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  1. #1
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    Default Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    I know nitro musks are not used any longer in perfume production. I am not sure why, my reading says "environmental reasons" but I'm not sure what that really means. Anyway, I know they were widely used and I assume that some vintage perfumes contain them. Which ones? Note lists just say, "Musk" and I think they were banned before current regulations mandated detailed ingredient lists. I'd really like to smell perfumes that contain them to compare with modern musks. Any suggestions?

    Thanks!
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  2. #2

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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    I think there are a few nitromusks, I have not smelled them in isolation myself. They have been restricted or banned long ago- I'm not sure they have been proved toxic, but they are very durable, so they did not decompose in the environment. The problem, as usual, wasn't perfume, but cleaning products like laundry detergent, which caused tons of the materials to flow into rivers and seas.

    Among the vintage perfumes, I think Chanel No 5 extrait is known to have used nitromusks in great quantity, but I think you have to get hold of a really old specimen. I'm not sure which age, but I suspect at least 70s or earlier.

    cacio

  3. #3

    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    When it comes to vintage perfumery, nitromusks were hugely popular. A few specific examples though:
    No.5 contained around 3,5% musk ketone, and a little less musk ambrette. Youth Dew is notably nitromusky, too.
    For musk ambrette specifically, think Aramis or L'Air du Temps.
    Musk xylene was cheaper to produce, is less refined in smell, and had greater application in soaps and detergents.

    Regarding safety, musk ambrette can cause photosensitive reactions and is considered to have neurotoxic properties.
    Last edited by gandhajala; 23rd November 2015 at 07:46 AM.

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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Quote Originally Posted by gandhajala View Post
    Regarding safety, musk ambrette can cause photosensitive reactions and is considered to have neurotoxic properties.
    Wasn't aware of that. Thanks for the info.
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Well, you can still buy things like musk ketone if you want to try it yourself, otherwise several indies still use them in their formulae.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Quote Originally Posted by gandhajala View Post
    When it comes to vintage perfumery, nitromusks were hugely popular. A few specific examples though:
    No.5 contained around 3,5% musk ketone, and a little less musk ambrette. Youth Dew is notably nitromusky, too.
    For musk ambrette specifically, think Aramis or L'Air du Temps.
    Musk xylene was cheaper to produce, is less refined in smell, and had greater application in soaps and detergents.

    Regarding safety, musk ambrette can cause photosensitive reactions and is considered to have neurotoxic properties.
    Not too sure about the photosensitivity, it was banned in the early 1980s because of its potential neurotoxicity.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Nitro musks can be found in the 1950's versions of ;

    Ma Griffe
    Arpege
    L'Aimant
    Je Reviens
    Chanel # 5

  8. #8

    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Ruskin View Post
    Not too sure about the photosensitivity, it was banned in the early 1980s because of its potential neurotoxicity.
    Hi David,
    A quick google search of the type "musk ambrette photosensitivity" reveals quite a number of studies showing its potential as a photosensitiser and the IFRA consider its critical effects to be "photosensitisation and neurotoxicity". Steve Meakins (Quest) actually suggested it was this photosensitising data that ultimately lead to its prohibition, rather than its possible neurotoxicity (The Safety and Toxicology of Fragrances, p. 195 in Charles Sell's "The Chemistry of Fragrances").
    I claim no expertise here though, so always happy to be corrected if wrong.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Quote Originally Posted by gandhajala View Post
    Hi David,
    A quick google search of the type "musk ambrette photosensitivity" reveals quite a number of studies showing its potential as a photosensitiser and the IFRA consider its critical effects to be "photosensitisation and neurotoxicity". Steve Meakins (Quest) actually suggested it was this photosensitising data that ultimately lead to its prohibition, rather than its possible neurotoxicity (The Safety and Toxicology of Fragrances, p. 195 in Charles Sell's "The Chemistry of Fragrances").
    I claim no expertise here though, so always happy to be corrected if wrong.
    I'm sure you are right. I just remember it being banned and the reason given to us was that it was found in nerve tissue of test animals, and it was thought it could cause damage.

