Scent Note: What does civet smell like?

Civet in perfumery

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Civet: Tenacious Notes

Many perfumers utilize civet in their creations due to its exceptional fixative properties, tenacity, and evocative qualities. Often used as a base note, civet has strong, heavy, fecal, and animal-like notes, reminiscent of wild animals. Fortunately, when diluted, civet loses its aggressive character and contributes a warm, sensual aspect to fragrances. A prime example is Chanel's charismatic Coco Chanel perfume, an oriental fragrance for women. In this scent, civet is found in the base note, accompanied by vanilla, sandalwood, and amber. Fruity and floral notes combine to create an amber and spicy universe in an idealized Western world—a fitting tribute to Gabrielle Chanel that has stood the test of time.

Can Civet be Combined with Other Fragrance Families?

Due to its excellent fixative power, civet can be combined with various olfactory families. In addition to oriental fragrances, civet can be found in conjunction with floral notes, as in Dior's Diorissimo, created in 1956. In this fragrance, the base note of civet is paired with heart notes such as jasmine, lily, amaryllis, and lily of the valley, Christian Dior's lucky charm. The result is a beautifully floral scent with a woody background. Civet often appears in floral fragrances like Guerlain's Jardins de Bagatelle, Nina Ricci's Fleur de Fleurs, and Van Cleef & Arpels' First.

Civet can also be discovered in woody perfumes for men, such as Lanvin's Lanvin Homme, or in fragrances with citrus notes, like Givenchy's Monsieur de Givenchy, a discreetly sensual fragrance for men.

Originally, civet was an odor obtained from the animal of the same name. However, the controversy surrounding the animal's capture conditions led perfumers to shift away from its use. Nowadays, civet is primarily reproduced using synthetic materials, which emit intense animal-like fragrances. When used judiciously, civet imparts sensual, even carnal, notes to compositions. While it is primarily found in oriental perfumes, it can harmoniously blend with floral, woody, chypre, or citrus notes as well.

Fun Facts About Civet

  1. Historically, civet was used not only as a perfume ingredient but also for medicinal purposes and as an aphrodisiac.
  2. Civetone, a compound found in the glands of the African civet cat, was one of the first animal-derived musks used in perfumery.
  3. Due to ethical concerns and advancements in synthetic materials, the use of natural civet in perfumery has significantly decreased.
  4. In some cultures, civet paste, derived from the glands of the civet cat, is used to flavor coffee beans, producing a highly sought-after and expensive coffee known as "civet coffee" or "kopi luwak."
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