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Musc Tonkin – Up close and personal and intoxicating

Photo - Wikimedia Commons - Musk Deer and Birds of Paradise by William Daniel, 1769-1837

Some words about musk, one of my favourite perfume notes:

“A powerful, addictive, erotic aura…the scent of heated flesh, solar, feline, subtly leathery…

...the most suave note in perfumery, worshipped for millennia….

...The musk note, specifically Tonkin musk from Himalayan deer…one of the most precious ingredients of the perfumers’ palette: it suffused…with a sensual aura that fixed and magnified every other essence…” Parfum d’Empire website

Wow - pretty powerful stuff!  The use of real musk from any deer has been prohibited worldwide since 1979, but synthetic musk is universally used in perfumes, and in just about every scented product you can think of – soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, cleaners, air fresheners, candles – because the synthetic versions are cheap, and we humans seem to like they way they smell. Commercial musks range in smell from clean, light, and slightly sweet, like clean linen, to dark and funky, replicating the real animalic musk - rank, sweaty, hairy, with a fatty sweetness. On its own, animalic musk comes close to smelling like excrement, but when mixed with other components, it becomes the butter in the sauce, the cream in the coffee, the element which transforms all the parts into a magical whole. 

Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, is a brilliant nose as well as a PhD. chemist whose area of study is aromatic plant materials. Combine his two talents with years of perfume study at ISIPCA in Versailles, and the result is thirteen fragrances from Parfums d’Empire, his niche perfume house which has become recognized for creating excellent perfumes with fascinating historical references. To date, we’ve listed two of his perfumes: Fougère Bengale, and  Ambre Russe, both rich gorgeous scents with a unique story to tell - Colonial Indian tiger-hunts, and Tsarist Russia.  

Musc Tonkin is the third PdE fragrance we’ve chosen, and it’s Corticchiato’s homage to the haunting scent of natural deer musk. He believes that the charismatic power of this musk scent is so personal, so unique to the wearer’s skin chemistry, that  it should be experienced, rather than dissected and described. As a result, there is no note list for Musc Tonkin when it’s released in December 2012 – a fact that really gets my attention, and starts my imagination working overtime.  It’s classified as a floral chypre, but what will Musc Tonkin smell like? Musky,for sure - the funky, skanky, warm, fatty, salty-skin note that I love so much in Muscs Koublaï Khän – but will it be different from MKK, which is a quiet, soft sexy skin scent? Will it be bold, spicy, leathery, woody – what? I can’t wait to sniff it.

I’m unprepared for what I smell out of the bottle. It’s completely different from what I expect. It’s bright, sharp and resinous - citrus and mossy and floral – and it confuses me, BUT, from underneath I detect the first wafts of a strong funky musky undertone, like greasy dirty hair mixed with green seaweed. As it warms on my skin over the first fifteen minutes, the animalic musk note becomes stronger, the green sensation disappears and is replaced with an odd salty fruit note, but the musk is big and powerful. It’s strangely fascinating, and totally intoxicating. I keep lifting my V-neck to get another whiff.

Into the heart, it shifts to a leathery layer, on top of soft buttery indolic florals, an accord which reminds me of Serge Lutens Une Voix Noire – it feels almost smoky and melancholic. As it dries down, Musc Tonkin never loses the musk – it is the main note – but the musk is softened and sweetened by florals, deepened and rounded with other base notes, becoming darker and more intimate. The scent begins to fold in on itself, and speaks only to me. I can’t stop smelling myself.

The dry-down lasts for several hours, the scent is there eight hours later, still rich and full, wafting bits of leather, fur, resins, and salty skin layered with wilting white blossoms. The scent moves like memories that replay after bodies are sated, spirits have touched each other, as two lie together in the blissful torpor of spent passion. It’s feels open, sexy, and tender.

Musc Tonkin is exceptional…

…”vibrant, faceted, surprising, at once nocturnal and solar, this aphrodisiac potion changes on each skin, the better to enhance it. A lick of salt for the taste of skin. A heady floral whiff to remind us that perfume links our bodies to the erotic spells of nature. A liquorous, mulled-fruit burn contrasting with a light, shimmering veil of powder…”PdE website

Musc Tonkin is all this, and more, and is so definitely worth trying. It is a concentrated parfum extrait, and was launched as a limited edition of 1000 bottles. I wish I'd bought two bottles.

Musc Tonkin is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $7.00 for 1 ml.