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I wanted to list some products I especially used, or even discovered in 2014. I picked up the rarest, most strange/exotic, or simply very useful raw materials, synthetics or naturals.

Cassie absolute (Acacia farnesiana): the key ingredient in a true-to-nature leather accord. Extremely powerful. Smells green, foliage (with hints of cabbage on topnotes), then it dries down on a powdery, dry, acidic, fatty hearth. Reminiscent of tanned leather. It is quite difficult to dose as the material has tendency to give off unpleasant topnotes (my personal opinion), difficult to mask in a simple composition.

Musk Z4 (IFF): the same molecule as Exaltenone (Firmenich), but slightly more animalic, less sandalwoody, more close to Exaltone, with its metallic, extremely fine powdery facets. Quite powerful, more than Exaltone. Interesting to note that Musk Z4 solidifies at room temp (20° C), while Exaltenone is in the liquid state.

Styrax resinoid: solvent, toluene, styrene-like topnotes, sweet and sharp. Slightly leathery (oldfashioned “cuir”), mineral, cinnamic, rubbery heartnotes. Sweeter, incensey upon drying. Interesting with floral notes (rose, orange flower).

Cypriol essence: a nice replacer for agarwood (aquillaria spp. extracts), with bitter, green terpenic topnotes, rhubarb, vetiver-like, leathery. Quite powerful and longlasting, powdery, incense, sandalwood-like in the dryout. You can smell this orange, amber-coloured product in certain oud blends.

Mate absolute: a beautiful green, tea topnote. Bitter, dark, dense, smokey, very close to cured tobacco leaves upon drying. In the dryout it nicely resembles oakmoss absolute, with salicylate tones.

Fatty acids esters: oily odour, at times slightly rancid, very interesting in leather accords and floral reconstitutions (mimosa, for instance). They are: Methyl/Ethyl linolenate, Ethyl laurate, Ethyl ricinoleate.

Muskrat glands: in the 60s Arctander explained how this material was suggested as a musk deer replacer during WW II in the USA, but lacked the power of the original product. I wanted to try out this one and ordered some from a Russian supplier. Well, it doesn’t resemble musk deer in any way that could encourage its use as a replacer. It lacks the civet-like, animalic, skatolic notes found in the more prized material. It lacks its fine, well rounded, rich, powdery body. It smells less dirty, more fleshy, quite unpleasantly fatty and dry. It is more sebum-like. I am planning another order and I would like to suggest a different drying method.
Muskrat glands are said to contain Exaltone (a molecule very close to muscone). I am not so sure to smell it in my product, but I can guess it is there.

Silvanone Supra (Givaudan): a mixture of cyclopentadecanone and cyclohexadecanone
Romanone Extra (ACL Aromatics)

synonyms: nor-muscone, apo-muscone

Natural identical (found in muskrat).

Not to be confused with Exaltenone or Exaltolide.

White crystals.

Warm, diffusive musky, extremely fine, faceted, powdery, animal, greasy, natural musk-like odour.

Quite similar in odour to muscone, but more powerful and animal.

Nitromusks are sometimes defined as “animal”. While I quite agree on the fact that they possess a musk deer facet (they are warm and powdery, but also radiant, with some musky floralness) they don’t possess a truely dirty, greasy character.

Exaltone strikes with its greasy, warm animal musky odour.

@10% it is less dirty, more nuanced, somewhat metallic and much more similar to his brother muscone, or to exaltolide.

@1% finer. Best dilution. Every facet blooms and one can fully appreciate its elegant details: quite powdery, sort of ‘metallic’ (in a way that it recalls me of exaltolide), but still quite greasy and softly animal.

It is quite pricey, but is worth its weight in gold. I definitely love this molecule. And actually it costs about 3 times more than muscone (about the price of a jasmine absolute). This is the most astounding musk odourant I’ve ever smelled.

It was first synthesized in the 20’s (1926 patent, Chuit & Naef, Firmenich today) by L. Ruzicka, in an attempt to find a good substitute for natural musk. Exaltone is chemically very close to muscone; it only has one methyl function less.