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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    I was fortunate to find this old bottle of Estée Lauder- Private Collection which is still under pressure- meaning there are forbidden HFCs and possibly nitro-musk is present, too. This smells beautiful.


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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Thank you all so much for your helpful replies. I will be trying to track down some pre-70's Chanel No. 5 extrait and the 50's scents mentioned by Kaern.

    deadidol, could you tell me which indie perfumers use nitro musks? If they don't want it publicized, you could PM me. I'm less interested in smelling them in isolation and more interested in what they contribute to fragrance compared to today's musks.

    Kumquat, that's a beautiful box of older EL Private Collection. Can you tell the difference between that formulation and a newer one?
    It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.--Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    You know, it's pretty hard to know what you're getting until after the fact. I could send you a sample if you PM me.

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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    I have been interested in this topic as well. I have wondered whether my Vintage Weil Secret De Venus might have some of these. It lasts forever and certainly feels thick like fur.
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  14. #14

    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Anything after 1985 will probably not contain Musk Ambrette. Musk Ketone and Musk Xylene were used until very recently (last five years or so). Two fragrances that used to be packed full of Musk Ambrette were Aramis, and Brut. If you can find 1970s samples, you will have perfect examples.

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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Ruskin View Post
    Anything after 1985 will probably not contain Musk Ambrette. Musk Ketone and Musk Xylene were used until very recently (last five years or so). Two fragrances that used to be packed full of Musk Ambrette were Aramis, and Brut. If you can find 1970s samples, you will have perfect examples.
    Arghh! I was at a house sale a few weeks ago and there were at least four ancient bottles of Aramis and several old Aramis gift sets on the dresser. I bought Norell instead, but in the future I'll keep my eyes open for both Thank you!
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  16. #16
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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    I glimpsed this thread when it was posted a few days back and thought to myself "Just how would one go about meeting this objective of putting their sniffer upon actual (just the facts now, just the facts) fragrance with any one of the common nitro musks within?" Good luck with that!... was what I immediately came up with.

    Here's what I'd do, though.
    .05 (edit). In addition to the input provided by the fine and knowledgeable BN usual suspects...
    1. Re-read the Perfume Shrine blog series on musk. While written back in 2009, it is still a very good read. Plus, there are a few dozen references to fragrances that were commonly known to have been chock-full-of the various musks, including the nitro musks. Then, I'd reach out to the blogger -- she seems so personable and I'd bet she could lead you to code, bottle or box descriptions of some of those she mentions. She's apparently into vintage and she's mentioned, at least once, where if her writings prevent someone from being deceived into buying a vintage because of misinformation, ignorance, etc., then she will have met one of her objectives.
    2. Next, I'd go to IFRA's site and read from their code of practice standards library about the more popular nitro musks: Musk Xylene, Musk Ketone, Musk Ambrette. There, I'd see that: (i) Musk Xylene is currently prohibited across all categories because its environmental half-life exceeds a pre-determined threshold, was a new standard as part of the 44th amendment, and affected new product as of August 2009 and existing product as of August 2010; (ii) Musk Ketone is currently restricted in its use across all categories in that it must not contain .1% or more of Musk Xylene, was a new standard as part of the 45th amendment, and was effective June 2012; and (iii) Musk Ambrette is currently prohibited across all categories because of its photosensitization and neurotoxicity effects, was a new standard as part of the 40th amendment, and was apparently effective September 2002.
    3. Next, I'd recall that EU labeling requirements in place since at least 2005 only currently require certain potential allergens (26 of them: Amyl cinnamal, Anise alcohol, Amylcinnamyl alcohol, Benzyl benzoate, Benzyl alcohol, Benzyl cinnamate, Benzyl salicylate, Citronellol, Cinnamyl alcohol, Farnesol, Cinnamal, Hexyl cinnamal, Citral, Butylphenyl methylpropional, Coumarin, Limonene, Eugenol, Linaool, Geraniol Methyl 2-octynoate, Hydroxycitronellal, Alpha-isomethyl ionone, Hydroxyisohexyl-3-Cyclohexene-Carboxaldehyde, Evernia Prunastri Extract, Isoeugenol, and Evernia Furfuracea Extract) to be listed, none of which is a nitro musk, and only then if > 10 parts per million in leave-on product. Sure, houses could voluntarily list out other ingredients, including Musk Ketone, but with such a premium on secrecy for trademark protection we don't see that being done, do we?

