What Does Musk Smell Like? [Detailed Scent Guide 2024]

Written By Zarin Tasnim

Musk is a unique and distinct fragrance element that has captured the attention of perfumers for centuries. With its rich, earthy ambiance and stability, musk has been used to create some of the world’s most iconic perfumes.

Now the question is how musk smells and how it’s incorporated in fragrances.what-does-musk-smell-like

Well, I have done my research on that and over the years have tried many scents that contain this gorgeous compound.

So, if you are curious about the smell of this widely used note, tag along until the end!

What Is Musk?

Musk is a subtle, warm scent that’s been a staple base ingredient in perfume-making. Despite having a delicate characteristic, musk also has a complex range of undertones. Early on, it was secreted from animal glands. Now, it’s chemically made in laboratories and also in a 100% vegan way.

In another way, musk is what we call a “note” in the fragrance industry, that adds an essence, a tone, and an aroma of its own to the scent.

Do you know what fragrance family is musk in?

Musk has a rightful place in the amber fragrance family due to its warm and rich tone.

In nature, musky scent is connected with mating. No wonder it evokes the feeling of intimacy and sensuality. That is one of the main reasons I’m drawn to the redolence of musk.

Perfumers have been using this rare component in the making of scents since the 6th century. Interesting, isn’t it?

Now, let’s check out the origins and evolution of musk:

The Origin Of Musk

Musk has a rich history that is just as fascinating as its aroma. At first,  Tibetan natives discovered that the male deers sprayed the scent from their musk glands to mark their territory during mating seasons.

That’s how the presence of this wonderful ingredient came to light.

In the 6th century, Greek explorers uncovered musk, and thus it traveled from India to the Arabic regions. There is another saying that musk was used back in ancient Chinese medicine, where it was believed to have healing properties. I will describe it later.

As its popularity grew, musk made its way to the Middle East and Europe, becoming a highly prized ingredient in perfumes and colognes.

Obtaining natural musk was dangerous, as it came from the anal glands of musk deer or from civets found in Asian remote regions.

Hunting these creatures for their secretion was a risky and challenging job, making musk a luxury and only affordable to the wealthy.


Due to ethical concerns and difficulty in obtaining musk’s natural secretion, Albert Baur invented synthetic musk in the late 19th century. He created a musk-like odor while creating a stronger aroma, which made this expensive and mysterious component accessible to all.

Now that you know the ancestry, source, and all the deets about musk, it’s time to understand the scent of musk.

What Does Musk Smell Like?

Musk smells woody, and earthy with a warm, powdery tone.

It also has an alluring yet seductive ambiance due to its soft and somewhat sweet hunch. Musk is also described as a better version of our natural skin scent or baby’s skin.


Many say that the smell of musk is like rich leather, but that’s not the case.

It’s true that natural or animal-secreted musk has a deep, mature essence. However, synthetic musk is more subtle and radiates a more sweet and playful ambiance.

Nowadays you can source musky smell from plants like Angelica archangelica and Abelmoschus moschatus. Though it hasn’t been very popular yet.

I have noticed musk is not only used in colognes but also in perfumes, which led me to think about what female musk smell similar to?

Let me clarify. Female musk has a more clean and sweeter aura compared to the musk blended in men’s fragrances. All thanks go to the synthetic musk or white musk, which smells powdery and sweet to metallic.

I can say with confidence that musk has many different olfactory dimensions.


However, the first and foremost way to describe this scent would be soft and comforting. But that’s not the case for animal-origin ones. These are more animalistic and can smell unpleasant.

From my experience, I have tried many fragrances that contain musk such as Musc Noir For Her Narciso Rodriguez, Touch For Men By Burberry, and Prada Candy Kiss. These fragrances contain a prominent musky tone, and smell like a million bucks.

As I have described about the innovation of artificial musk. It’s time to find out how many variations of musk are out there.

Variations Of Musk In Perfumery

Nowadays, musk is a staple component in the fragrance industry, used in perfumes and colognes to add depth and longevity because it evaporates very slowly into the air.

