- Aug 26, 2022
You’re a little off on the history of musk use in western perfumery. Musk use has almost always been exclusively a result of advancements in chemistry which allowed for these molecules to be isolated and or synthesized. Civet and castoreum have been used extensively in their raw, natural form however ambergris was also widely used as well. Deer musk was rarely used in older perfumes because it really didn’t need to be as they already had the proper molecules available that are still readily available today. The lack of deer musk wasn’t a result of the deer becoming endangered though.It’s interesting. Musk was a perfume ingredient that was used for thousands of years up until the late 1800s when they stumbled on the ability to synthesize organic compounds. That, along with price and availability…then ultimately the Musk Deer was listed as endangered, caused mostly all perfume to contain synthetic musks. I think it was around this time that everyone was throwing “musk” on the bottles to make sales. Over time it became a very common theme and synthetic musks were all that was left, with all sorts of variations of notes and accords trying to approximate the natural scent of the deer musk. Now, there are still a small handful of excellent noses using real deer musk.
The same thing happened with oud. Although you can occasionally find a ”high end” perfume special release with real oud…it’s usually of the lowest quality and is in such a small amount you wouldn’t know it’s there.
Anyway, my first experience with Musk was Tigerlust by Ensar Oud. The effect the Musk had on my brain when I got that first whiff was incredible. I’ll never forget it. After that, I was hooked. Oud came shortly after.
Favorites off the top of my head:
Tigerlust - Ensar
Siberian Musk - ALD
Musk Lave - ALD
War & Peace II - ALD
Eastern perfumery has always used deer musk as a standard but the east/west paradigm didn’t really exist when western perfumery really formed in the late 19th century/early 20th century. At least not in the way it did today.
There are many, many great musk perfumes that don’t contain deer musk. Ensar’s deer musk propaganda is great for selling Ensar products but in the rest of the perfume world, including Areej Le Dore, synthetic musk molecules are not only necessary but also enjoyable as musks provide so many useful enhancements to fragrances.
The idea of ethics doesn’t really apply because everyone’s ethics are different and I wouldn’t want to comment on that either but it’s misleading to say perfumers stopped using deer musk once the deer became endangered. That just isn’t true which is what my entire point is for this ramble lol. Okay off my soap box now.