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Mono Cachemire: a dancing musk veil

Mono Cachemire, the newest olfactory gem from L’Orchestre Parfum, sets the scene for musks wadded softness. It marks the occasion to come back to this ancestral raw material. An innately sensual ingredient that used to come from animals and is nowadays synthetically created.

Musk, a material prized since Antiquity

Discovered in the year 330 BC, animal notes were used in Ancient Egypt, the birthplace of perfumery. Musk was mainly considered as a symbol for power and attraction. In general, animal notes are enjoyed for their strong aroma that lasts a long time.

Animal musk has been used in China as well since Antiquity for its medicinal virtues. India, another producing region, began its use during the 4th Century for ayurvedic medicine. Musk was also esteemed throughout the Golden Age of Islam (7th and 8th Centuries) for its use in incense and ointments.

Musk only arrived in Western Europe during the 12th Century. Before known as a tonic and stimulant, its medicinal use was gradually lost in favor of perfumery and cosmetics.

After that, animal notes stayed in perfumers’ palettes and largely dominated the fragrance industry at the beginning of the 20th century. When associated with more delicate scents, animal notes bring a refined softness, a fur-like reminder, while their presence remains very subtle. Long-lasting, they were used as a fixative in the base notes, granting the perfume both a long hold and sensuality.

Nowadays, musk and the other animal notes such as civet, castoreum, gray amber and hyraceum have almost disappeared from a perfumer’s palette and their qualities are synthetically created.

Musk scent, origins and evolution

Tonkin musk is a substance secreted by the abdominal glands of male musk deers, an animal species from Central Asia, during their breeding window.

Animal musk exudes tawny nuances, it grants a perfume an incomparable carnal roundness, the signature of the classics during the golden age of perfumery. Muscone is the characteristic component of natural musk (representing from 0.5% to 2% of the material). In 1926, Lavoslav Ruzicka managed to artificially create the scent of animal musk and thus, a landmark in perfumery history.

Musk deer’s hunt was an intensive practice in the 60’s and 70’s, selling up to 400,000 Francs per kilogram. Whereas in Asia the natural material is still highly prized for its aphrodisiac properties. Measures were later taken to protect the musk deers as they are considered an endangered species. Musk trade is nowadays controlled by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), signed in Washington on March 3rd 1973. In France, this convention was adopted as soon as 1978. Today, musk is reproduced using synthesis.

The rise of synthetic musks

Thanks to the discoveries of chemists, the perfumer's palette is made up of a wide variety of synthetic musks. If we can reproduce the smell of animal musk, these discoveries also gave rise to “white musks”. Unlike traditional animal musk, these have a “clean” effect.

This large synthetic musks palette opens the door to an infinite amount of nuances to add to a composition. They are divided into four categories: nitro musks, polycyclic musks, macrocyclic musks, and alicyclic musks.

Nitro musks carried a powdery scent and are no longer used nowadays. 

Polycyclic musks and their “clean” aroma unveil fruity or powdery undertones, such as galaxolide. At first used mainly in laundry products, those got introduced to perfumery in the late 70’s. 

Macrocyclic musks are more recent and offer a rich variety of scents. As an example, muscenone evokes the soft smell of skin. 

Alicyclic musks are the last generation of synthetic musks, like helvetolide. They bring clean, milky and fruity facets to the perfumer’s palette.

Ambrettolide and Muscenone: Mono Cachemire secret ingredients

Initially, Pierre Guguen and Nathalie Feisthauer had the desire to offer a modern take on musk. In order to craft a creamy and enveloping ‘second skin veil’, Nathalie played with one of her signature materials: ambrettolide. A sophisticated, bright and sensual musk.

Discovered in 1927, ambrettolide is extracted from ambrette seeds, but can also be found in nature in Angelica juice. It reveals floral nuances, a hint of jasmin and grants a perfume sensuality and a strong trail. Nathalie Feisthauer dressed this molecule in muscenone, a powdery note with a baby-skin like feel, patented in 1967. 

A Lo-Fi musks bouquet lightly carved like a soft caressing halo. This trail in which one would want to curl up, is Mono Cachemire.

Written by Sophie Normand