Alpha Musc (Soivohle)

Musk is a strange and solitary molecule. When it appears on the horizon, other scent elements tend either to flee precipitously or fade into the underbrush, leaving the fell beast to dominate the scentscape. Usually it does so quietly-- although if you're hypersensitive to musk, the olfactory din it raises out there in the darkness is enough to make you stay up all night, with a Bible in one hand and Grandpappy's old Winchester in the other.

Me? I wish that musk would howl louder.

Bashful reticence is a problem I've never encountered with civet (whose subtlest purr raises the hair on the back of my neck) or castoreum (which produces an almost tangible sensation of slippery-smooth fur against one's palms). Ambergris reliably evokes the wrack and heave of the life-teeming tide; costus really does smell like warm, unwashed human hair. Honey? I drip for it. But musk (or at least what passes for it in the chemistry lab) has disappointed me many a time; it is seldom mammalian enough, skanky enough, dirty enough for me. I want the Big Bad Wolf in a bed of wildflowers; too often the scenery comes sans wolf.

Alpha Musc does not smell lupine, or like lupins; it does not even smell like musk. It smells like aged Parmesan cheese. In a scientific study of cheese characteristics sponsored by Kansas State University's Sensory Analysis Unit, panelists chose the adjectives "nutty", "sweaty", "pungent", and "goatier than other cheeses" to describe Parmesan. I suppose if I really wanted my cheese to be animalic, I'd know what to reach for. But Alpha Musc is perfume, and I'd like to keep the line between my fragrance and my fromage clearly demarcated. Sure, it offers alluring little whiffs of ambrette and flowers along with the old Parmagiano-Reggiano; I'm sure it was built to please somebody's taste. But like the song says, the cheese stands alone.

Scent Elements: Musk, frankincense, "beach amber accord", "warm woods"