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What Is Musk Cologne?

M. Chambers
M. Chambers

Musk cologne is a type of cologne that includes the aromatic substance known as musk as an ingredient. Typically used as a base note in perfumes and colognes, musk is a glandular secretion that comes from the musk deer. It can also be extracted from plants and made artificially, as well. Although only musk from the musk deer was used before the 19th century, it has become more common to use synthetic musk in colognes and fragrances in recent years.

The natural, traditional musk scent is obtained by taking the gland out of the musk deer and letting it dry out. The contents of the gland eventually dry to a grainy consistency, and the grains are diluted with alcohol to tone down the scent and make it pleasant to smell. The scent is commonly described as an abstract, woody scent. Depending on the potency of the musk, it can also be an earthy, rich scent which many would consider strong in odor.

Most perfumes available today are created using only white musk.
Most perfumes available today are created using only white musk.

The musky odor used in musk cologne can also be obtained from other animals such as the muskrat, musk duck, crocodile, and snake. The same process of extracting the gland and allowing it to dry out is used when obtaining the scent from other animals. When coming from different species of animals, the scent will differ slightly, but generally all will have the signature odor that is desired and used in many perfumes and colognes.

When creating musk cologne, the scent can also be extracted from certain plants that have a musky odor within their compounds. The musk flower is commonly used, and the extract may be combined with other types of musk to change the overall scent of the perfume or fragrance. Musk from plants may be used when animal sources are unavailable or undesired.

Musk cologne can also be created using artificial compounds and properties, which has become much more common after the 19th century. Synthetic musk is often referred to as white musk, and does not require the killing of an animal. Musk cologne made from artificial components is created chemically but generally has a very similar scent to that obtained from the musk deer. Even so, white musk is typically sweeter in smell and does not have the same deep, woodsy undertones as the natural variety. Most perfumes available today are created using only white musk.

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Discussion Comments


@Wisedly33 -- Natural musk is out of the question for me, too. White musk often "turns" on me, so I usually stay away from it altogether. I've been known to look up a cologne's fragrance profile online so I'll know whether it has musk in it. Phew.


White or natural, I hate musk. I have never liked it and I certainly don't like the idea of an animal giving its life for perfume.

Musk always just smells heavy and icky to me. I wouldn't knowingly wear it.

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    • Most perfumes available today are created using only white musk.
      By: Liv Friis-larsen
      Most perfumes available today are created using only white musk.