Hate musk perfumes? Convinced you will never wear one? There is one out there for you, trust me. Have I ever
lied to steered you wrong? Well, okay, maybe once or twice, but I promise never again probably not this time.
Miss Martha Muskypants smoking out the school or building with her musk perfume has ruined the reputation of musk for many people. How can she not know how ferociously musky she smells?
Christopher Brosius aided in our education. Musk is a note that has a high level of anosmia to just one or two specific musks. The varieties of musk are so different in terms of chemical makeup, you can smell one musk clearly and another one not at all. Martha was putting on that much musk because she was either anosmic to it or became desensitized, putting on more and more musk until you thought a herd of rutting
Irishmen Norwegians Italians Brazilians elk were in the next cubicle.
Musk isn’t always fierce and over the top, but sometimes it is that feral and wild. Scent is the language that speaks without words, that telegraphs intention and mood. Musk speaks carnally in whispers or shouts.
Ford, Chrysler, Chevy and Bentley of Musk Perfumes –
Narciso Rodriguez Musc for Her (oil and EDT) and Him (only the oil), Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan, Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur (oil and spray) and CB I Hate Perfume Musk Reinvention. I think of these as the absolutely best examples of what a musk perfume should be – wild, feral, over the top at times, but when applied with some restraint, smoldering sensuality.
If we start with these reference points in our Musk Venn Diagram, we can see where some interesting intersections might occur.
Narciso Rodriguez for Her in the EDT is simply an amazing musk/rose perfume at a great price point. No, it’s not really super-cheap, but it can be bought for well below $100 for 100 mls at a discounter. It’s not a masterpiece of musk, except it does the job it is supposed to do – sashay sex fumes when you walk by. I’m not including Narciso Rodriguez for Him EDT in this. I can’t figure out why they tried to put that square peg in Narciso’s Musk Hole. Now, the oil, that is special. And also completely gone. Lost, I presume, to IFRA. Both the Her and Him oils are great, richer versions of the original. In the case of Him, it is something completely different than the EDT that’s perfect for men or women. But I’m not going on and on about oils that aren’t available anymore, so let’s slide right over to the…
Genghis Khan Snuggly Bo Peep of Musk perfumes –
Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan. The name conjures up Mongol hordes sweeping across the barren lands, raping and pillaging and leaving this scent behind as a warning not to, um, be in their way! Oh, unso. This is what I had to say about Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan back in 2006:
“This is the single most animalic thing of beauty I have smelled. It is not the scent of horses or sex or sweat. It is the smell of humanity. Not the idealistic or beautiful part of it only, but the real part, the well-worn place of skin and sweat and memory and emotion. I can do nothing but bury my nose in this and breathe in all the misery and joy of being human.”
Nothing has changed in the intervening six years. I love this musk perfume. It isn’t spunk…y Mongol hordes raping and pillaging. On me there is softness, a little salt, my skin but better. Oh, but that open? Um, if you haven’t smelled it, just brace yourself for a little bit, but don’t panic! It skids away from rutting territory pretty quickly.
Where does Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur go in this puzzle? It is sweeter with vanilla, cinnamon and gaiac, smoother. It purrs and is a little bit furry. It’s like the Clark Gable of musks – dashing, warm, sexy and funny; you know he would be a party. I said I wouldn’t do this, but I have to say I prefer the oil. I know they don’t make it anymore. I find the spray to be beautiful, but it’s really big! The oil is quieter, softer, it hugs closer. I’m also assuming this oil was an IFRA victim.
Then we are left with one that threads in between all four of these, CB I Hate Perfume Musk Reinvention. I’ve heard remarks varying all over the place on Musk Reinvention – total skank, post-coital orgy, what’s the big deal, it smells okay, kind of soft. I attribute those “smells okay, kind of soft” comments to people that don’t know they are anosmic to the musk. there isn’t anything “okay” in this. Certainly doesn’t mean everyone should or will love it, but when someone says they don’t get the fuss, I think they can’t smell it.
