Musk... confusing?

deptulak

Member
Apr 1, 2014
I am trying to figure out if I am anosmic to it.. I have smelled hundreds of funk-famous perfumes and nothing. Kiehl's musk smells like a sharp detergent/air freshener, MKK smells like a strong soap, Narciso Musc fragrances smell like floral squeaky clean sweetness, Musc ravageur smells like a fresh, wood polish..... So naturally I would assume that I'm just anosmic.. Or does the term "animalic" mean a detergent smell? I don't think so.. I have smelled only a few things that definitely have a distinct sweaty, urinic, slightly fecal smell (which is what most describe as musk)... Ahsan MUSK (sweet white musk with a noticable sweaty/urinic/warm off-note, but still manages to be highly enjoyable), Al rehab Musk al ghazal (sweet feces) and al haramain ambergris (dying rotting flesh with bad breath) and ajmal musk gazelle (barnyard/dead deer) what do you think?
 

gandhajala

Well-known member
Sep 3, 2010
Few perfumers use animal derived musks these days.
Of the synthetic musks, some aim to approximate the 'real' stuff, some smell like berries, some laundry detergents, some floral, some powdery.
 

FrankG

Well-known member
Aug 1, 2014
I hear you. When I read the description of a fragrance and it has musk as a note. I have no idea what to expect... Jovan old lady type musk or abercrombie fierce young and sporty type musk...who knows????
 

cacio

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Nov 5, 2010
Interesting, I have talked to many people who are not very sensitive to, or perceive some of them as soapy, but not to all of them together.

We are all anosmic to one musk or another. As gandhajala was saying, these frags nowadays contain synthetic musks. It is very possible that the main synthetic musks of all these frags are either the same molecule, or closely related ones, and you happen to be anosmic to this class of molecules, or have a different perception of them. Actual animal musks tend to be mixtures of many molecules, so it's probably easier to perceive them. Besides, deer musk, civet, and ambergris are very different materials.

Btw, the Narciso Rodriguez smell clean to me too, never occurred to me that they are in the same class as MKK or MR. To my nose, MR cleans up a bit as it goes, but it starts definitely dirty. And Kiehl's is definitely not an air freshener to me (though it does smell better than air fresheners).

cacio
 

hednic

Well-known member
Oct 25, 2007
To the OP: I also do not get the often perceived strong reactions that many others get from many of the well talked about scents. They just don't smell that bad to me.
 

deptulak

Member
Apr 1, 2014
hmm. Interesting. Based on pure fantasy I always envisioned musks to be good for a warm, sexy and mysterious scent, but so far it's been kind of disappointing. I have discovered that ambers and other resinous scents are much better fitted anyway. Still, I'd like to experience what it is to smell like a "sexy animal"...... not poo pants or soap!

BTW.. for anyone interested... I found a perfect dupe for TF AA... swiss arabian amber absolute! lasts longer and is miles cheaper and smells almost the same ;)
 
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arion

Well-known member
Apr 1, 2014
Philip Kraft (probably the most qualified man to speak about musks) defines the term ‘musk’ as an “abstraction from the complex odour impressions of natural musk tinctures, especially from the dry-down, after the more volatile parts [largely responsible for the ‘animal’ notes] evaporated. It refers to the warm, sensual, sweet-powdery tonality of the dry-down.”

According to this definition ‘musky’ in KM, MKK, NM, MR is the warm, sensual, sweet-powdery note that is common to all of them.

Now, detergents contain up to 60% Galaxolide, a synthetic musk, and many people describe Galaxolide, Ambrettolide and other musks as having a ‘soapy’ (by)-note. So, you do not seem anosmic to musk, as defined in perfumery!

Therefore, maybe you didn’t sense the expected “sweaty, urinic, slightly fecal smell” in MKK or MR because you didn’t find those notes offensive at low levels; or you are hypo-osmic to them? :wink:
 
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sjg3839

Well-known member
Aug 21, 2012
As you mentioned, there are many variations of musk. Not a fan of it myself. The only one I am cool with is Kiehls Original Musk.
 

deptulak

Member
Apr 1, 2014
i think i'm starting to understand. soapy is synonymous with animalic musk, because of common association. synthetic musk smells quite like the real thing (powdery, sweet, warm minus the offensive fecal funk) but because it is in cleaning products we associate white musk with clean, rather than warm. So all those famous musks smell soapy clean to me, as they should..? i may be right, or i may have shit for brains.
 

cacio

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Nov 5, 2010
I wouldn't say soapy is synonimous of animalic. If I understand correctly arion's point, which I agree with, musks are a broad category. There are hundreds of molecules classified as musks, with very different smells, ranging from laundry detergents to poop. Some may feel warm and enveloping, others cleaner or colder. There are musks that smell only powdery and fluffy, and others that smell only of poop, but many musks have both characteristics. In addition, most perfumes use more than one musk molecule in their base.

