When you come across the term 'musk' as a fragrance ingredient in perfumes, it can indicate two completely different types of fragrances:

  1. clean: creamy, soft, smooth, the scent of well-cared-for warm skin
  2. dirty: sensual, animalic, the smell of warm intimate skin

We will start our blog with describing the latter, the dirty musks, which is of animal origin, has a rich history, and fortunately now is banned.

Moschus deer F. Spangenberg

Dirty animalic musk: thanks to the moschus deer
Musk of animal origin has been used for centuries, especially that from the sex glands of the male moschus deer. The word 'musk' originates from the Persian word 'moshk' in Sanskrit 'muska' which means 'testicle'.
This animalic musk was used both as an aphrodisiac, as a fixative and as a seductive fragrance in perfumes. The ultimate fragrance sensation was Tonkin musk, as far back as ancient times, the Chinese praised the titillating power of Tonkin's musk. The Islam bestowed upon Tonkin musk such divine virtues that it was mixed in with the cement of mosques. This way it would give off its aroma in the heat of the sun. The scent is so penetrating that tea ships refused to freight, fearing that all their cargo would smell of it...

For a long time, this fragrance, derived from the musk deer of the Himalayas, was one of the most precious ingredients of the perfumers' palette, with its sensuous aura and its ability to retain and enhance all essences.
The use of Tonkin musk was banned by law in 1979 and the moschus deer is now a protected species, as it was hunted almost to extinction.

To create a similar intimate 'dirty' accord in perfumes, civet (from the glands of the civet cat) and castoreum (a secretion from male beavers) can be used.  Although luckily the are also rare now and more and more synthetic and animal-friendly alternatives arose. Some synthetic musks that can give a 'dirty' twist to a perfume are Muscone, Civetone, and Ambroxide.


Synthetic musk: white musk
In the 1960s and 1970s, many synthetic alternatives have emerged so that a perfumer can achieve both the fixing effect and the fragrance experience without using fragrances of animal origin.

The largest group of synthetic musks are known as 'white musk' (white musk). They give a clean, slightly powdery, soapy and sweet, silky scent at the base, long-lasting and best developing on the skin itself. Examples are: Galaxolide, Ambrettolide. Helvetolide and Romandolide.

Plant-basesd musk: ambrette seed
Finally, we like to mention ambrette seed as a kind of vegetable musk: Abelmoschus moschatus also called ambrette seed, is extracted from the hibiscus flower and also smells softly musky, with a subtle nutty and sweet touch.