March’s long review with an amalgamation of comments/reviews and a conversation with CB about it are a great place to get filled in on Musk Reinvention. Her thought sums it up best – “There is something primal about it to me — some sort of first-smell-memory,” which Christopher agreed with.
I used to not agree with her, I thought it was just the best/worst kind of raunchiness, but something happened to me on the road to Musk-ascus, and I get all the comfort in it. It is something raw, vulnerable and protected laid bare. I think that’s how all musks are – they expose something that we want to keep hidden… our sensuality, our vulnerability, our earthiness, our raw emotions.
You know life has shifted unalterably when you can put on Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan, CB I Hate Perfume Musk Reinvention and Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur and not feel like you are overmusked… much.
There is one, though, that almost sorta pretty much gets to me… for a while, JAR Ferme tes Yeaux. It means “Close Your eyes.” Close them and imagine a Plato’s Sex Club exploding right next to a Kansas City cattleyard, and that is pretty much the open. Civet, leather, musk, carnation?, some overripe jasmine/honeysuckle/lily bouquet that just started to droop a little after the Bacchanal and maybe a couple of rutting rhinos. Is this a musk perfume? Yeah, why not? Tom loves it too, and I used to think he was cray-cray.
“My Scent Twin had the best take on it – describing it as if CB I Hate Perfume Musk and MKK got together and bred. I’ll add that the kid went to finishing school. I would think of it as a challenging scent. I would think twice about wearing it to a PTA meeting or a Confessional.”
I love this stuff. There’s not many out there with the stones to make this perfume. Once you get past the beginning, it really is beautiful and skanky and a little foul in all the best ways! March reminded me that the guy at JAR told us that all the old guys buy this for their wives. There is so much in that little tidbit that will keep me happy all the remaining days of my life.
Some comments I found around the internets about JAR Ferme tes Yeaux and include here just so I don’t have to hear later “Hey, you convinced me to spend $600+ on a perfume that smells like the sidewalks around Central Park?!?? Oh, no, not on my watch. These comments are a very stern warning that your experience of Ferme tes Yeaux could be and probably will be entirely different than mine:
“The perfume version of a Steven King novel. Evil. Terrifying. Vile. Just continue on w/ Thesaurus options along these lines.
“This smells like a mature well fed Tom Cat mixed with rotting flowers.
“what’s that smell…Oh Yeah..so familair…yes that’s it…A dirty New York City subway station or phone booth, where someone has decided to repeatedly relieve themselves.”
Mongol Horde Musk Perfumes
I’m pretty sure I promised not to use discontinued perfumes in these Perfume Guides, but, um, I lied just a little, just for this one category. Mona Di Orio Nuit Noire is indeed gone, I guess for good, and after a long time of not really knowing how I felt about it, I finally landed in the Mongol Love Camp. This scent may be more about leather or civet, but I throw it into musk because it is just deeply musky in an animalic way. Did I lose my skank aversion? I’m wondering what happened because this is no Mongol, it’s slightly skanky orange blossom. Lovely.
Miller Harris L’Air de Rien, this is the huge catbutt perfume that skanked its way across the perfume universe! Right?!?!? It used to be. I remember putting it on one time and running for the shower, I thought I smelled just like the shitpit we had outside of our dairy barn. Now? Lovely musky leathery cuddly scent.
Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles is probably more about the civet, but there’s enough musk and delicate hidden soft bits in there to make you think musk. Like post-coital musk. Posse took a vote and has declared it a MUSK PERFUME by virtue of its unbounded wonderful skankiness that makes us cry tears of joy. You can argue about if you must, but this is a unanimous irrevocable decision.
Kiehl’s Original Musk No. 1. Hey, I haven’t smelled this in a while, and I am right back in the ’80s at a disco with a sweaty guy covered in BIG musk! Now we are talking! But it’s more slippery than skanky in the end. It’s a good musk, it’s still pretty inexpensive, I think. And it’s got a little bit of unwashed Mongol in it. For a nice, cheap thrill, I don’t think you can beat it.
