Musk makes its first appearance in the 6th Century, brought from India by Greek explorers. It was used for religious ceremonies and as a way to attract potential mates. Later, the Arabic and Byzantine perfumers perfected the art of capturing its aphrodisiac powers and musk’s popularity spread along the silk and spice routes. They developed techniques to extract it from animal glands and blend it with other ingredients such as rose petals or jasmine flowers to create unique scents that were said to have magical properties. Today, musk is still widely used in many fragrances due to its lingering scent and ability to evoke strong emotions in those who smell it.
Traditionally, musks were obtained from the glands of the male musk deer. This was a laborious and expensive process that limited its use in perfumes to only those with deep pockets. However, in recent times, and with the progress made in science, we can synthetically produce musk-smelling molecules in a lab which has led to an increase in demand for these scents as they are now much more accessible than before. The synthetic production of musk is also beneficial because it eliminates any potential harm caused by hunting wild animals for their scent glands.
Musks are very large molecules that act as fixatives in a fragrance. They sit at the bottom note of the fragrance pyramid and it is no surprise that you can smell them on your clothes even after they have been washed. Musks help to give fragrances their lasting power, making them last longer than other notes within the scent. This makes musk an essential part of any perfume or cologne, adding depth and complexity to its overall aroma.
Musks are versatile and pair well with many different fragrance notes. They can be used to add a clean, fresh scent when combined with citrus notes or a light floral note when paired with fruity notes. Spicy musk fragrances work great for adding warmth while floral ambery musks provide an exotic touch. Gourmand musks also make excellent additions to perfumes as they bring out the sweetness of other ingredients in the blend.