Scent Note: What does musk smell like?

Musk smell

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If you are unfamiliar with musk or are curious about the history of its potent aroma, you have come to the right place. In this post, we will describe what musk smells like and its origin.

Is it possible for a perfume to roar? Is there a purr to be heard? Is "sex-in-a-bottle" possible? Musk is the only substance that has the power to produce such results. Perfumery musk is a molecule with a delicate aroma that is incredibly potent and necessary in any perfume recipe, even in small amounts. What does musk smell like? Musk smell would be white if it was a color. Musk smell is delicate, with a powdery but nearly nonexistent scent reminiscent of baby's skin. Musk is a base note that provides a perfume with enduring depth and warmth. Musk binds everything together and guarantee that what you've built is long-lasting. Perfumer Posse describes musk smell as "speaking carnally in whispers or screams." Therefore, it's in almost in every fragrance we smear, squirt, or spray on our skin. Musk, on the other hand, serves a purpose beyond this.

What does musk smell like?

In the hands of a perfumer: it softens, balances, repairs, and adds staying power that keeps a fragrance on the skin while stopping other short-lived ingredients from disappearing too fast.

Musk has a skin-like scent

The original musk comes from the sex gland secretion of a particular deer species, the Tibetan musk deer, whose  has become endangered. However, since 1979, this deer has been protected by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). A decline in the population was expected since it requires 140 of these animals to generate one kilogram of musk.

However, the usage of musk dates back to the 6th century, when Greek explorers brought it back from India.

The appeal of musk expanded along the trade routes for silk and spices. Of course, we'll never know who decided to use this powerful component in a perfume at some point along the road. After all, musk oil smells a little like excrement when it's raw.

What does Musk smell like?

A well-known German perfumer, Phliip Kraft, beautifully portrays the love-hate-it intricacy of musk.

As one examines the character of 'natural musk tincture,' it becomes more contrasted, lively, and oscillating, including: repulsive-attractive, chemical-warm, sweaty-balmy, acrid-waxy, earthy-powdery, fatty-chocolate-like, pungent-leathery, fig-like, dry, nutty-and-woody.

It's been shown that a handkerchief infused with natural musk oil can still be smelled 40 years afterward. Today, perfumers employ a wide variety of synthetic musk, ranging from sweet, fluffy musk to nearly metallic variants rather than the real thing.

The perfume business has spent millions of dollars on finding substitutes for this key component, including patented notes like Galaxolide, Andoxal, Nirvanolide, Celestolide, Velvione, and Helvetolide.

The smell of musk in perfume

In addition to ambrette seed, galbanum, and angelica root extracts, other components like these may also give a scent a musky quality.

Those who are allergic to one or more of the musk components may have trouble detecting musk, although this is very rare.

Try to get a whiff in the following fragrances


Inspired by Parfums de Marly's Delina. With hints of lily of the valley and peony, Adeline is reminiscent of a newly cut Turkish rose drenched with morning dew. As the scent develops, it turns into a delicious concoction with notes of lychee and rhubarb spiked with nutmeg. Vanilla, white musk, and frankincense provide depth and intrigue in the background. The ingredients have been well incorporated. It's all-natural, ultra-refined, and bursting with fragrance.
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1 comment

There are really awful musk scents on one end of the spectrum and clean laundry musks on the other end. Somewhere in between are the cuddly musks. Two of my favorites are Santa Maria Novella Muschio and Farmacia SS Annunziata 450.

Muschio opens a bit like the smell of a doctor’s office, but melts into the most comfortable love-skin scent imaginable. I’m just careful to only wear it when I have enough time to let it get comfortable before I need to be around people (takes 2-3 hours).

450, as my teenage daughter described it, smells like “pencil shavings and hugs” right from the start. No need to apply it 3 hours before going to work.

I have another that isn’t stinky, cuddly or clean at all, but somehow it just doesn’t seem appropriate to wear in a home environment! Bruno Acampora Mus. I can’t explain it except when I feel it, I want sex. I only wore it once during the day in public. This time an older gentleman followed me out of a store in the parking lot, waved me out of my car, and complimented me very awkwardly on how I had been parked. It was as if he had to make contact by any means possible. Bruno Acampora Musk is powerful stuff!

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