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What the * is Musk?

Countless notes are used as perfume ingredients. From rose to lavender, cinnamon to vanilla, and so on and so forth. Fragrance notes such as these are familiar to most: you know what scent family the ingredient belongs to (flowers, spices, etc.) and what it smells like. In addition to these familiar notes, many perfume ingredients are less well-known. You have heard of them, but what they smell like is a mystery. Think ozonic, bergamot, benzoin... In the series 'Obscure perfume ingredients', we highlight one vague perfume ingredient each time. This time: Musk.

What is Musk?

Musk is a strong-smelling secretion that comes from the scent gland of the male musk deer. The gland develops as the deer grows older to attract possible partners with the scent. This characteristic scent has been loved for centuries. Not only with deer, but also with people! From the sixth century until the late 19th century, this natural variety of musk was commonly used as a perfume ingredient. Nowadays, only the synthetic variety is used.

How is Musk converted into a perfume ingredient?

In the past, a musk deer had to be killed to obtain the perfume 'musk'. Nowadays, musk fragrances are always made synthetically, and you will never find the natural variant in your favourite fragrance. Therefore, never let the word "synthetic" scare you off. In many cases, including Musk's, a conscious choice is made for the synthetic variety.

What does Musk smell like?

Musk smells sensual and animalistic. The scent is very natural and will remind you of warm and intimate skin. The scent can also be described as smooth, creamy and silky. Musk is often used as a base note for perfumes because its fragrance is long-lasting and develops best on the skin itself.

Perfumes with Musk


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First InstinctAbercrombie and Fitch