Tuesday, February 21, 2006

INSIDE THE PYRAMID: What the heck is Oakmoss?

I've used the word "mossy" a thousand times to describe a fragrance, and certainly know the note well enough by this point in my addicition. But I'll admit it, I really have no idea what oakmoss actually is! I mean, I have an inkling, but I wouldn't bet money on it...

What I think it is: I think it actually IS a kind of moss...that grows on Oak trees?



What Wikipedia says: (drumroll please) Oakmoss (Evernia Prunasti) is a lichen (a combination of algae and fungus that work together to create a new distinct organism) that grows on the trunk and branches of oaks and other deciduous trees, and is usually harvested in South-Central Europe. Additionally, oakmoss that grows on pines has a distinctive "turpentine" odor. Itsmynature.net also adds that Oakmoss is most commonly used as a basenote in perfumery and is valued as a fixative, prolonging the life of other notes used in a composition by equalizing the evaporation rates of ingredients.

But what does it smell like? Most commonly used in fougeres and chypres, oakmoss is an earthy, deep aroma, sometimes slightly bitter, sometimes musty, with an organic woody undertone (imagine: mushrooms meet a wet tree branch).

Some of my favorite fragrances that use Oakmoss include:
  • Miller Harris Terre du Bois
  • Guerlain Mitsouko
  • Chanel pour Monsieur Concentree
  • Hermes Amazone
  • Kenzo pour Homme
  • Miss Dior
  • Romeo Gigli Uomo
What's your favorite oakmoss scent?

15 comments:

Anya said...

I'm very sensitized to oakmoss, and if I get any on my fingers, they itch, blister and basically I suffer for two weeks.

That said, my favorite oakmoss chypre is Un Aire Embaume by Rigaud (not available anymore.) I have a huge EdT spray of it from the 50's, and a small parfum from the 30's. I also love Mystere de Rochas, a chypre-floral of ethereal, yet sexy brilliance. I guess I like chypre-florals, since Miss Balmain also contains a lot of oakmoss, as does Miss Dior....I could go on.....

marchlion said...

Mitsouko! I think this is the magic ingredient that's being removed from many Guerlains because it's a skin allergan on some people. I remember a lot of buzz on Luca Turin's blog last summer. I guess it's akin to removing the stars from the flag. Not sure how that was ever resolved.

Rue said...

I have an uncomfortable relationship with oakmoss. From a distance it makes me swoon. Up close and personal it nauseates me. However, I do have a favourite oakmoss fragrance and laugh if you must at my 'low-rent' selection but bear in mind I always get tons of compliments followed by "oh..." when asked what I am wearing. Charlie by Revlon. The original in the blue box. Smells like Cristalle (which never elicited a compliment I might add), only earthier. It is the oakmoss note that makes it superior to Chanel Cristalle.

boisdejasmin said...

I also love Mystere de Rochas, but I recently tried it and was surprised to discover that it was perfumey and harsh. When did they change it???

marlen said...

anya - I tried to love Mystere, but found it just too dry for me...not sure about the other ones though...

marlen said...

march - are you a big mitsouko fan? As much as I enjoy the aroma, I just don't have any desire to wear it...

marlen said...

bois - perhaps I tried the newer version then, because I really wasn't thrilled with what I smelled...

Anya said...

They reworked *that*, too?! I'll try to make it to a perfume counter one of these days to compare.

marchlion said...

Marlen, I feel that way about some things (like Fracas) I have because I just like to smell them, I would never wear them! I wear Mitsouko EDP and parfum all the time (to grocery store, etc). In my defense: 1) I acknowledge it's a weird, animalic thing that is soooooo not everyone's cuppa; 2) I have had Guerlain SAs who are not Mitsouko fans say it smells different on me -- more spice, less skank.

marlen said...

Anya - please let me know what you think after your comparison! I've heard that nearly all of the Rochas scents, especially the men's, have changed over the years...I tried Moustache and Monsieur about 5 years ago to my great disappointment, and Macassar 2 years ago, only to be disappointed again...

marlen said...

March - I found a LE 1/2oz Mitsouko Parfum in Les Meteorites gold and enamel "pocketwatch" atomizer at where else but Marshalls for what else but $4.99!!! Mom has it now, but that was enough Mitsouko for me...loved to keep that one on the etagiere and spray the living room now and then...

Keeg said...

Hmm..I don't get this note either; I would thought Isfarkand and Declaration were pretty strong on oakmoss...Can soemone conclude on this?

marlen said...

keeg - the moss in Isfarkand (to my nose) is very light. As moss is often used as a fixative for other notes, extending their lives, its own scent is oftne quite faint. As for Declaration, this one is all about the juniperwood and cedarwood, with musk not included in the composition. L'Aromarine makes a good, inexpensive aokmoss essential perume oil if u need some clarification.

Keeg said...

Thank you, marlen..
I actually find those two very similar, and have always thought it was the oakmoss..And since I find them smelling like body-odor, I decided to stay away from oakmoss:P lol..Think I'll have to look more into oakmoss-scents, but L'Aromarine isn't sold here in Norway...Any other suggestions?

marlen said...

keeg - Probably the best person to ask is Basenotes' Tigrushka!