By Marie-Helene Wagner of Scented Salamander
THE BODY SHOP WHITE MUSK (1981)
The classic of classics as far as simple, unadulterated white musk fragrances go. The “classic” perfume oil concentration remains the deepest and longer-lasting one and is interesting for its drydown that smells unexpectedly and very pleasantly like vintage Miss Dior. Some perfumes do that: they sign off with a souvenir postcard sent from the past. The white musk accord itself is sweet, a bit indecent, and woody.
“Top notes: velvety musk, floral lily and sensual ylang ylang with hints of fresh galbanum and basil. Middle notes: velvety musk, oriental jasmine, floral lily and rose. Base notes: velvety musk, oriental jasmine, floral lily and iris, rose, sweet vanilla, fresh amber, patchouli, oakmoss and vetiver with hints of fruity peach.”
Available at TheBodyShop.com for $24.
COMPTOIR SUD PACIFIQUE CRISTAL DE MUSC (1986)
Cristal de Musc (Musk Crystal) is an underrated, relatively little known white-musk perfume despite its date of birth. The composition is exceptionally cool and crisp with a very attractive, little-matched crystalline quality about it. It evokes marmorean snow Queens gliding on ice floes through chilly Polar expanses but also powdered milk with an overtone of cute baby-burp: the smell of decomposition kept at its most low-key and family-friendly with all the ensuing irresistible nostalgia for the love of your mama. Don’t worry, it is not that obvious; very clean and sexy.
Notes: orange blossom, yellow hibiscus, white musk, powdered musk. Available at 99Perfume.com for $42.99.
SERGE LUTENS CLAIR DE MUSC (2003)
Clair de Musc invokes through its name the clarity of the moonlight but as revealed by the luminous facet of a desincarnated musk. At first, a white musk that seems overly classic and devoid of originality for a Serge Lutens, but which is in fact a subtle transparent crystalline musk that marries beautifully with whispery-soft floral notes (neroli, Tuscan iris, jasmine, rose….) The musk is vegetable and borrows its pseudo animalic facet from ambrette seeds.
This is a refined rose and musk fragrance as soft as the tactile sensation of a rose petal on the skin. Yet Lutens being Lutens, transparency here still manages to make room for subtly opulent notes of rose and spicy resins. Imagine a transparent muslin material enveloping a sterling silver pomander containing a refined powdered and resinous Oriental pot-pourri.
Notes: Musk, bergamot, neroli petals, white jasmine petals, carnation, Tuscan iris powder.
Available at NeimanMarcus.com for $120.
MONTALE WHITE MUSK (ca. 2003-2005)
The style of this composition is oriental, even literally Middle Eastern, evocative of a noisy, bustling bazaar, as befits the brand. The whiteness or transparency of the musk is conveyed, in part, by aquatic fruits and an ozonic touch, only appearing in discreet filigree.
The perfume is subtly fruity, crisp, a bit green, and floral. An understated signature touch of exotic oud makes the imagination travel to Middle Eastern lands. The white musk accord becomes milky then offers a very velvety finish.
Notes: White musk, violet leaves, ylang ylang, geranium.
Available at Luckyscent.com for $95.
LES BAINS DU MARAIS MUSC BLANC EAU DE SOIN – BEAUTY TONIC
This white musk by trendy spa brand Les Bains du Marais located in the Marais district in Paris is a simple expression of white musk, more transparent than powdery. Its neutral character and true lack of ornamentation may win over people who are looking for something really simple.
Good for sunny climates and sensitive skins as well since the formulation does not contain alcohol. Being a spa brand, a line of hammam-inspired perfumed ancillary bath products is one more reason to try it out.
Available at BeautyEncounter.com for $68.
LE PALAIS DES REINES – HUILE DIVINE – MUSC BLANC (ca. 2003)
This very confidential white-musk massage perfume oil, which I discovered this summer, was inspired by the brand founder’s love of Moroccan culture. Jane Lanckbeen says she took great pains in selecting the right blend of white musks and describes it as being “unusual”.
It is a light spicy floral white musk with a marked lilac nuance, which takes on a decidedly Middle Eastern connotation, especially with it mingling with the fruity-woody aroma of one of its carriers, argan oil. It smells not only of white musk but of the perfumed oils seller’s boutique in the souk and a bit of his cousin’s grocery store as well. Argan oil smells like leathery ripe green olives. The drydown evokes an archetypal white soap. When you compare it to Laurence Dumont Musc Blanc, this is when you realize that the first one is archetypal and the latter, literal.
The scent is carried by both argan and apricot oils for a full-on musky massage or just to apply on pulse points.
Available at LePalaisdesReines.com for €20.
IL PROFUMO MUSC BLEU (2004)
The blue color in the name of the perfume is a reference, it appears, to the subtly icy snowy first impression released by the scent. It evokes on the horizon the snow-capped Himalayan mountain range taking on the olfactory and visual suggestion of blue peppermint, as in a bluish-blue painting by Nikolaï Roerich. Who would have thought that glacial and cold could be that dreamy and intriguing?
The composition is also delicately powdery and floral (black geranium, cyclamen, ylang-ylang).
Musc Bleu is a well-balanced eau de parfum and is especially winning for its admittedly middle-road quality of versatility, which it achieves to perfection. It is in this respect intensely appropriate for all occasions. Somehow it comes across as the easiest white musk perfume to wear on a daily basis.
Notes: Neroli flower, oak moss, moss flowers, woods, Ylang-Ylang, black geranium, white sandalwood.
Available at IlProfumoShop.com for $135.