Previously musk was collected from male musk deer’s glands. It is called black musk or deer musk.

But things took a positive turn in 1979. Several laws were brought into force to prevent musk deer hunting as they were in the verse of extinction.

So, now, it’s a synthetic chemical compound that is just like the musk collected from the glands of deers and civets, which it used without harming any animals!

Albert Baur invented synthetic musk in 1888. It is also known as white musk, and it comes in three categories.

  • Aromatic Nitro-Musks
  • Macrocyclic Musk Compounds
  • Polycyclic Musk Compounds

Whenever these are incorporated into a fragrance, they add a lot of depth and character to a scent. Now let’s explore their in-depth information.

Aromatic Nitro-Musks

Aromatic Nitro-Musks are acquired from substituted benzenes and were mostly used in soaps, body lotions, detergents, and various skin care products.

But they have a drawback. After researching, it came to light that aromatic nitro-musks disrupt the functioning of human cells and hormones. That’s why they are not used anymore.

Macrocyclic Musk Compounds

Macrocyclic Musk Compounds are the most popular among these three types, as it is used by most candle makers and perfumers.

It contains powder-like ambrettolide and floral exaltolide that smells amazing in any product and blends smoothly with other ingredients.

Polycyclic Musk Compounds

Last but not least is Polycyclic Musk Compounds. It is mainly used in laundry products because it radiates a clean and fresh aroma.

Also, its molecules don’t break down properly. That makes it a less eco-friendly musk. So, its use is also limited.

It is fascinating to see how an animal-driven product became so well known in perfume making that now it’s made artificially to satisfy its massive consumers.

What Is The Purpose Of Musk In Perfume?

So far I’ve discussed about musk’s origin, smell, and types. Musk is like a sauce that takes a fragrance to a different level because of its many objectives.


In the majority of cases, I have seen musk as a base note but, it is also included in other stages.

Let’s find out the purpose of musk in perfume:

  • Musk has a unique quality to fix and enhance the scent of a perfume. With a tiny amount, it makes the aroma more alluring.
  • Perfumers who want to add a catchy tone at the base of their creation, musk helps them to achieve that attractive vibe.
  • Musk is a fixative that makes a scent last longer. That’s why you will find it at the dry-down to give the fragrance stability on your skin and clothes.
  • The scent of musk is very dynamic. It can be used to create various types of aromas that perfumers use to play with our olfactory senses.
  • Musk is very versatile and incorporated in different styles of scents as it lifts the fragrances, making them smell much more sensual.

Musk is like a glue that holds various ingredients together and radiates to a completely different aroma. But, every component doesn’t compliment this marvelous ingredient.

So, it’s important to find which scents overlay with musk.

What Scents Layer Well With Musk?

Perfume layering is getting popular day by day, and it’s a genius concept to level up your perfume and get more sillage and projection including longevity.

Woody, earthy, and sweet scents layer perfectly with musk. If you love the soft and rich essence of sandalwood, good news for you! Because musk blends very well with sandalwood.

That’s not the end, refreshing and green elements such as white tea and mandarin also smell delightful when paired with musk.

I love the combination of cozy notes with clean ones, so the enchanting mixture of amber and musk is my go-to combo while selecting a perfume. I specifically opt for a stronger base note formation with musk as it adds depth and stays longer.

This article will be incomplete without mentioning a few fragrances that display the glory of musk and its potential.

So, read along to learn what musk smells like in perfumes and which scents did justice to this mesmerizing element.

The Best Smelling Musk Fragrances

The use of musk in fragrances has been continued for centuries, making it one of the most commonly used notes ever!

Hence, there are plenty of famous fragrances that have this earthy, powdery, comforting ingredient in their scent profile.


You might be wondering which fragrances they are – which is why I have listed a few of the best perfumes that contain musk as one of their keynotes.

So, let’s check out some amazing musky fragrances below:

Musk Therapy Initio Parfums Prives

Musk Therapy is a unisex fragrance that elevates the woody, sweet, and earthy tone of musk and white musk from the beginning. Then the delicious minty and citrusy fruits like black currant, and bergamot kicks in to brighten your mood.

