If you’re looking for a scent that will knock you off your feet and take your breath away, look no further than musk. Love potions, aphrodisiacs, and other forms of sexual magic have traditionally included it as one of their most potent ingredients. Why? Because this iconic fragrant note has an innate sex appeal, and when combined with the wearer’s own pheromones, it enhances their attraction.

pure musc

The history of musk

Musk is one of the oldest fragrances in the world. In antiquity, it was used to set up the ground for a dream date, because it was believed that its unique scent puts people in a special mood. Something like Barry White from the B.C. era. The first writings date back to the 6th century when Greek researchers brought it from India. Later, skilled Arab and Byzantine perfumers discovered that diluting the unpleasant odor of the dried contents of the scrotum of male Asian musk deer not only resulted in a pleasant odor but also gave the perfumes incredible longevity and strength. The popularity of musk spread like silk and spices because everyone wanted its magic, aphrodisiac power, sensuality, and roaring animal instincts.

The obsession of adding musk to perfumes and perfumed products was passed down from the Arabs to the Europeans. The difficulty, of course, was a shortage of supplies, as it takes 140 musk deer to produce just one kilogram of musk. That is why the monarchs exchanged this valuable commodity, as revealed by a document dated 1189, in which the Holy Roman Emperor sent Saladin precious musk, a gift fit for an emperor. Although some musk-like scents were found in the glandular secretions of other animals, they were not nearly as pleasant as musk deer.

musk deer

Where does it come from?

There are seven species of musk deer that live in the wooded, mountainous regions of Central and East Asia, Siberia, the Himalayas, Nepal, China, and Tibet. Although they are called deer, they are not because they do not have horns and glands on their face, and they have a pair of tusk-like teeth and, of course, the musk gland. This gland is found only in adult males, and its secretion is used to attract females. One adult male produces only 150 grams during the year. To black-market hunters, the glands can bring in up to $ 45,000 / kg. The perfume industry uses musk from Siberian musk deer, and although hunting them has been strictly banned since 1979, it has never actually stopped.

Fresh musk is balsamic, has a reddish-brown color, and under the influence of air, it dries and gets a darker color. After drying, the brown paste inside the musk pod turns into a black granular material called “musk grain”. It gives a pleasant and animal-sensual scent only after it is significantly diluted and matured in alcohol (tincture). Until then it has a very medical scent, like visiting a dentist’s office.

natural musk

Musk is the perfect base for perfumes because it fixes perfumes on the skin, so it is not surprising that it is used by almost all big perfume houses and is an essential ingredient in all fine perfumes. Legends say that if you sprinkle only a few drops of natural musk oil on a handkerchief, you will be able to smell it even 40 years later.

Because it radiated a wonderful scent under the heat of the sun, musk was even placed among the building stones of some Muslim mosques, which speaks volumes about how powerful and treasured the scent of musk is in all corners of the world.

Is musk cruelty-free?

Synthetic versions have been used for the last decade. The most well-known and widely used is white musk (Musk Baur), which was discovered by accident in 1888 by German chemist Albert Baur while attempting to perfect TNT. Since then, a plethora of synthetic musks have emerged, ranging from sweet and powdery to almost metallic. For a long time, so-called nitro musks were used,  making perfumes like the legendary Dior Fahrenheit deadly seductive. In the meanwhile, the defilers from IFRA have banned them, yet despite their bad deeds, we now can enjoy lovely macrocyclic musks, musk ketones, and other goodies from Firmenich and Givaudan. Some other ingredients – such as plant seed extracts: ambrette, galbanum, and angelica root, can also give the perfume a musky sensuality, but insignificant compared to the original.

kiehl original musk

Why is musk so special in perfumes?

Musk is incredibly versatile in the hands of perfumers. It is one of those notes that smells like the skin of a beautiful young girl, only far more seductive. The term musk perfume is not related to a specific perfume component, but to the general impression that varies from sweet, powdery to animalistic, leathery, spicy, and woody scent. Many agree that musk breathes life into a perfume that adorns and completes the entire perfume composition, without dominating it. It blends well with oriental bases, as well as aldehyde and floral notes such as lily of the valley, rose, and violet. Women usually choose musc perfumes for evening outings, meetings, and when they want to leave a sexy and sensual impression. It is therefore not surprising that musc perfumes are one of the most popular fragrances available on the market.

The attractive power of musk is so great that it is also used to lure wild animals. For example, on one occasion they used the scent to attract and catch a wild tiger that attacked and killed more than a dozen people. I remember a scene from my childhood when I would drip a few drops of my grandmother’s Moshus perfume on a handkerchief and throw it to our cat. For hours, as if in a trance, he would wrap himself around a handkerchief, sniff, and experience a small, feline ecstasy.

And now, a little magic!

If you want your sweetheart to wrap their arms around you, there’s a love potion recipe from an ancient magic book:

As you prepare the potion, think of your loved one. Grind together a little amber and musc with 12 apple seeds. Add 2 decilitres of red wine and cook until three-quarters of the drink evaporates, and pour the rest into the bottle. If necessary, put it in soup or drink, and the flame of love will burn as ever before.

If you are not a fan of potion-making, and you want to use the magically attractive power of musc, you can also choose the following perfumes:

  • Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely
  • Jovan White Musc
  • Narciso Rodriguez Pure Musc i Musc for Him
  • Serge Lutens Musks Khoublai Khan
  • L’Artisan Mure et Musc
  • Kiehl’s Original Musc
  • Bruno Acampora Musc
  • Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur
  • Annick Goutal Musc Nomade
  • Ramon Monegal White Musc
  • Nasomatto Silver Musc
  • Parfum d’Empire Musc Tonkin
  • Tom Ford White Suede