Perfumed Alphabet: N is for Nitro Musks

A fox without fur

Looks around as if seeking prey

In this musty purse

I’ll admit I’m a bit out of my league talking about nitro musks, as I haven’t really smelled them alone or properly in vintage perfumes before they were banned for neurotoxicity and/or phototoxicity. These included musk xylene and musk ambrette. The one that is still allowed is musk ketone, which came in powder form and which I tried to dissolve at 2% in alcohol, to no avail because it crystallized into a wet and brownish entity sitting in the remaining liquid. Still, it exudes a characteristic “furry” smell, which I think I can detect in some vintage perfumes. It’s described as fatty, soapy, and powdery—I can agree with all of that. It’s certainly not the clean laundry musk of the modern era. The maximum recommended concentration of musk ketone in a perfume is 1.4%.

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