Scent Note: What does tree moss smell like?

Tree moss in perfumery

In This Article

Transforming Wood and Lichen into Precious Scent Essences

Imagine taking a walk through pristine woods, far from urban pollution and the hectic pace of human life, where trees adorned with layers of lichen - a combination of fungus and algae - grow peacefully. These lichens are collected and transformed into absolutes for perfumery during winter and spring. To produce 1 kg of tree moss or oak moss absolute, 100 kg of moss must be collected, highlighting the difficulty of the task. The tree moss is mixed with solvents and washed with alcohol, which is then recovered to provide the precious substance that delights perfumers.

The process is simple, and tree moss absolute can be made from various types of trees, such as ash, cedar, fir, and oak. The term "oak moss" in perfumery is not strictly linked to the botanical species of its origin, as oak moss can come from any type of tree. However, it is worth noting that each tree produces moss with subtly different fragrances. Furthermore, the harvest of tree moss is directly related to the state of our environment, as lichen only grows in unpolluted areas. It is hoped that this magnificent natural raw material will not disappear in the future.

Tree Moss: An Essential Component of Chypre Perfumes

Tree moss or oak moss first gained prominence with the creation of the famous Chypre by René Coty. Used as a base note in combination with powerful patchouli, tree moss extends the pleasure of its long, smoky, and earthy scents in a fragrance that, through the complexity of its composition, becomes the foundation of a new olfactory family: chypres.

Since René Coty and Chypre, both feminine and masculine chypre fragrances have diversified around different accords (fruity, leather, aromatic, floral, or aldehyde), but the woody notes of tree moss have remained an essential component associated with this olfactory family of character. 

In the 1990s, tree moss nearly disappeared due to concerns about its potentially allergenic properties. Fortunately, the 2000s witnessed a resurgence of tree moss in new chypre floral accords, such as those found in Miss Dior and Mon Paris by Yves Saint Laurent. As for men's fragrances featuring tree moss notes, Dior's iconic Eau Sauvage remains a classic, alongside other well-appreciated scents like 1881 Pour Homme by Cerruti.

Fun Facts About Tree Moss

  1. Tree moss is not exclusive to oak trees; it can be found on various tree species, such as ash, cedar, and fir.
  2. Despite being called "oak moss," it can be derived from any type of tree in perfumery, with each tree producing subtly different fragrances.
  3. Tree moss is a crucial ingredient in the chypre olfactory family, a category of perfumes that originated with René Coty's Chypre.
  4. Lichen, which includes tree moss, only grows in unpolluted environments, making its harvest an indicator of the health of our environment.
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