Words: Elena Andreou
Ask any friend to describe their favourite scent and the word ‘musk’ might crop up. But, what on earth are they banging on about? Do they mean it’s strong? Heady? Is it a good thing? Yes, musk is one of those words that is unfortunately open to interpretation, so to help clear things up here’s a little masterclass on all-things musk.
What is musk?
First up - let’s start off with what it isn’t. It’s not a fragrance family, so you won’t spot in on any chart or wheel. It’s not typically an accord either. It’s a raw material or compound that can be found in all kinds of scents, from aftershaves to EDPs, and it’s usually nestled within the dry-down base notes.
How has musk changed over the years?
When musk was first used in the fragrance arena it was originally harvested from its namesake – the male musk deer. To sum up the science-y stuff and gross facts, it was used for its ‘arousal’ properties. Oo-er. All the pheromones! Fast-forward to the modern day and musk doesn’t come from any animal, the technology is waaaaay more sophisticated. It is usually made from synthetic or plant-based materials to mimic the original scent.
Also, you can find two different types of ‘musk’. There are the ‘white musk’s’ which are clean and fresh notes (think fresh pile of laundry) and then there’s headier ‘musks’ which are used for those sultrier, break-in-case-of-last-min-date-night types.
What fragrances use musk?
Musk can be found in both men’s and women’s fragrances and can be tagged on to any category of scent (think floral, gourmand), which is where the confusion often lies. To really know whether you’re smelling a scent with musk, just ask our experts. They can quickly tell you if musk features in the fragrance – it’s a lot more reliable than asking your bff!
Here’s a pick of our fave musk scents: