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What is Tonkin Musk?
Tonkin musk originally came from the secretion of a musk deer's gland. This species is found in Asia, Siberia, and the Himalayas. Intensive hunting of this mammal took place in the 1900s, particularly between 1960 and 1970, as it was a lucrative activity with the musk selling for 300,000 to 400,000 francs per kilogram. The deer's leather was used by Tibetans to make bags, while its hair was used to stuff mattresses and pillows for Chinese emperors. The Tonkin musk from its glands was considered an aphrodisiac, consumed through a straw. To protect the species, hunting the deer is now strictly prohibited, and the collection of Tonkin musk using a syringe is rarely practiced for ethical reasons. This method can lead to the animal's death, so almost all musks used today are synthetically produced. However, despite protective measures, poaching still occurs occasionally.
Creating Tonkin Musk in Perfumery
Thanks to advancements in the perfume industry, it is now possible to recreate the scent of Tonkin musk synthetically. The scent is incredibly potent, with a blend of woody and animal notes. The Firmenich group is responsible for the complex synthetic Tonkin musk formula, continually developing new variations that offer even greater longevity, uniqueness, and sensuality. Perfume houses use various ingredients to emulate this unparalleled scent. Ambrette, for example, is a flower that exudes a musky aroma. Other raw materials like castoreum, truffle tincture, indole, and para-cresyl acetate are also utilized to recreate this sensuous substance.
Generally, Tonkin musk is found in the base notes of perfumes. Its powerful, animalistic, and almost erotic sensuality is featured in numerous fragrances, such as Azzaro l'Eau for men, Dahlia Noir by Givenchy, and Classique X L'Eau by Jean-Paul Gaultier for women. Scents like Do You Want to Sleep with Me? by Kilian deliberately emphasize its carnal aspect.
Fun Facts About Tonkin Musk
- The musk deer's gland that produces the Tonkin musk is called the musk pod, which is found in male deer only.
- Tonkin musk has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as in perfumery and incense making.
- Authentic Tonkin musk was once more valuable than gold due to its rarity and the difficulty in obtaining it.
- Aside from its use in perfumes, Tonkin musk has also been used as a fixative, helping other scents in a composition to last longer.