Tuesday, February 9, 2010

SOTD: Kiehl's Original Musk Oil (And ghosts of laundry rooms past)

Photograph of a vintage clothes washer.
As my perfume freakery continues, my tolerance for once-problematic notes keeps increasing. I'm fully converted to tuberose. I like a lot of jasmines and most irises. My tolerance for prickly incense notes is growing by leaps and bounds.

Musk? Ergh. I'm reversing; I like it less and less. As a background touch for other notes, I can still deal with it, or even appreciate it. But I have less and less tolerance for musk-dominated fragrances.  Lorenzo Villoresi Musk is growing on me. I liked Le Labo Ambrette 9. But that's about it.

I suspect that it's the laundry detergent association. To me, most musks smell like a box of laundry soap powder. A dusty box, in my mother's dark basement laundry room, the one that floods in a heavy rain.

In memory, I grab the sticky-handled plastic scoop, scoop some out with my face screwed up to avoid breathing any of the disturbed powder, and dump it on the clothes. Some drifts to the mounting of the drum, where it has to be wiped off if I don't want it to stay and get sticky-dirty. And I always do breathe some in, and my sinuses punish me for a few hours afterward.

Not a great vision for a perfume. When the primary information coming from a perfume is, "Ack! You breathed some!", that's just not good.

All of which is to explain why it's not Kiehl's fault that I don't like their musk. It's a perfectly nice, well-behaved, soft, faintly animalic musk. It's not too laundry-room. I might use it for layering, if something else seems to need a musky touch. But I won't be wearing it.

Review Roundup: Basenotes and Perfume-Smellin' Things and Fragrantica and The Scented Salamander and Legerdenez and PereDePierre.

Photo: By Dysprosia. Wikimedia Commons.


  1. When I first started getting interested in perfume, I was delighted to learn of the link between musk and, well, parts of the body that are usually thought to be unclean. (Have you read Chandler Burr's discussion Tonquin musk and how it smells like clean man *ss? It is well worth a read...)

    The "clean" musks, like Kiehl's or Montale "White Musk" are pleasant enough, but insipid. I'm always on the look-out for the dirrrty musks, like Narciso Rodriguez "For Her" or SJP "Lovely" or Tom Ford "Amber Absolute."

  2. Howdy! No, I haven't read it; I will.

    I probably should have distinguished between the clean and dirty musks in my post, except that I've recently (I forget why) become less confident of exactly what dirty musk smells like. I know that I do tend to be fine with either dirty or rich perfumes that have musk listed as a note, and I am just fine with Lovely. (Its only flaw is that it's not dirty enough.)

  3. How are you both with Musc Rav and Koublai Khan? They are dirty musks and a half!

    Clean ones you might wish to avoid are L'Artisan L'Ete en Douce ("laundry-soap-on-steroids" - LT) and Byredo Blanche (neat detergent, as far as I can tell). And Narciso Rodriguez Essence is pretty darn sudsy.

  4. I haven't tried those two - sounds like I should. In fact, I hear so much about Koublai Khan that I should just try it so I know what people are talking about.

    I'll flee from the other three. I seem to remember trying L'Ete en Douce and promptly giving it away.