Sunday, January 29, 2006

INSIDE THE PYRAMID: WHITE MUSK

How many times have you found yourself pondering what white musk actually is? "Does it come from an animal that is white?" you might have thought. "What makes it white as opposed to black?" you may have asked.

Here's the answer: White musk is actually a name for a family of synthetic (organically synthesized) aromas that have a musk-like smell. Less expensive than natural musks, and less of a threat to the animals who produce traditional musks, man-made musks like fixolide, habanolide, galaxolide and ambrettolide (we need a scenteurolide) are increasing in popularity in everything from fragrances to cleaning products. Wikipedia writes: "It was obtained by Baur in 1888 by condensing toluene with isobutyl bromide in the presence of aluminium chloride, and nitrating the product. It is a symtrinitro-butyl (?) toluene. Many similar preparations have been made, and it appears that the odour depends upon the symmetry of the three nitro groups."

For me, white musk is one of my favorite notes due to the soothing, smooth, second-skin quality. It seems fitting that these chemicals are "white" as the resulting imagery (to MY nose/brain anyhow) is "clean" and "soapy". Quite often, white musk notes are paired with soft florals to create an airy composition. Generally it is these musks that extend a scent's longevity.

Some of my favorite White Musk scents include:
  • Comptoir Sud Pacifique Musc Alize (Cristalle de Musc)
  • Gendarme
  • Calvin Klein Truth
  • Emporio Armani White He
  • Jil Sander Man Pure
  • L'Eau d'Issey pour Femme
  • L'Artisan Passage d'Enfer
  • Mugler Cologne
So, in a nutshell, White Musk appears to be 1) not musk at all, 2) totally man-made, and 3) possibly not white. So what's with the "white"? (not to mention that I've seen mention of green musks...but we'll save that for another day!)

Why is White Musk, white? Any idea?

Information courtesy of Osmoz.com and Wikipedia.com

11 comments:

Cara-bellum said...

I think, like you said, that it has to do with the imagery. The word "musk" can conjure up feelings of carnal, animalic smells that are very agressive. Adding "white" in front gives the consumer the feeling that it is softer, safer, and cleaner.

Really, the juxtaposition is genius. It implies crispness + animalic, elegance + primality. It tempers the hot seduction of musk with cool innocence. When I hear white musk, I think of the lingering scent of a lover on clean rumpled bedsheets in a sunny bedroom. Now if you could *actually* bottle that, I'd buy it by the gallon!

marlen said...

Cara-bellum - Beautiful response!! Thanks so much for reading and posting!

boisdejasmin said...

Fun list! I like Armani Emporio Armani White for Her.

marlen said...

Victoria - me 2! I actually love both the White scents - easy to wear and great for summer. Maybe I'll review those 2 next....then again, maybe I'll wait for summer...

Cara-bellum said...

Thanks for the kind words, Marlen! I found your blog by the way of NowSmellThis -- great reviews on both sites!

Have you tried CdG's Odeur 71? Any thoughts? And here I thought I was the only one with this strange attraction to the smell of underground garages and the old concrete/stone staircases at my university...

Octavian said...

Musks (nitro, macrocyclic, polycyclic) were wide used in laundry products and especially in detergents because they provided a long lasting pleasing fragrance long time after the washing process (substantivity). polycyclic musks (Galaxolide, Tonalid) were wide used since '50s. In fact the typicall smell of fresh laundry is caused by that type of musks. during the years the "clean smell" became a cultural landmark. the expression white musk reffers properly to this type of musks (a whole category) that after beeing used extensively in laundry stuff were "borrowed" in fine fragrances. ethylene brassilate is a typical one. White musk from Body shop smells 90% of it. In france the lavender smell was used long time in laundry products and by that it symbolises the idea of fresh and clean. that means that the cultural perception of lavender (or musk) is different in France or UK or USA. The icecreams use a lot of ethylvanillin and vanilin. it's incorrect to say that ethylvanillin has a icecream smell. it's only a matter of cultural perception.:)))

marlen said...

Octavian - thanks so much for sharing some great info! Glad you're here!

marlen said...

Cara - My general feeling about CDG's is that they are ALL interesting, but ultimately, I don't want to actually wear any of them as personal fragrances (with a few exceptions)...That being said, 71 is one of the most unusual scents I've ever come across. And I know that scent of cold wet cement that I *think* you're referring to...and I love it too!

Cara-bellum said...

Yes! Cold wet cement! Love it! :)

At any rate, I eagerly await my LuckyScent sample of 71. Even if I can't wear it, maybe one day, I can afford to use it as a ridiculously extravagant room spray...

marlen said...

Cara - amazing the odours that intrigue us, n'est ce pas? I ultimately found 71 unwearable, but I still keep a small bottle around for sniffing because I do love the scent.

Anya said...

IMO, "white musk" = marketing for the Puritanical American customer. Musky has oh, so nasty connotations here. White musk = I'm sexy but angelic. Feh.

That said, you and I will never be scent twins, Marlen. I abhor white musk, all the synth musks in total.

I do adore the weaker, yes, pale imitations of deer musk scent, like ambrette seed, angelica root, and some others I'm fond of, as they impart an oh-so-get-down-and-dirty ambiance to a perfume, while satisfying the pheromonic pull needed.