checked out my Top 100 Blog??

  3. #3

    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by rogalal View Post
    You'll get two basic types of musk. There's the serious, old-school kind that actually smells like animal butt. It's often listed as civet (pretty much no one uses deer musk any more).
    As far as I know, civet is not a musk. The four big classic animalics are civet, musk, castoreum and ambergris. But of course, if you're using "musky" to mean "animalic", civet is musky. I smell civet in Jicky, but no musk to speak of.

  4. #4

    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by tott View Post
    As far as I know, civet is not a musk. The four big classic animalics are civet, musk, castoreum and ambergris. But of course, if you're using "musky" to mean "animalic", civet is musky. I smell civet in Jicky, but no musk to speak of.


    Jup, as far as I know Civet is produced by anal glands of the Civet Cat (residing somewhere like Tibet?) ewhereas musk is produced by musk deer in entirely different glands albeit located around the genitals as well.
    Smellin good

  5. #5

    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    tott is right, as usual: civet is not a musk.

    musk deer have sacks, that they used to cut of. the muskdeer has become almost extinct and is protected, and no commercial perfume contains natural musk from deer. in fact, very few people know what real musk from the deer smell like. (i think profumo.it sells it in tinctured form, not sure though)

    so, basically musk means synthetic musks. it used to mean nitro musk, but this group is party banned, the few surviving ones are restricted. that was classic musk. after that, macrocyclic where developed, and then polycyclics (since the '60s the smell of clean laundry, these are prominently used in fabric softener). but words like gold musk etc are fantasy names and don't really mean much.

    another myth is that musk are animalic, and very dirty. not at all! they have a soft, sweet, whispering voice, and say rather innocent things. musks make perfumes more smooth, and they will stay on you skin after almost everything else is gone. musks are basically very large molecules, on the edge of what we can smell. (many people are anosmic to one or more musks, they just cant smell it. but that does not necessarily mean you can't notice the effect it has)

    the majority of perfumes contain musks, sometimes in small, sometimes in large dosage.

    if you really want to know what musks smell like, find a supplier that sells the pure stuff (look for a chemical name, not some fantasy name, get the pure aroma chemical, not a perfume oil).
    Last edited by gido; 26th September 2010 at 01:55 PM.

  6. #6
    DeepSilence
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    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    Original Musk made of deer's belly button . Musk is most important part of Oriental fragrances. I think primitive orient people made it for first time.
    Last edited by DeepSilence; 26th September 2010 at 04:32 PM.

  7. #7

    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    belly button?
    the musk comes from the musk sacks, these glands are located under the belly.
    musk is indeed important in oriental fragrances, although vanilla might be the more dominating note. musks are also very important in aldehydic floral compositions.

    you can find pictures and more information on musk from the deer at profumo.it. btw, i have looked around, but cannot find it for sale on his site.

  8. #8
    DeepSilence
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    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    Thanks for link Gido, I was wrong.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    The term "musk" is an abstraction from the complex odor impressions of natural musk tinctures, especially from the drydown, after the more volatile parts are evaporated.
    This is from Philip Kraft's chapter on musks in Chemistry and Technology of Flavours and Fragrances. He also refers to civetone, the main odorant of civet, as a "musk odorant". Civetone is also very similar, chemically, to muscone, and is classified as a macrocyclic musk.

    I think it's correct to say that civet is "a" musk, but not "the" musk. [...although if we're being case-sensitive about things, then the synthetic molecule Cosmone(R) is most certainly THE musk! ]
    * * * *

  10. #10
    rogalal's Avatar
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    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by tott View Post
    As far as I know, civet is not a musk. The four big classic animalics are civet, musk, castoreum and ambergris. But of course, if you're using "musky" to mean "animalic", civet is musky. I smell civet in Jicky, but no musk to speak of.
    Of course, you're right - thanks. I meant that in the spirit that deer musk (according to those here who've smelled it) was basically a fecal smell, and the fecal smell in perfumery is being kept alive by civet (albeit synthetic).
    Has everyone checked out my Top 100 Blog??