As time passes, you will smell the magical luscious aura of magnolia and hedione mingling with the softness of white sandalwood. This mixture will last around 12 long hours and give you a clean, smooth, and sensual feel.

This overall composition is perfectly well-blended. So, you will find many perfumes similar to Initio Musk Therapy on the market.

Musc Ravageur Frederic Malle

Musc Ravageur by Frederic Malle is another amber scent that showcases the use of musk at the base perfectly. Its top is fresh, herbal, and tangy due to the merging of lavender with citrus fruits.

Then at the core, this vintage fragrance combines the sweet-spicy nuance of cinnamon and cloves to add depth. Finally, the base reveals the effortless mixing of musk with vanilla, tonka bean, and other woody notes to give a mesmerizing aroma. With 12 hours of lasting power, you will need a few sprays only.

If you love this scent, try out these fragrances similar to Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur for a different touch.

Versace Pour Homme Dylan Blue By Versace

Versace Pour Homme Dylan Blue by Versace is a very popular cologne where Alberto Morillas blended the refreshing hunch of bergamot and grapefruit with water notes in the beginning.

The spicy, earthy, and ambery tones become prominent in the heart and give an irresistible whiff. You will get the smoky smell of incense tuning with the boldness of musk, tonka, and saffron.

One or two sprays of this long-lasting cologne will give you a fresh and seductive aura whether you are on a dinner date or attending an event.

I have also found these colognes that smell like Versace Dylan Blue. If you want the same vibe with different ingredients, give these scents a try.

What Are The Benefits Of Musk?

From traditional medicine to high-end perfumes, musk has played an essential role in many different cultures and civilizations, making it a versatile element.

Now, its uses are quite impressive and widespread.

Besides being a staple in the perfume world, it is often used in candle-making and essential oils.

Here, I have listed some of the main benefits of musk:

  • This fantastic ingredient has a warm and comforting scent that has a calming effect on the mind, which helps to relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Musk has been shown to have a positive effect on mood, lifting spirits and improving overall well-being. So, whether you’re feeling anxious or just need a moment to unwind, musk will help you find peace.
  • The invigorating scent of musk helps to boost energy levels and increase motivation. So, if you are having a bad day, use this excellent energizer to lift your spirit.
  • Musk’s relaxing properties make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep, leading to improved sleep quality and better overall rest. So, it’s the perfect element if you want to be well-rested and feel fresh.
  • Musk has been used in some skincare products due to its moisturizing and nourishing properties, which improve skin health and appearance. It also leaves a positive impact on your skin.


What makes musk smell so good?

Musk smells good because of its skin-like sumptuous aroma. It contains chemicals like androgens (male s*x hormones), which create an attractive aroma for humans that feels seductive and desirable.

Is musk smell attractive?

Yes, the musky smell is very attractive. It has a gorgeous seductive aura which makes it sumptuous for both men and women whether used in fragrances or candles.

Which animal smells like musk?

Civet cats, musk deer, and beavers smell like musk. Because these animals naturally produce this mysterious scent.

Is real musk still used in perfume?

Yes, real musk is still used in very expensive fragrances but as its secretion process is dangerous and harmful to the animal kind, perfumers lean towards synthetic musk.

Final Thoughts

From its use in traditional medicine to its inclusion in modern-day perfumes, musk has a rich and fascinating history that is worth discovering.

Not to mention its captivating scent that gives a warm, subtle, and powdery vibe and works as an excellent base in perfumery. Additionally, it creates a sensual, and attractive aroma while blending seamlessly with floral, fruity, and other synthetic notes.

I have given you all the necessary information regarding the smell, origin, and uses of musk in perfumes through this context.

For any further queries, comment below.

About The Author
Hello, I am Tasnim, a senior content developer at 10 Fragrances. I am passionate, brave, and up for challenges. From trying new and timeless fashion trends, I gradually leaned toward the amazing world of perfume, where scents do all the talking.

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