In the 1927 “Notice sur l’Exaltone et autres produits à odoeur de musc”, it is explained why the name ‘Exaltone’ was chosen:

L’effet produit par l’exaltone dans une composition est le même que celui provoqué par le musc : son odeur s’allie merveilleusement à celle des autres produits de la composition et, contrairement à ce qui se produit avec l’emploi du “musc artificiel”, le résultat forme un ensemble des plus harmonieux; c’est justement en raison de sa propriété heureuse non seulement d’affiner, mais également et surtout d’exalter le parfum des compositions, que nous lui avons donné le nom d’exaltone.

Exaltone is capable of ‘exalting’ a composition and this property seemed to make this product a valuable candidate for replacing natural musk.

Reading this booklet one could get the feeling that natural musk extracts were not much prized for their “animal” odour, they would also have introduced unwanted, ammoniacal, rotting notes. The interest was in the smoothing, exalting effect coming from their musky odourants (such as muscone or civettone). A feeling that I also get when working with civet. However I am convinced that animal, greasy, dirty notes are sometimes really wanted and synthetical musks wouldn’t suffice alone (I am thinking about cuir, leather fragrances, or old chypres).

muscone-exaltone

Muscone and Exaltone seem at first quite different products, olfactively. The odour of muscone when pure is almost difficult to perceive (as many other musks). Exaltone, on the other hand, is a solid at room temperature and its odour when smelled pure is strongly musky, animal and greasy and quite powerful.

However, upon dilution the differences are smoothed down. They are quite similar, indeed. Muscone is rounder and, obviously, more true-to-nature. Exaltone, very similar to muscone, powdery, musky, rather sweet, has darker tones, a greasy accent and nice projection.

Interesting enough, Exaltone was eventually found in nature in the muskrat glands.

Very viscous (glucose-like consistency), colourless liquid.

Very often sold diluted at 50% in DEP, DPG, IPM, BB, etc. (hence the specification in the title)

Standard musk smelling, soft, long-lasting. Without any particular complexity, very linear.

Often used at very high % in perfume compositions: from 10-50% in the fragrance concentrate, in some cases even more), for its good performance (long lastiness, projection) and low cost. Its olfactive transparency explains pretty well how easy is to overdose this product.

Olfactively it is the kind of musk that smells “clean”, not surprisingly, since it is very much appreciated in functional perfumery (to a lesser extent today, when biodegradability concerns arise for this musk).
Indeed, it doesn’t possess any “animal”, dirty facet (unlike the surprisingly beautiful Exaltone, aka Romanone Extra or Silvanone Supra). But I think that the “clean” adjective is still quite misleading. I invite you to thoroughly study civet absolute (@1%) and compare it with the “clean” smelling civettone (the musky molecule found in civet). You will understand how, a part from the faecal, skatole-like accents of civet, the interesting and animalic notes are built upon the shining muskiness of civettone. Musks really add a third dimensions to animal odours and are a part of them.

It also doesn’t fit into the “powdery” musk category.

It is more close to the ambrette seed-like musks, like ambrettolide, Helvetolide, Romandolide, ethylene brassylate etc. with his sweet floralcy and velvety seedy woodiness.

In my essays I was often surprised how good this product performs in alcoholic perfumery, from 5% to 20%. It adds depth, wearability, without changing too much the odour profile of the composition. Surely, it is quite a “cheap”, boring choice in fine perfumery, were high price should account for quality or inventivness (some more interesting and original musks are available, but they can be pricey).

Needless to say, it blends perfectly well with almost any fragrance material. In my personal experience (the exception that proves the rule): I found it ugly and hard to blend with ambery-labdanum compositions, where an old-fashioned richness, opulence, thick sweetness is required. In this case Galaxolide (and similar musks) are to be used cautiously at low %, in order not to introduce a transparent, light verticalness that doesn’t fit very well (nitromusks, Muscenone, would fit better).


It has been suggested that Romandolide could replace Galaxolide.

I very much enjoy Romandolide and think that it closely resembles Galaxolide under various aspects.  Romandolide is slightly powdery, more ambrettolide-like, whereas Galaxolide bears some resemblance to Exaltolide. Romandolide has a particular green-bitter and metallic topnote that I find rather interesting for a musk, while Galaxolide is more neutral.

Romandolide also is quite cost-effective. Unfortunately, I am not able to speak about its performance in functional perfumery (where it could be an interesting asset), since this field requires a particular experience I don’t have.

I will test thoroughly the differences and similarities between the two musks (in alcoholic media) and post my thoughts in some months.