    Bottom line: There's no way to know for sure, unless I had access to actual formulae and the corresponding code/bottle/box descriptors. Best I could do is assess the credibility of any input and go with that, knowing full well the likelihood for error.

    No?
    Last edited by DuNezDeBuzier; 24th November 2015 at 05:23 PM.
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  17. #17
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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    I don't know when Chanel stopped using nitromusks in No.5. What I will say is that I never understood the appeal of No.5 until I tried some parfum from a vintage atomizer. It is a 10ml aerosol bottle, most likely from the 70s; that particular type of packaging was phased out by the early 80s, as best I can tell. The point is, I'm pretty sure the formulation in question includes nitromusks, and it smells fantastic. Or it could be the civet, or a combination thereof.

    I would think that No.5 from the 70s would be old enough if you're after nitromusks.
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  18. #18
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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Hi everyone--

    I've been a bit preoccupied with non-perfume matters lately, but nothing attracts my interest more than a discussion of nitromusks, like the one that recently popped up on the Fragonard sample pass thread, with the esteemed Epapsiou and Perfumed Lady both weighing in.

    I thought I would continue the discussion in this topic that was cited by Epapsiou. In my opinion, JTD has recently published one of the best descriptions of the experience of vintage musks that I have ever read on his excellent Scenthurdle blog:

    http://scenthurdle.com/two-more-musks/

    The older generation of musks — say, early-mid 20th century — fit the era’s standard genres: the chypre, the oriental, the aldehydic floral and the fougère. They helped to achieve the goals intrinsic to all of these genres, namely a suspended top-heart-base progression, enhanced richness, a pronounced animalism and legible complexity. They provided the internal structure that allowed these perfumes to achieve a high degree of complexity without falling in on themselves. Materials/accords didn’t blur into each other. It’s as if musks provided enough space between notes so that they maintain their independent profiles even as they contribute to the overall composition. They allowed us to smell the trees amongst the forest.

    The value of the classical perfumes was their ornate compositions and theatricality. Nitro musks, tonkin musks and the other musk materials of the time fit the aesthetic perfectly. It’s a valid observation that the perfumes of the era now seem melodramatic and fussy, but just spend some time with vintage Shalimar, Narcisse Noir or Diorama. They make sense. Judged by the standards of their times, these perfumes excel. They were balanced but forceful. They played out intricately over the course of a day. When they attempted to emulate natural materials they were accurate. When they sought to create an atmosphere or an image they were resonant.

    JTD goes on to review two recent musky perfumes, L'Artisans Le Cri de Lumiere (2017) and Diptyique's Fleur de Peau (2017) and contrasts their structure to the blurry, formless "white musk purgatory" of many modern perfumes. I think he has convinced me to order samples of both, and I will be hopeful. It is perhaps needless to add that I am not one of those people who finds vintage perfumes to be "melodramatic and fussy." Vintage musks don't bother me at all, but I am often overwhelmed by modern musks.

