Two names in perfumery that shouldn’t need introduction have paired up: Jovoy Paris, one of the world’s best niche perfumeries at the entrance to the Place Vendôme in Paris, and Cafleurebon, the multi-award-winning global fragrance website founded by Editor-in-Chief Michelyn Camen.
The new collaboration is now available at Jovoy Paris – a limited edition box set of 14 samples based on the theme of musk. Each sample is a fragrance from the Jovoy collection and was handpicked by Michelyn and the team of editors and contributors at Cafleurebon, of which I am one.
A BIT ABOUT MUSK
In perfumery, musks are a set of ingredients spanning a broad olfactory landscape. Perhaps it’s because musk, once a singular ingredient sourced in nature from the rare Siberian musk deer, is now defined by a diverse range of synthetic alternatives that sit under the banner term – musks.
The brutal method of harvest and low yield was the reason for the scarcity and exorbitant cost of Musk Tonkin tincture. Laws now exist to protect the endangered musk deer and in many countries, the use of animal-derived fragrance ingredients is prohibited. I had the opportunity to smell the real thing a few years ago. The small musk pod grains had a complex aroma more faecal than most synthetic musks.
Musk compounds have been found in the essential oils of plants so there is a natural alternative, but relatively low yield and high cost means vegetal musk ingredients like ambrette seed oil or ambrettolide isolated from natural sources are reserved for niche and luxury fragrances.
Chemists have been advancing research on musks since the late 19th century. The first nitro musk, Musk Bauer, was discovered in 1880, then the discoveries of Musk Ambrette and Musk Ketone followed, but nitro musks’ sensitivity to sunlight, instability in alkaline media and explosive properties led to their phasing out over time. The 1920s saw an increased focus on natural musk compounds Muscone and Civetone, led by Nobel Prize winning chemist Leopold Ruzicka, who was the first chemist to synthesize musk on an industrial scale. His pioneering work was with Firmenich, who continue to lead innovation in musk chemistry a century later.
The synthetic musks of today, of course, smell musky and have a fixative quality in formulation. New musk ingredients also tend to amplify one odour facet of natural musk. Some musks have fruity facets like Galaxolide (IFF) and Helvetolide (Firmenich). Some play on musk’s powdery persona, like Muscenone (Firmenich) and Cosmone (Givaudan). Others bring new odour facets to musk, like Habanolide (Firmenich), which smells like musk and hot metal, or Cashmeran (IFF), which brings a woody, slightly coniferous tonality to musk. Perfumers generally use two or a few different musks in their formula to create a specific musky accord like 'white musk', a clean interpretation of musk, some might associate with the scent of clean laundry.
The plethora of new musk molecules being added to the perfumer’s palette is not only driven by creativity. Sustainability and safety are reshaping the way the fragrance industry uses musks. Environmental studies in the 1990s reported low but significant quantities of polycyclic musks showing up in samples taken from waterways, and human and animal tissue. Greenpeace reports that two polycyclic musks, Galaxolide and Tonalide, account for 95% of the European market for synthetic musks. The need for more biodegradable ingredients, which do not persist in the environment after use is driving innovations in musk chemistry. Macrocyclic musks are desirable for this reason but their complex production makes them expensive. As the industry reduces its use of petrochemicals, in favour of renewable sources and green chemistry, the perfumer's palette of musks will continue to evolve.
LA BOX JOVOY
Michelyn and the Cafleurebon team have curated a set of 14 fragrances sold at Jovoy Paris, all based on the theme of musk. The Make It Musk boxset showcases the many facets of musks and how, in combination with other ingredients, perfumers create different olfactory experiences.
The fragrance I chose for the boxset is Musc Poudré by Master Perfumer Christian Provenzano. In this fragrance, Cashmeran is boosted with other powdery notes. The sensuality of musk is increased with the warmth of benzoin and vanilla. A fruity top note enlivens the whole structure with a red glow.
"Christian Provenzano is a master of creating texture in scent. In this example, powdery musk dances with ambered woods under a canopy of raspberry glacé. The result has a delicious rhythm." – Clayton Ilolahia, Cafleurebon Contributor
Visit Cafleurebon to read more about the box set and the musk fragrances selected by the rest of Michelyn's team.
Find the Make it Musk boxset at Jovoy Paris or the online store while stock of this limited edition set is available.