Musk Essence Oil by Kiehl’s

Get a whiff of this:

You’re back in the 80’s, an eager teenager keen to break rules, showing off your moves in a tacky roller rink that’s playing your favs. You’re slightly underage, but the outfit you snuck out of the house in without mom seeing belies the fact. The rink is packed and the obvious smell of pot is emanating from the bathrooms. You scan around for hot guys and see none, but as you perform a little spin, a creamy, sweaty, slippery waft of air drifts past your face. You follow the trail and find yourself gazing at the unkempt sandy blonde hair of a young skater. Sure enough, he’s the source of the soapy, slightly dirty Mongol smell. He trips and falls (probably your fault for skating so close), and you crash on top of him. You both laugh, and it’s love at first sniff. You enjoy the cheap thrill of being his girlfriend for a full week, until he switches over to some Hugo Boss concoction.

When I want to smell clean after a night of too much imbibing, I roll on some earthy Kiehl’s musk oil – alcohol-free, thanks very much – after my patting down my body and thoroughly scrubbing my tongue. (The alcohol version of Kiehl’s Musk, which dates back more recently to 1963,  is less sharp with better sillage, but is essentially the same scent as the oil.) This musk has been compared to Muscs Koublaï Khan by Serge Lutens, without all the spices, without being as animalic, and without the painful kick to your wallet. According to some, it also has similarities to Frederic Malle’s sweeter Musc Ravageur, created by perfumer Maurice Roucel, which is another deservingly pricy delicacy.

Personally, however, I think Keihl’s is too clean for such comparisons. My wee bottle Keihl’s lasts all day on my skin, but for me, it’s not a big projector by any stretch. This is likely because I have the oil version. In my opinion, it does however, work well in any season as well as in a variety of situations, office included. The version of Keihl’s Musk I own is the 1921 roller ball original oil, which I understand, as a pure essence oil , can irritate the skin of some people, but I’ve been OK so far. It does go on a little greasy and gritty, however. It’s great for travel, and is the only version I could actually get at my nearest Kiehl’s store when I lived in Tokyo.

One great appeal of this fragrance is that as a simple musk scent, it is a perfume that you could try layering with different fragrances to either tone down or amplify certain aspects of that second scent. I’ve heard from others that it can smooth out the roughness of Bond No 9’s Brooklyn, and restrain the sweetness of Lolita Lampika’s Au Masculin. I personally find it goes nicely with Bond No 9’s New Harlem.

Overall, however, I am not blown away by this fragrance. I’ve been thinking lately that I could be of those poor souls for whom musk is not strongly perceived. I don’t think I am anosmic to it, but perhaps I’m not as sensitized to feral fetishes as I want to be. It could be simply that synthetic musk is not really musk. The fake stuff has a clean, smooth and sweet scent lacking the fecal/animalic notes of natural musk. I can only assume that finding that quality in perfume is becoming close to impossible, as the IFRA sniffs it out of perfume use. I want something much louder and skankier in a musk than Keihl’s has to offer, please! The soapy, detergent-like top notes of Kiehl’s last too long and the musk I’m yearning for, when it finally comes out, is like a drowning wet puppy in a bathtub full of suds – too cute, too young, too innocent, and way too clean. I have to scoop the poor thing out and dry it down with a towel. It’s shivering with fear so I snuggle with it, talk to it like a baby. Ah, it’s getting warm and dry, the cute little thing. Starting to lick my face with its stinky warm tongue. Umm, cozy puppy smell. Perhaps not so bad, really.

Kiehl’s Original Musk Oil is believed by many to have been created in the 1920’s at the Kiehl Apothecary. According to Perfume Shrine, however, the musks contained in the formula did not exist before WWII. Also, the nitromusks found in real musk oil are now banned, so fragrances on the market today have substituted nitromusks with at least one alcohol-diffusing musk component. Keihl’s website states that their original oil was discovered in a vat labeled “Love Oil” in the late 50’s, and its signature scent was reintroduced to patrons of the company in 1963.

From Fragrantica:

  • OLFACTORY GROUP: oriental floral musk
  • MAIN ACCORDS: white floral, citrus, musky, sweet, aromatic
  • TOP NOTES: African orange flower, bergamot
  • MIDDLE NOTES: lily, neroli, ylang ylang, rose
  • BASE NOTES: musk, tonka bean, patchouli

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