Most importantly, the ability to smell specific musks varies across the population. Each of us may be unable to smell certain molecules, or perceive them very weakly, and in contrast be supersensitive to others. For instance, I think I am unable to smell galaxolide, but at the same time I do smell the dirt in MKK or Le Labo oud quite intensely.

So possibilities are:
1) the perfumes you mention are a mix of a couple of musks, some soapy and some dirty, and you happen to be insensitive to the soapy musk used in them.
2) these perfumes use a particular musk molecule that has characteristics both of soap and of dirt, but you perceive mostly its soapy part.

You are however able to smell the dirty part of other musk molecules, since you mention many pefumes where you do smell it. So I guess the bottom line is that musk means many things. As for the warm, sweet part, I'd say that ambers do consistently smell of warm and sweet - and that's probably the first thing one thinks about when referring to warm and sweet. Musks's warmth, if any, has more to do with feeling like being near a living animal, smelling the skin, possibly not a very clean one.

cacio
 

deptulak

Member
Apr 1, 2014
thanks for the reply cacio. I just remember now, that my mother, who is also a perfume connoisseur, claims she has smelled real deer musk in indian sandalwood on her travels to the middle east in the 70s. She said it was simultaneously soapy, dirty, sweet and earthy, constantly shifting and changing in contrast. I wish I could smell the real thing!
 

arion

Well-known member
Apr 1, 2014
Edited

deptulac, maybe I was too brief in my post.

As mentioned by cacio, today the majority of perfumes contain a cocktail of ‘synthetic’ musks, and people show a bewildering variability in their sensibility to these various musks. Each musk molecule has also secondary olfactory notes that are stronger or weaker. There is a tiny minority that is truly anosmic to musk in general. Even more, in a paper was described an experiment in which anosmics to Galaxolide were able to distinguish between samples of a fragrance and samples of the very same fragrance with added Galaxolide. Also paraosmics, those which apply the ‘wrong’ descriptor to the smell of a pure chemical, seem to be fever than previously assumed due to the interference of associative learning in experiments. All these make the smell of musk molecules very hard to describe by non-perfumers.

Therefore no two persons (non-professionals?) will agree about the descriptors they apply to the smell of all the musk molecules, and agreement will be less with regard to the odor of perfumes, tinctures and absolutes. I am not sure what you call ‘the real thing’. I would call ‘real musk’ any odoriferous molecule or blend that fits Kraft’s definition, whether it has supplementary notes or not.

The fact that you ascribe a detergent note or a soapy note to several musk perfumes suggests to me that you are not anosmic to musk, and this was my point.

BTW, I know a person which described the smell of Galaxolide ‘cheap’, ‘detergent’, but had a WOW reaction to Ambrettolide, while my wife loves the smell of Galaxolide and described my precious ambrette seed tincture as ‘unpleasant with some soapiness’. Are they paraosmics, or just untrained in the taxonomy of perfumes? I think the second alternative is the true one because most people when sensing a smell first put him on a pleasant/unpleasant scale and then name something with an identical/similar odor.
 
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Diamondflame

Frag Bomber 1st Squadron
Basenotes Plus
Jun 28, 2009
Thank you both arion and cacio for the detailed explanation on musks. While I generally understood 2 categories of musks which for my own simplified understanding I define as 'clean' vs 'dirty' musks, your posts have shed more light and filled in some of the gaps in my knowledge.
 
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bbfan

Well-known member
May 24, 2013
...I have smelled hundreds of funk-famous perfumes and nothing...

I'm curious- does this include Kouros? Is so, did you hang in there through the dry down? Personally, when I think of "musk" my brain goes right to Kouros at dry down.
 

cacio

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Nov 5, 2010
Vintage Kours had lots of civet, among others ...

