Historically musk was extracted from the glands of animals, chiefly the musk deer, and thus where it derives its name.
Due to commercial and ethical reasons, this animalic source of musk was abandoned towards the end of the 19th century, being replaced by various forms of synthetic musk also called white musk or synthetic musk, which is now used almost exclusively. Muscone is the name of the molecule giving musk its fragrant identity.
Because of musk’s animalic origin, it imparts a multi-faceted character that is more often than not linked to a foundation of animal-like instinct and certainly also carnal urges.
But modern-day musk is so much more about subtlety and versatility, and much less about pungent animal odours. The perfumer’s organ nowadays includes access to a wide range of synthetically derived musk, captives the likes of Galaxolide, Celestolide, Velvione & Helvetolide.
In addition, perfumers have access to natural musk substitutes like ambrette seed, angelica root, musk flower and musk wood. Musk is a wonderful ingredient to work with because it imparts a magical warmth and sensuality, with the personality to get on incredibly well with other ingredients your formula may be calling for.
“It’s like the Gaussian Blur tool in Photoshop”, says Dan Terry, Founder of Oo La Lab, “it helps to fill in the gaps and round off or soften any edges in your formula.” And it doesn’t end there!
Musk is used as a fixative in perfume, which means it holds all your other ingredients in place for longer, meaning it will significantly boost your fragrance staying power on your skin.
What this means is that you can find this as one of the 8 base notes in Oo La Lab’s fragrance table. The very first ingredient you put into in making your perfume while also being the base that anchors it all together.
So, musk with all its power and presence is actually more of your theatrical stage manager, quietly keeping your other feistier ingredients on the same page.
A large segment of our population is actually said to have varying levels of inability to smell musk, meaning that lots of us don’t actually pick it up, at least not on a conscious level that is.
No don’t worry, we’re not about to pull a Sex Panther promo on you now……. well maybe 🙂
Some final interesting factoids for you:
– Musk sticks, a candy artificially flavoured with musk can be purchased in Australia
– Musk has been used to attract wild animals, apparently back in 2018 Indian authorities used the perfume Obsession by Calvin Klein to attract and capture a wild tiger. Hmmmm?