  11. #11
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    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    "Plants

    Some plants such as Angelica archangelica or Abelmoschus moschatus produce musky smelling macrocyclic lactone compounds. These compounds are widely used in perfumery as substitutes for animal musk or to alter the smell of a mixture of other musks.
    The plant sources include musk flower (Mimulus moschatus), the muskwood (Olearia argophylla) of the Guianas and West Indies, and the seeds of Abelmoschus moschatus (musk seeds).

    Main article: Synthetic musk

    Since obtaining the deer musk requires killing the endangered animal, nearly all musk fragrance used in perfumery today is synthetic, sometimes called "white musk". They can be divided into three major classes — aromatic nitro musks, polycyclic musk compounds, and macrocyclic musk compounds.[2] The first two groups have broad uses in industry ranging from cosmetics to detergents. However, the detection of the first two chemical groups in human and environmental samples as well as their carcinogenic properties initiated a public debate on the use of these compounds and a ban or reduction of their use in many regions of the world. Macrocyclic musk compounds are expected to replace them since these compounds appear to be safer.[2]"

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musk

    No idea of differences in smells of aromatic nitro musks, polycyclic and macrocyclic musks. I would appreciate any comments on this.

  12. #12

    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by gido View Post
    you can find pictures and more information on musk from the deer at profumo.it. btw, i have looked around, but cannot find it for sale on his site.
    Yes Gido, the trade of muskdeer products is strictly forbidden by international laws. Whatever you find for sale on the net is false. Some people even use my pictures in order to convince customers that their product is genuine.
    Come to Italy, I shall let you smell it. I myself had to take a trip to some of the remotest places of the Hindu Kush to do that.
    AbdesSalaam Attar
    Composer Perfumer
    http://www.profumo.it/Blog/index.php

  13. #13

    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    mm, tempting.. maybe i will, someday. thank you for the kind offer.

  14. #14

    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    the only 3 i can think of right now without reading anyone elses posts are jovan musk, gendarme, and ck be. all light musks in my opinion. i own and love ck be. jovan is on my to do list.

  15. #15

    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    But what does musk actually smell like in a fragrance? Is it meant to enhance the notes in a fragrance?

  16. #16

    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marshmellow View Post
    But what does musk actually smell like in a fragrance? Is it meant to enhance the notes in a fragrance?
    musks usually make the parfum softer and smoother. they last the longest of all, some are great and true fixatives, meaning that they both help the evaporation and act as an anchor, while others aren't. musks in commercial perfumery are synthetic, all of them, no exception. and these molecules have different properties and different odors. the old nitromusks weren't great fixatives but they smelled best of all. most perfumes from a few decades ago contained nitromusks, nowadays they are practically extinct.

    if you want to learn the smell of musks, just order some pure musks. do not get 'black musk' or such nonsense, just order the real thing from a company listed in the sticky thread on the diy section of this board.
    Last edited by gido; 19th December 2013 at 11:38 AM.

  17. #17

    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    Some synthetic musk compounds smell "clean," others smell "animalish" although not necessarily dirty. One musk-heavy modern fragrance is Narciso Rodriguez for Her in the EDT concentration (black bottle) -- if you want a good sense of what an animalic modern musk smells like, you can sniff that at Nordstrom. It's not dirty or skanky, just warm and kind of like a fur/skin smell. Lots of people are anosmic to one or more synthetic musks (I wonder if it's common to be anosmic to actual deer musk too?), so if NR EDT smells like water to you, that's why!
    This scent is great, but ... MORE KITTENS!