Interesting experiment about galaxolide - I think this applies to me too. I think I do get the fixative properties of galaxolide. It's just that I didn't smell much when faced with galaxolide on its own. I have not tried ambrettolide on its own, so it's a must do.

Good point also about associations and perceptions. Sometimes, there are smells that seem to fall between dirty and clean at the same time. One such example is My Sin (eau at least, the one I have). As you smell it on yourself, the brain shifts randomly between "just soaped up in the shower" and " not showered in weeks". I don't know if this is due to a particular musk, but it's an interesting sensation.

cacio
 

arion

Well-known member
Apr 1, 2014
I also have difficulties sensing Galaxolide, especially in concentrated solution, but in perfumes like Dune, Tresor and Ysatis it becomes overpowering. Maybe some component of these perfumes boosts its smell? I ask because for me patchouli greatly enhances the ‘warm-animal-presence’ aspect of the macrocyclic ketones, though in a good way. On the other hand, benzyl benzoate depresses the odor of nitromusks. Go understand the nose. :angry:
 

cacio

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Nov 5, 2010
I have no problem smelling Dune, Tresor and Ysatis. Dune and Tresor don't smell soapy or musky to me. Ysatis does smell somewhat soapy, sort of bathroom steam; later versions of Byzance had the same effect on me. I doubt this is due to galaxolide, but everything could be.

cacio
 

deptulak

Member
Apr 1, 2014
I went and sprayed kiehls on me again today (this stuff smells quite like hint of musk impulse body spray.. hmm) to try to actively deconstruct the fragrance. I got the soapy clean vibe for about half an hour, then i got something like a warm piss note, but it was so incredibly soft, it smelled like mildly sweaty human skin, but still soapy. so think I know what you guys were talking about. About the whole warm animal thing... If my cat smelled like kiehls and vice versa, then it would be something different..
 

gandhajala

Well-known member
Sep 3, 2010
I went and sprayed kiehls on me again today (this stuff smells quite like hint of musk impulse body spray.. hmm) to try to actively deconstruct the fragrance. I got the soapy clean vibe for about half an hour, then i got something like a warm piss note, but it was so incredibly soft, it smelled like mildly sweaty human skin, but still soapy. so think I know what you guys were talking about. About the whole warm animal thing... If my cat smelled like kiehls and vice versa, then it would be something different..

Kiehl's musk is (or at least, was) almost entirely constituted by Galaxolide (like, 90%+).
Other musks and musky bases out there are much more animalic. Tonquitone, for example, has a super funky, furry, quality.
 

cacio

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Nov 5, 2010
gandhajala:

interesting about the Kiehl's. I don't get any soap at all, just pure dirty musk (though not particularly loud). So I must be smelling the remaining 10 percent, and well. This confirms what arion was saying, that even though I don't smell galaxolide, I do smell come of its fixative properties. I don't find the kiehl's to be very long lasting or very projecting, which would also be expected if I were anosmic to its main ingredient. Then perhaps when I was dousing myself at the store because I didn't smell much, people were fleeing in horror.

deptulak:

so it seems you are able to smell the particular dirty musk used in the Kiehl's, but not as strongly as I do (since I get it from the opening). But you are evidently able to smell galaxolide very well, perhaps too well.

cacio
 
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gandhajala

Well-known member
Sep 3, 2010
This has been an informative discussion. Thanks to all above.
Gandajala, which fragrances feature tonquitone?

To be honest James, I have Tonquitone itself (a proprietary blend made by IFF), but I couldn't say for certain which commercial fragrances it is used in. Perhaps someone else can.
I'm afraid I'm not familiar with Musc Tonkin which Cacio mentioned, but I'm curious to smell it now.
As a little aside, I do know that No.5 originally contained some 15% real tonquin musk tincture.
 

james1051

Well-known member
Jul 23, 2013
Without any knowledge of what tonquitone is, I am going to guess that Musc Tonkin has it ...

cacio

To be honest James, I have Tonquitone itself (a proprietary blend made by IFF), but I couldn't say for certain which commercial fragrances it is used in. Perhaps someone else can.
I'm afraid I'm not familiar with Musc Tonkin which Cacio mentioned, but I'm curious to smell it now.
As a little aside, I do know that No.5 originally contained some 15% real tonquin musk tincture.

Thanks for your response. I have a decant of Musk Tonkin somewhere; will have to dig it out and try it.
 

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