The Elements of Scent-Musky

Musky things.No other scent group has taken the world by storm quite like the “musky” perfumes. Musk has been around for a long time, and artificial musk was a happy accident which occurred during the development of dynamite! One of the scientists who was working on TNT noticed that there was a lovely smell coming from the workbench and called that to the others’ attention. Not being shy about making a buck off research, the group sold the liquid (which was not explosive, except socially) to perfume houses and the fad for musk started in earnest.

Musk has a great many different smells: subtle, aggressive, hawthorny, sharp. One thing it has in common is that it is a heavy molecule and stays around a long time and so is a basenote. In the 21st century it never smells like anything you encounter in nature, it is decidedly a man made item. There are attempts to mimic modern musk among natural perfumers (e.g. musk ambrette) but the array of perfumer’s artificial musk outstrips the variations on anything the natural perfumer has to work with.

Of course, the original perfume musks were taken from animals. They were the basenotes, and diluted they are often delightful. However, public sentiment has sharply turned against using secretions from civet cats and musk deer due to animal cruelty issues (and the more crass reason that artificial musks smell better and are cheaper). You would be hard pressed to find any perfume which boasted real castorium (beaver musk) for example, nowadays.

Though musks have always been with us, they were more bit players than the star of any perfume, even through the glory days of French perfume in the post war 1950s, Not until the corporate-loving era of the 1980s did the aggression of the culture called for aggressive scent to match. Giorgio of Beverly Hills was a flagship fragrance of mega musk and sweet flowers, crystalline musks became the darlings of the public (and remain so to this day), and every once in a while, a sly musk catches our imagination (something hawthorny like 301). It is safe to say that if you want a hit you have to employ musk in some form or another, at least for its staying power and star power.

Discover Possets and take a look at our listing for musky scents, we are very good at them. Take a tour of each of the scent families and it’s just fun going through the list of perfumes on offer.

The Elements of Scent-Masculine

ManlyThere are more surprising elements to a masculine fragrance than you would expect.Have you ever walked through the aisles of a department store and smelled a man’s scent just for kicks. Have you ever had the reaction,”This is FABULOUS, why don’t they make women’s perfume this lovely?” And then you think about it, and then you realize you would not wear a scent like that BUT you would follow a man who smelled like that to the end of the earth. THAT is the magic.

Here is the deep secret: Men’s fragrances are not made for men, they are made for women.* They are full of things which attract us with sweetness and suavity. Think of Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene, it was a men’s fragrance full of violet, it was sweet and alluring, it lasted a very long time, it was catnip to women. It is still considered a classic, and reason is because it was aimed specifically at women, so it worked. Royal Copenhagen (by Royal Copenhagen) was another sweet and sultry blend which was the limit in seduction, again aimed at attracting women. These were smooth, almost feminine fragrances with no sharpness to them. You don’t smell too much of that today, but it was very effective years ago. Carnation, violet, iris all have connotations of manliness and swagger; so much for the language of flowers.

Fast forward, now it’s a AXE world. Men’s fragrances are often STRONG and aggressive. I suspect that they are made to signal other men to “stay away from my woman (women) if you know what is good for you” and to leave that lingering scent on the lady (ladies) in question so that rivals would be discouraged. Mean musks, concentrated ingredients, chemical cocktails with stingers in them leave the famous “trail of jet fuel” behind the wearer in a scent war. Mmmmm, like squirting through a Game of Thrones of Perfume, eh?

Face it, mating rituals among humans have changed considerably over the last few decades, and what was once taken for granted is now viewed as quaint. The quarry has changed as well. What was once the passive and agreeable lady is now the strong and independent woman. She wears an aggressive scent, too, and will give out just as strong a signal as her companion. This seems to be a more “Competitive Mating” scene than there has been in a long time, and perfumes reflect it.

Once in a blue moon, I like to try to bring back an nicer and more gentle form of men’s scent, something where a guy would be trying to romance a woman and conquer through kindness. I realize that that is sometimes seen as “old fashioned” but I can’t tell you how many times I have been thanked for coming up with Adamus or Stewart or Venus Black (which got me the gig writing for So, you think that chivalry and sweet seduction are dead? Nope, they are the next wave.

*Except when they are not, please see above.

Discover Possets and take a look at our listing for masculine scents, we are very good at them. Take a tour of each of the scent families and it’s just fun going through the list of perfumes on offer.

The Elements of Scent-Leather

leather is lovelyLeather seems like a surprising classification for perfume. First, it’s pretty specific, next it’s something some people really don’t like, and finally, it’s not a “perfume scent” per se, right? Wrong! It is a big element in a lot of famous perfumes, like the vaunted Bandit, the most famous chypre of all.

Some people think that leather is a masculine note…again, that isn’t true. Even serious rawhide can be a real turn-on when used with a discerning hand. Mixed with a strong floral can become a unique and glorious sexy thing. And please know that there is a plethora of different leather accords: soft suede, rawhide, saddle, highly refined leather like on a fine chair, and leather jacket. I even know of one which is the exact match of a very light, soft, hard finished leather! So, the savvy perfumer has to know the character of each, what is the classic pairing/combination, what would be daring and successful, and what is an all out risk!

Leather is a base note usually because it is strong and it lasts for a very long time. It can be the central theme of a perfume or a charming side player if used with a light hand. If used with a light enough hand, it becomes very subtle yet retains its character for a “it’s great, what IS that?” surprise.

Discover Possets and take a look at our listing for lavender scents, we are very good at them. Take a tour of each of the scent families and it’s just fun going through the list of perfumes on offer.