  18. #18

    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    Genuine musk (from the deer's musk pod) doesn't smell faecal at all. It smells sweaty, and very animalic but not faecal. I wouldn't even describe true Civet as faecal. If you go to the zoo then the smell of the Antelope house smells like real musk. I think Musk Tincture is one of the sexiest smells we have! Musc Kublai Khan by Serge Lutens is a good example of an attempt to incorporate the genuine musk smell in a fragrance. Like the other animal products once used in Perfumery, Musk is a fixative, but it is also a blender and a sweetener. It works with heavy florals and with chypres. Genuine Musk smells nothing like any of the synthetic musks we now use; how could it? How can a single molecule (albeit with many isomers) smell as complex as a product cotaining very many different chemicals.

    Because of its popularity there has been a huge amount of work done in an attempt to duplicate Musk, and has been already stated we now have different chemical types which show some facet of the original material. NitroMusks, which are rarely used now are quite sweaty and (important word this) powdery. The Polycyclic and Macrcyclic musks have taken over in popularity. They are much thicker smelling, sweet and heavy. There is also a new type of Musk being promoted, which is of a different chemical structure. Best example of the new musk smell (what most people think of as Musk) in Body Shop's White Musk.

  19. #19

    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    In Caron Pour Un Homme, although it is listed as one of the notes, I don't smell musk. I only get sharp lavender and then the smooth delicate sweetness of vanilla. Not sure what type of musk they used in the composition. Maybe I am just anosmic to the ones they used. I think other people can smell it but I can't.
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  20. #20

    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    I think 'musk' nowadays implies a rather sweet powdery and heavy vibe and as others have said is used a lot to keep fragrances going for a long while. If the fragrance itself has similar notes anyway it would be hard to distinguish it. Except for MKK, it is very rarely used with it's original animalic smell.

  21. #21
    hednic's Avatar
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    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaern View Post
    I think 'musk' nowadays implies a rather sweet powdery and heavy vibe and as others have said is used a lot to keep fragrances going for a long while. If the fragrance itself has similar notes anyway it would be hard to distinguish it. Except for MKK, it is very rarely used with it's original animalic smell.
    True.

  22. #22

    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marshmellow View Post
    I here fellow BN'ers here talking about musk, perfumes with this ingredient, a "musky perfume", musk coming from the musk deer. I am getting a bit confused.

    A few days ago, a friend of mine said I will suit more musky perfumes. I had no idea what he meant?

    Can someone enlighten me and give me some examples of fragrance with musk (recommendations because I might consider them for wearing)? What are the characteristics of musk?
    Mostly musk are categorized as black musks and white musks. I am not sure with the differences as I find lots of differences between the ones sold in Middle East and the one sold by "Maroma fragrences". One of the main one being the deer musks especially the one from Himalayan region which are quite famous especially for their longevity.

    if you have tried any of the traditional Indian and/or Arabian attars, you should be knowing that black musks are also obtained from ambrette seeds which has got similar musk smelling compounds.

  23. #23

    Default Re: What does "Musk" actually mean?

    Black musk, white musk, red musk, and so on are fantasy names without much fixed meaning. These names are not commonly used by perfumers, and probably cooked up by people who create cheap fragrance oils to be sold in markets and such. These consist of an arbitrary mixture of aroma chemicals (musk molecules and other things) in some solvent. That should explain why you find it hard to pinpoint the differences!

    The real musks have names like Oxacycloheptadec-10-en-2-one, which is the chemical name of a molecule with the trade name of Ambrettolide. For obvious reasons perfumers refer to the trade names, usually the most common or the one that's used by their company, because the same molecule can have different tradenames depending on the company you are talking to.

    I would not believe anyone who claims to sell real deermusk (musk tonkin) unless you have the knowledge (many years of experience in the trade) plus solid evidence (preferably from being there yourself) that these claims are in fact true. Very, very little chance! Buying Musk Tonkin from someone that you do not know over the internet is not dissimilar to buying the story that you are going to get rich from somebody somewhere who send you (and thousand others) an email.
    Last edited by gido; 19th December 2013 at 12:48 PM.

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