A woody, oriental fragrance
Musk is a group of aromatic substances which are popular for use as base notes in perfumery. The group includes glandular secretions from animals such as the endangered Tibetan Musk Deer (this is where the name originally came from and due to ethical reasons is not used in today’s industry), various plants with similar fragrances, and artificial substances that have a similar fragrance.
This substance has been used since ancient times to equalize the vapor pressures of the raw materials in a perfume oil, as well as to increase the tenacity. When the Deer was used, the scent became one of the most expensive animal products in the world.
Until the late 19th Century the natural scent was used broadly in perfumery until economic and ethical reasons meant a synthetic version became the preferred method and is now used almost exclusively.
Use in perfumery
It is a complex, unique scent which can usually be found in sweet or woody, earthy scents. It. As it crosses between different fragrance groups, it is a popular base note or it can be used to blend together with other scents.
It is a very versatile scent as it softens and balances, it has a lasting note that lingers behind after the more effervescent notes have faded and keeps the fragrance on the skin for longer.
Nearly all of this type of fragrance used in perfumery today is synthetic. There is a vast array of synthetic scents which range from sweet to almost metallic versions and often referred to as ‘White Musk’.
It can be divided into three major groups: aromatic nitro, polycyclic compounds, and macrocyclic compounds. Aromatic Nitro and Polycyclic groups are used in a variety of industries from cosmetics through to cleaning products. There has been public debate on the safety usage of these compounds which has resulted in a ban or reduction of their use in many regions of the world. Macrocyclic compounds appear to be safer and are likely to replace the use of Aromatic Nitro and Polycyclic compounds.
There are also other natural ingredients which can be used to create a musky fragrance such as ambrette seed, galbanum and angelica root.