I am leaving a space of honor for the new Parfum d’Empire Musk Tonkin that I haven’t been able to smell yet. If it lives up to early reports, all my faith will be restored in musk perfumes and their ability to shock and take my breath away from just the sheer audacity of airing out its dirty laundry in public. As soon as I can get my musk-laden hands on it, I’ll update this post. For now we will just use Denyse’s words as a placeholder – “The final version is still suavely raunchy: a creamy, waxy, almost fatty blend with honeyed hues and a lick of salt. Musc Tonkin smells like the fur of some mythical creature fed on mulled fruit and candied resins: elegantly indecent.”
Well, that is some perfume catnip, y’all! And we continue to wait.
I am freaking out!!!
I know it may not seem like it NOW, but my Mongol Horde perfumes have always been just pure skank on me with little bits of lovely softness. All of a sudden they are warm and cuddly?!?! Did I lose my sense of smell? My mind? Finally have a mature nose? The last two weeks have been really disorienting because of this, I want you all to know.
My sense of TruePerfumeNorth® just got reset.
WARNING – your results may be on either end of this spectrum. You may find some of the ones above almost offensive and fear wearing them in public or you may find them warm, sexy and wonderful. I have no way of telling you which end of the spectrum you’ll land on.
Musk Rule 1 – if you find the musks above all snuggly and warm, it’s possible you’re not too sensitive to Eau de Barnyard. This isn’t a bad thing. I didn’t notice anything odd until I was headed to bed after a full day of musk testing – Ferme tes Yeaux going on late in the day – I kept thinking, whoa, did the cat take a crap somewhere? Um, no. Me. Shower first, then bed. Practice Musk Restraint at All Times
Musk perfumes that don’t bite
Serge Lutens Clair de Musc is what some refer to as a starter musk, which somehow diminishes how really beautifully put together Clair de Musc is. This does the impossible – takes musk, wraps it around iris and neroli and lets the sun shine right through it. It reflects light where musks absorb and ground. There is a powderiness to this that takes it outside of my musk preference wheelhouse, but it’s a musk perfume that really should have more than dismissive sniffs and furtive glances thrown at it on the way to sniff after Muscs Koublai Khan.
Sonoma Scent Studio Egyptian Musk is a great straight-up nonskanky, nonsmutty and clean’ish (you won’t think dirty filthy armpit when you smell it at all) musk. It is well blended and one you can wear out anywhere and feel slightly more risque because it hugs your skin and smells like your skin, but not slutty. I Coloniali Angel Musk is really inexpensive! It’s not my kind of musk at all, it’s somewhat sweet, heavily musky, almost Pinkish Sugar meets Coty Musk, but I’m not minding it as much as I thought I would when I first put it on. If you veer to the gourmands for musk, this is a great inexpensive option.
Lorenzo Villoresi Musk is a pretty great non-animalic musk, leaning more into the amber and sandalwood. Soivohle Alpha Musc does finally get my skankymuskmeter moving on the open, but it was intended to be a lighter musk for summer, and it is.
Probably one of the most recommended musk perfumes if you don’t want to be skeeving anyone out with your musk is Les Nereides Musc de Samarkand. Soft, white – a good musk that you’d have to drown yourself in before you would offend someone with it. Great musk for the non-musk lover.
Tom Ford Musk perfumes. You know, March reminded me of these Tom Ford musk thingies, and I’d completely forgotten about them. Didn’t they all get discontinued except one, the Suede? I yawned through them when I smelled them initially. Ann also forgot about them. Oh, hey! I bet everyone did, and that’s why they were discontinued. Not terrible, but basically Coty Wild Musk or Jovan Body Musk with a price tag about 100x higher.
For something a little more dark’ish, but only like a shade of grey – not that Grey – Jo Malone White Iris and Musk Intense. The darkness is from the rooty iris, and it’s a lot more about the iris than the musk, but it’s really a nice perfume, just not so musk-derived. i Profumi di Firenze Muschio e Ambre really should have gone in the amber post, but it has a great musk base that the amber rests in. There’s a lot to love as far as just plain wearability in this one. Keiko Mecheri Musc also fits in here – a really close, lovely skin scent that’s beautiful to wear. I’m a fan of this. It’s not dirty or skanky at all, but does have a dollop of sensuality in just how warm and inviting it is.
