Without antlers, but with up to six centimeters long, tusky canines in the upper jaw, musk deers do not look like deer at first glance. And indeed, they occupy a special position.
Why musk deer are so sought after
For more than 20 million years, they hardly changed and represent a primordial, from the beginning successful type of deer. Musk deer are distinct mountain inhabitants found in the rhododendron mountain forests of Kashmir and Tibet via southern Siberia to Korea and the Far Eastern island of Sakhalin. They live in herds and eat over 130 different plant species, often even specializing in tree-hung lichens. They are the only deer that can effortlessly climb oblique trees to the crowns and eat there leaves, branches and tree lichen.
And another peculiarity: male musk deer have a walnut-sized gland in front of the reproductive organs that produces a special substance - the legendary musk, a sought-after raw material for Asian folk medicine, a legendary elixir for expensive perfumes. To obtain the musk, the rutting gland, which contains up to 30 grams of attractant sought after by the females, is removed from the killed animal and dried.
Musk deer - former victims, today strictly protected
Some of the at least four species are on the brink of extinction. Therefore, all species of musk deer in their distribution areas - from Russia in the north to Vietnam and India in the south - are considered endangered and fall under the respective national protective laws. In China, musk deer have been kept and bred in farms since the 1960s. These plants could be a starting point for a long-term conservation of musk, which is sparing to wild populations.
Musk - the panacea
Musk has been the most valued animal drug since ancient times, used as a cure for all sorts of ailments. Thus, medieval doctors prescribed musk for mental illnesses and nervous disorders and as "bisamic apples" they carried him around the neck in bags to protect themselves against the plague. In China, it was used centuries before Christ as a panacea, which stimulates the nervous system and sweat secretion, anticonvulsant and accelerates pulse and breath.
The Crusaders brought musk to Europe, where it became known as an aphrodisiac, because musk is a pheromone that affects the human sex glands. Marco Polo used musk as a means of payment on his travels. The Prophet Muhammad, too, was a true lover of the fragrance and valued him greatly.
Musk today - product of the synthesis
In the perfume industry of Europe today - in contrast to the last centuries - almost exclusively artificially produced musk is used. In addition to the scent components of the real musk, here you can distinguish four main varieties: the best variety commonly used Tonkin musk from China and Tibet, the Assam or Bengal musk from India, the Russian musk and the inexpensive Bukharan musk, there about 1000 substances that have a musk-like odor. As a musk substitute, only about 30 are important.
Since the natural product is rare and expensive, large quantities of the synthetic musk compounds have been produced for years since they can be produced relatively easily and inexpensively. Fragrance manufacturers synthesize and mix musk among a great many perfumes, as it is known as a so-called fixator. It ensures that the fragrance and its individual components stick longer on the skin. Musk has the unrivaled ability to liven up a perfume composition, enhance its charisma, harmonize it and round it off.
Polycyclic musk compounds are harmless
Musk compounds have been used as fixatives in perfumery for many years. According to the current state of knowledge, the polycyclic musks used are hexahydrohexamethylcyclopenta (y) benzopyran (HHCB) - without any concentration limitation - and 6-acetyl-1, 1, 2, 4, 4, 7-hexamethyltetraline (AHTN) - at 12 percent in perfume oil - safe and harmless for the consumer. This was also confirmed by the final assessment of the independent scientific committee for cosmetology and non-food products (SCCNFP) for the EU.
Musk - irreplaceable for perfume
In natural musk extract and its synthetic replicas, two scent elements are combined: an animal chord with leathery, hairy and urine-like aspects and a radiantly sweet note.
Animal - in perfumery that is the name for the used fragrances of the four fragrances from the animal kingdom: musk, ambergris, civet and castoreum. Their similarities are in addition to extraordinary adhesion and charisma, a certain "warmth" of the fragrance character. The animalistic fragrances are reminiscent of the warmth of the human body and convey both the feelings of security and sexual arousal.
The prerequisite for the release of such sensations by perfumes, however, is that the animal fragrances are skilfully and sparingly used, because as soon as they are so strong that they are perceived consciously, they are just as unpleasant as too intense body odor. Most of the synthetic fragrances that the perfumer calls musk fragrances have only a sweet touch. They give a fragrance composition fine heat and radiation.
The term "musk note" can refer to the perfumer both this delicate luster as well as a severe animalic tartness. While musk is used for the vast majority of fragrances as an accompaniment note or for the finale in the rear, there are also special "musk perfumes" that are based entirely on the erotic effect and attraction on the opposite sex. They are mainly worn in the evening to fully develop their effect.