One Thousand Scents

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

To The Cleaners: L'Artisan Parfumeur Mûre et Musc Extrême

Putting a scent in laundry detergent used to pose something of a problem, because the harsh cleaner in detergent would wreak havoc with the scent molecules. Synthetic musk provided a solution: large, stable molecules that smelled good to people, that wouldn't be broken down by the detergent in storage or in use, and that would remain on the clothes to give evidence that they were clean. The use of these synthetic musks was expanded to virtually every household product: they're in toothpastes, other cleaners, shampoo and conditioner, everything that requires a scent, which is to say everything. As a result, something which in its natural form has a rather earthy animalic smell now irrevocably has connotations of extreme cleanliness to North Americans and Europeans. The natural consequence of this is that fragrances which contain a large quantity of synthetic musk--which is essentially the only kind in use today, since natural musk requires the killing of endangered animals--smell hygienic and decontaminated to us, often to the point of being reminiscent of shampoo or soap. Truly animalic musk scents are still being created--Serge Lutens Muscs Khoublai Khan is one--but for the most part, when a commercial scent is based on musk, we're going to associate it with cleanliness.

"Mûre" is the French word for "blackberry". In the eighties, a synthetic blackberry note called beta damascone and its various chemical relatives (with various fruit scents such as raspberry, grape, and plum) was used in quantity in the room-filling Poison by Dior, and by the mid-nineties they were everywhere. When you smell a strong, distinctive dark-berry note, that's what you're smelling.

L'Artisan Parfumeur Mûre et Musc Extrême has the exact smell of a freshly and thoroughly laundered jar of jam.

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