If you have some money to burn, score the Nasomatto Silver Musk. It’s a cool musk – I don’t mean hip, baby. It’s cool, not really cold and just slightly chilly. Lavender keeps all the musk in check and it has a soapy feel to it. It’s not my thing, but if you like your musk all cleaned up and Fresh!®, this would be the way to go. Montale White Musk and Montale Ginger Musk won’t get you in trouble in the least. I know some people are really averse to white musks, and if you are, just skip this. They are both a little sweet, really mild, the Ginger Musk has a great ginger note in there, but neither even hint at any carnal dangers. Yawn. Not yawning at the perfume! I just like my musk to be dirty to quite dirty.
Musk Perfumes that Don’t Bite Hard
For just a touch of the musky sensuality, but veering away from overt skank, Annick Goutal Musc Nomade is perfect. It’s a musk perfume I use as a go-to musk when I’m not sure how exposed I want to be. I know it will never get too strong, I love the way it clings to me, has a great smell. Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely is also a great choice, and you can pick it up for about nothing. >$50 is the new nothing. It’s not super-dirty, but it has a great sensuality about it that surprises me in a mainstream celebuscent. Did I mention you can pick it up for almost nothing? Serge Lutens Bois et Musc might bite you a little on the open, but it will be more for the cumin/cedar than the musk. And after the first 30 minutes, I doubt if you’ll even notice the musk bites.
Ava Luxe True Bluish Light (plus several other musks she does) is a straight-up comforting musk scent. Creamy, a little gourmandy, soft, cashmere feeling, it’s a soaked musk. Soaked? I guess I mean oily feeling, rich. Soaked, that’s just how I refer to those that are like this one. Parfums de Nicolai Musc Intense is a 2012 entry into musk perfumes, and it’s a nice musk, it’s just more about the carnation, clove, jasmine and rose than about the musk. However, it lends a beautiful base to those other notes.
Daddy Warbucks Musk
Yeah, they are stupid expensive, hard to get and heart-breakingly gorgeous. Le Labo Gaiac 10 is the Tokyo City Exclusive, and it is a shock – gaiac, musk, cedar and olibanum – and it floats heavenly musc from some far-away romantic place where passion is pure and hot and incredibly zen. I shouldn’t love this, it’s so not me, but I can’t help it, I do. I want to believe that life is Poodles and Fluffy Clouds, and Gaiac 10 lets me believe that. Can you love a perfume for lying to you? I do. I think I love it more because we both know it’s lying..
If your wallet is bulging with lots of unspent cash, I think we should be really good friends, first Then let’s grab a vat of Le Labo Musc 25, the Los Angeles City Exclusive ,and run off to Morocco. I said this about it in 2008
“…Musc 25 are aldehydes, civet and muscone. It’s pretty much everything a musk should be for me – my skin, but sparkling with sun and a little leftover sex, and not just your run of the mill sex, some really luxurious smutty sex on Pratesi sheets.”
See, Rich Guy, we were MFEO. Or for Tom, who reviewed it in 2008 on Perfume Smellin Things,
“…when mixed with the ambergris, smoke and a hint of eucalyptus (also not listed) becomes a ‘did she or didn’t she’ hint of sexy bare skin that’s gloriously besmirched. It’s an ingenue whose lipstick has been kissed off and she’s reapplying, humming to herself, her Kool burning away in the ashtray.”
Put this on and you smell fabulous, all Marilyn Monroe meets Rita Hayworth or Marlon Brando meets Montgomery Clift. Pick which one fits best.
Served up with fruit!