    I would be curious to hear what other vintage-minded folks think of all of this.
    Last edited by grayspoole; 12th June 2018 at 05:04 PM.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Great bump, and wonderful post, grayspoole. The idea of legible complexity is a keeper. This is an essential part of symphonic beauty. The idea that components which give it may require an olfactory spacing proportional in some ways to molecular distance is a powerful one which can explain the aesthetic loss from perfumery's loss of the "conveniently distanced" nitro musk cluster.

    (Translation - the chemical difference of nitro compounds from most biomimetic aromachemicals is what enabled the art that used them.)

    Interestingly, because molecular distance can entail (biologically) both greater safety and greater risk, in a very complex way, presenting some overall risk at olfactorially useful distances, the problem directly confronts the necessity of risk in the attainment of happiness, which is (IMO) an important motivator for life, and particularly intelligent life.

    Risk management is the way forward. Beauty without danger, but with courage. We need to explore dangerous waters for safe passages. Are there "safe" nitro musks? Are there "safe" applications? There are newer nitro explosives now with better behavior. Why not newer nitro musks, or limited allowed applications that don't have significant environmental risk?

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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    "...the problem directly confronts the necessity of risk in the attainment of happiness, which is (IMO) an important motivator for life, and particularly intelligent life."

    So true and so well put!

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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Very informative posts! Indeed, some old perfumes have a grandeur and a vividness that's hardly found in modern perfumery. Nitromusks are interesting because it's really not an IFRA thing-I don't think anybody ever had a rash for them. It would be nice if they were forbidden in laundry detergents but allowed in perfumes-but that can't happen.

    cacio

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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Quote Originally Posted by cacio View Post
    .... It would be nice if they were forbidden in laundry detergents but allowed in perfumes-but that can't happen.

    cacio
    Do you know what the barriers are there? There are already differential regulations on components, depending on applications.
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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    I don't know about detergents, but my prior is that regulations there are far less stringent than for perfumes for the body.

    My uninformed guess is that nitromusks were banned because they do not decay and were found in animals and plants-not because they caused a small red spot on somebody's skin. The reason they were found in fauna and flora was because they were used in stuff like laundry detergents. The amount used in perfumes for the body would have been minimal. So in other words nature would not suffer if we use nitromusks in Guerlain parfums-the important thing is that they are not used in stuff sold at Walmart to millions. But as said I could be entirely misinformed on this.

    cacio

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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Quote Originally Posted by cacio View Post
    I don't know about detergents, but my prior is that regulations there are far less stringent than for perfumes for the body.

    My uninformed guess is that nitromusks were banned because they do not decay and were found in animals and plants-not because they caused a small red spot on somebody's skin. The reason they were found in fauna and flora was because they were used in stuff like laundry detergents. The amount used in perfumes for the body would have been minimal. So in other words nature would not suffer if we use nitromusks in Guerlain parfums-the important thing is that they are not used in stuff sold at Walmart to millions. But as said I could be entirely misinformed on this.

    cacio
    I am almost sure you're right about that. I have a copy of a nice monograph on nitro musks somewhere that I'm pretty sure says what you said. I'm just thinking there have to be some examples that are not significant health risks, and could be allowed into fine fragrances but not laundry soaps.
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  25. #25

    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Thought I would mention here that some of the fragrances from Rogue Perfumery contain nitromusks. Specifically, Manuel mentions on his website https://rogueperfumery.com that Tabac Vert contains "musk ketone" (a type of nitromusk) and Chypre-Siam contains "nitromusks".

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Quote Originally Posted by SmellYouLater View Post
    Thought I would mention here that some of the fragrances from Rogue Perfumery contain nitromusks. Specifically, Manuel mentions on his website https://rogueperfumery.com that Tabac Vert contains "musk ketone" (a type of nitromusk) and Chypre-Siam contains "nitromusks".
    Just placed a sample order, thanks so much!
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  27. #27

    Default Re: Nitro musk--where can I smell some?

    Quote Originally Posted by foxbins View Post
    Just placed a sample order, thanks so much!
    You're welcome! Hope you enjoy




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