Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Top 12 Musk Perfumes

Like vanilla note, musk is in just about everything. Of course we all know that there's a world of difference between dirty animalic musk to generic laundry musk, with the lovely clean sweet musk/skin musk somewhere in the middle. In this list I focused on perfumes that are truly about musk and not just supported by it. As usual, I'm cheating a little because this list holds more than a dozen of perfumes, but if you've been reading for a while you know that I have little self-restraint when it comes to musk. In no particular order (because I'd never be able to choose):

  • Serge Lutens-Muscs Kublai Khan and Clair de Musc. These are supposedly from the two opposites of the musk spectrum. MKK has an armpit reputation while Clair de Musc is creamy and sweet. Personally, I find MKK to be warm, sweet, and cuddly-- nothing beastly. And Claire de Musc is far more elegant and sophisticated than it seems at first sniff.
  • Parfum d'Empire- Musc Tonkin. A new addition to my wardrobe, this one is, indeed, dirty. A true love-or-hate perfume.
  • Parfumerie Generale- Musc Maori. An irresistible mix of chocolate and skin.
  • Frederic Malle- Musc Ravageur. Maurice Roucel's creation is an oriental perfume, a fourth generation Shalimar. It takes time and practice to find the musk under the amber and powder, but after years of wearing Musc Ravageur I guarantee it's there.
  • DSH Perfumes- Musk Eau Natural. This was a limited edition and is long gone. I cherish every drop but take solace in the fact that Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has some other incredible musks in her repertoire. If you haven't tried them I urge you to pursue.
  • CB I Hate Perfume- CB Musk (Reinvention Series). Generally regarded as The Other Beast (the first is MKK), CB Musk is fruity and incredibly rich. It's meant to be worn in minute amounts and also layered with other scents-- try it with CB Revelation for an erotic fig experience.
  • Madini Oils- Musk Pierre and Musk Gazelle. The first is sweet and almost edible, the second is an intense animalic musk; both are essential for musk addicts.
  • Strange Invisible Perfumes- Musc Botanique. This one has it all and smells ultra luxurious. The EDP is probably easier to wear, but the extrait is the true prize.
  • Mona di Orio- Les Nombres d'Or Musc. Sweet and powdery skin, though far less innocent than it sounds. Speaking of Mona, her discontinued Carnation is another wonderful musky skin scent; incredibly complex and evocative. Sell your soul for a sample if you can.
  • Kiehl's Original Musk. A cheap thrill that's one of the best and most consistent on the market. Incredibly soft and wearable.
  • Annick Goutal- Musc Nomade. MKK's civilized cousin.
  • Le Labo- Musc 25. Exclusive to Barneys Los Angeles, this one is so beautiful and sexy one cannot even get mad at Le Labo for their annoying ways.
Honorable Mention: Miller Harris- L'Air de Rien (wood, clean hair and skin; a winter must-have), Ramon Monegal Cherry Musk (light, fruity, graceful) ,  Serge Lutens Bois et Musc (the musk version of the Bois series), Alyssa Ashley Musk (it's relatively easy to find older bottles from when it was made by/for Houbigant; still a cheap thrill) , Frederic Malle- Dans tes Bras (technically it's about cashmeran wood and who knows what else, but this is as musky as it gets), Ava Luxe- Nude Musk (the sweetest skin musk I know, utterly delightful).

One of the best things about drugstore old musks is the vintage ads that used to accompany them. For your amusement, here are some more:


  1. I love this list. I have a HUGE bottle of Alyssa Ashley body cream and body wash from last year. Duane Reade typically runs 50% on the huge sizes of these musk products right after Xmas.

  2. I love musk based perfumes, and own many on your list. I love dirty or clean, soft or spicy. I think Jovan's Musk oil was my very first perfume purchase, and Alyssa Ashley's was my go-to in high school.
    One musk scent that's off the radar is Allesandro Dell Acqua. It's a beautiful spicy floral (Geranium, peony, sweet pea and coriander) over an incense, sandalwood and musk base. The drydown is all about musk and a dry one at that.
    The other that I adore but haven't seen in quite a while is Sonoma Scent Studio's Opal. Slightly sweet skin musk. I hear Laurie has been working on a reformulation but haven't heard any updates of late. Opal is one of my favorites.

  3. You know, I bet they would not publish that suggestive Jovan Musk peach/bum cluching ad these days! LOL

    Don't you just love Joan Collins! :)

  4. Try also MUSC by Bruno Acampora: You will love it!

  5. Try also MUSC by Bruno Acampora: you will love it!

  6. I have exactly the same opinion regarding MKK (and Musc Nomade is also a favorite) so I'm always a little puzzled by all the comments... I sometimes fear that I'm anosmic to certain components of it and that people around me smell "armpit" while I'm happily smelling "cuddly fur"!

  7. Oh - I forgot about the beautiful SSS Sienna Musk! And who could forget the high school favorite, Bonne Bell Skin Musk?

  8. I love Musk, I guess I don't have enough! my first perfume ever was Jovan Musk Oil - a tiny bottle almost used up and refilled with water. My aunt wore it and gave the rest to me when I was about 9.

    I also love Musc Botanique - one of my faves when I need a comforting but fresh perfume.

    Your post has inspired me to spend a little time seeking out some new musky loves! I'm sure I have many perfumes with musk notes, but not outright musk perfumes.

  9. Like Annina, I don't have any outright musk perfumes and need to explore these after being inspired by this post. The FM and Musc Tonkin have been on my to-try wishlist for a long time and now I'll have to order some samples.

    Love those 80's ads. I remember selling the Toujours Moi Musk and the Scoundrel Musk at the drugstore where I worked, but I was all about Jovan Musk Oil!

  10. Scoundrel! What a great name for a scent.

  11. I concur with all your excellent choices. I tend to think that SL MKK is the ne plus ultra of musks.

    Firmenich makes a synth EO called ANIMALID: It's as close to real deermusk as one is likely to (legally) get. I use it to amp up any number of things, from SHALIMAR to CHAROGNE to L'ORIGAN.

    I wonder: Had Brent Leonesio's No. 8 come out when you wrote this article? By all accounts, it's the raunchiest musk available outside of smearing your skin with raw civet paste.

  12. I always thought the old Patou CÂLINE was a lovely aldehydic/musk.

  13. I've been "using" your lists since years as a guideline for new fragrances to try. Currently Kiehl's is having 20% discount on their products in my country, so I'm going to get their Musk version and try it. Love all the Sandalwood and Incense recommendations, too!

  14. Definitely needs adding "Afrika Olifant" by Nishane. Absolute musc, oud and skank bomb. Apply with caution!


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