Worth Courtesan is one of those perfumes that they make, doesn’t seem to be in wide distribution outside of Europe, if at all. It was a perfume that March pushed over the scented cliff as a PerfumeLemming® back in 2007 with words like “The fortunate would get what I get – an entire day of summer-friendly sensuality – the sun-lit bedroom, the romp in still-warm, rumpled sheets, and your lover´s scent lingering after.” Oh, FFS, I even bought a couple of bottles. Luckily! I get the romp in still-warm, rumpled sheets, and there is absolutely a whiff of cumin in the open. The listing of notes – go read March’s post – are frightening, it’s a fruity-floral frappe topped with vanilla musk frosting that would make almost all of us take two giant steps back. Pierre Bourdon shows us what a fruity floral gourmand can be and should be – fruity, floral, musky and freaking hot. If you don’t get that musky part, you’ll have this up for swap on the 16th.
The bell weather for musk perfumes, whether paired with fruit or otherwise, outside of the more animalic area is L’Artisan Mure et Musc (regular and extreme). A heavenly light dusting of musk over blackberries. It is exactly perfect, blended to perfection, light, mostly blackberry, with that little wisp of musk to keep it interesting. The extreme is an amped up version of that, the version I personally prefer, but you can’t go wrong with either one. Trish McEvoy Blackberry and Vanilla Musk follows the L’Artisan trail but takes it into a much more gourmand musk fragrance. If that is your preference, a more soaked musk, the Trish is a good choice while you get to keep the nice blackberry juiciness.
Musk that has me scratching my head
Most musks don’t seem to want to go in a category. When I planned out this post, I knew there were like 6-7 musk perfumes that would go in that “lethal musk” category. They all escaped the prison I had made for them by being a lot less hyena-wildcatty than I used to think they were. My whole musk perfume pyramid has fallen apart.
More than just the musk perfumes listed below have me scratching my head.
Amouage Musk Abyadh is a puzzlement. White musk with sandalwood and vanilla. It’s like the catbox, something got covered over and buried really well, but I swear there is some serious musky mojo in there, but it just won’t pop up. Is this more of TruePerfumeNorth® being reset? It’s more sandalwood than musk for me, and I had such high hopes that this would be the musk that would just topple me over. Fine, I’ll continue resetting. Bruno Acampora Musk won’t fit in my musk puzzle box now either. I think I called this subtle at one time? Taking a quick trip downstairs to yak with my sons while I was waiting for it to settle down, their horrified looks when I walked in and more explicit demands to leave tells me this thing is way more potent than what I’m smelling. Mmmm, I may never be able to wear musk in public again because I think my nose kinda likes it and refuses to see it for the sexual raconteur it is.
Réminiscence Musc is a completely puzzlement. I read in one place what I get – something vaguely sweet and rich and slightly musky, and other people get full-on dirty underdrawers. Puckrik said something about growly animal. Huh. Toss a coin on this – it could go either way. Parfumerie Generale Musc Maori is all chocolate and musk, and just when you are still reeling from that opening blast of rich, dark chocolate, the musk shows up and parts the chocolate river. Weirdly enough, you don’t feel like a musky chocolate truffle, you feel kinda hot and kinda hungry too. I’m not sure. I like this one, it’s interesting, but I’m not entirely sure I would ever wear it. If you’re into chocolate, this is your scent. It’s not heavy and much lighter than you would think when you first hear the words “chocolate and musk.”
Strange Invisible Perfumes Musc Botanique walks in the shadow world between herbs and smutty musk, never landing on either side. It’s a neat trick, and you really have to just hang on during the first 10-15 minutes before deciding if you like it or not. It helps understand it when you get that the inspiration was a mating between plants. So smutty, dirty plant sex. One thing it’s not? Boring. I’ve never quite decided if I like it or not. What I do know is I’m mesmerized by figuring it out. Tom really got the closest to explaining it with this –
“It gets earthier and earthier as the frankincense and amber come in, until the whole thing gets surprisingly, delightfully slutty. But slutty in a wholly different way that you would imagine: not human and not even animal. It’s as if you’re walking in a night-time garden and suddenly the whole place starts giving you the glad eye; the woods, grass and flowers are waving their little fronds at you with a decided “Hello, Sailor” attitude. Not in that somewhat confrontational Satyr-of-the-berries CB I Hate perfume way (which, as you all know I adore) and not in some Majicky, Sci-Fi way either.”
As I rolled up next to Mona di Orio’s Les Nombres d’Or Musc, I am thinking, come on!!! Surely, surely Mona was going to give me what I’ve been seeking the last two weeks – the musc that would send me screaming for the shower. I didn’t even screw around, I dumped a half a vial on me, then poured the rest on, looked defiantly at my wrist and waited for the muskankature reading…
Oh, hey, have I been living in a bog for the last few years? When did we get these very cool gizmos to get temperature readings from all the crap I’m close to burning my fingers on when I cook? Someone really could have TOLD me.
I’m still waiting. Bubblegum and musk. Rose bubblegum. It’s soft, sweet, a little powdery, and way at the bottom of it, it wants to get all skanky, but it just ain’t gonna happen. Rose bubblegum that you think the cat might have peed on. Just to be clear, it’s not like I think that’s a bad thing. It’s not enough of a good thing.
:::::::::::::: sigh :::::::::::::::::::
I am looking at my now-finished supply of musk samples There was not one in there that horrified me while blowing up my skirt. How did that happen?
Dear Perfume Diary – Have I become the Skanky Girl
the other Perfumistas laugh at when they read my
reviews of Eau de BadgerButt that go on and on
about how it’s a soft, cuddly little scent while they
are wrapping it in several Baggies to dispose of it?
There are some glaring omissions, like Coty Wild Musk, Jovan Musk, etc. My memory is any of them are about as good as anything else in the musk category if you want some basic musk to get down and roll around in. Okay, the real reason – I didn’t have any of them laying around anywhere. Feel free to hop on comments and tell me what I”m missing.
March – Bal a Versailles, and she reiterated how much she hated Borneo. I think just because she hasn’t had a chance to say that in like three months and needed to affirm it to the universe as a ward against it ever showing up somewhere near her nose again. Then she went and put on her CB I Hate Perfume Musk Reinvention just for this post and said “My original bottle has congealed down to a half-inch of something truly terrifying. I can’t believe how beautiful it is. I bet you could smell me a block away.”
Anita – I do like a bit of Musc Ravageur – and Missy March sent me a hit of CBIHP Musk which I didn’t hate…….so there. That’s really a non-list, eh? Hey, I smell musk in Bal a Versailles…and I LOVES me some BaV. Does that count? Or am I smelling something else…(P – yes, it’s something else. Cat-butty civet combined with musk)
Portia – Kiehl’s Original Musk (Body Lotion), Narciso Rodriguez for Her, Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan, Gwen Stefani L (The Body Lotion for this is so cheap and excellent), Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely, Bud Parfums Gamekeeper, Smell Bent Commando & Lumberjack Werewolf (I know! The names are awesome aren’t they)? Though these are not STRICTLY musk perfumes I get a musky hit through their life: Rochas Byzance & Femme and Clinique Aromatics Elixir.
Ann – I do like Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur, which to me seems somewhat classy and wearable; I find its slightly animalic nature falls under the radar in barely discernible hum: Someone’s got to get pretty close to take it in. Not sure if they qualify, but I think Le Labo’s Gaiac 10 (which uses several different varieties, I think) offers a beautifully meditative take on musk, and the late, great Indult Tihota created a sweetish cocktail of musk and vanilla that was nearly edible.
We are going to try something different this week! I found this cool little widget that manages tracking for comment entries, Twitter follow entries, Tweeting entries, Facebook likes, shares, so I don’t have to go count them all up! I’m excited. So just click on each of the things you want to do to enter below (each one counts as one entry, so you can enter multiple times) and that’s it! Of course we are doing a giveaway of two musk perfume sample sets of most of the perfumes listed in this review.
Entries must be made by midnight Sunday November 18, 2012. I’ll announce the winner on Monday November 19, 2012. If you want to do it the old-school way, just leave a comment to be entered. Tell me your favorite musk, that you hate musk, love musk, tell me if you survived the Hurricane if you’re just now joining us with some power restored!