Thursday, July 03, 2008

Getting Your Goat - Perfume Musk that is Fragrance without Guilt

Back in 2006, I revealed that I was using a
new form of animal musk scent in my perfumes, one that was tinctured from the hair of a rutting billy goat. The adorable goat, Frontrunner, donated some of the hair from the area where his scent glands are located, which is the top of his head. Tinctured in organic alcohol, the reminiscent-of-goat-cheese scent quickly gave up its muskiness and later debuted in my Pan perfume which was created in honor of the Goat God Pan.

Roundly mocked by some for this bold step, I have to smile now, after hearing they're all picking up on the goat hair, evaluating different tinctures as if they were fine wine. I don't get that carried away - this stuff really stinks, and it is the skill of the perfumer in figuring how to blend it that I believe has made Pan perfume such a runaway hit. Words like warm, sexy, pheromonic, and "I had a crowd gather around me, and they obviously loved the perfume" or phrases to that effect were sent back to me. I cannot eat goat cheese, it makes me gag, and I could never wear a perfume with a noticeable goat cheese scent, but Pan is all herbal and has a touch of fruit from a special lavender, and they hay makes you just feel all cozy.....and the sensual trip is on - just what I wanted to achieve.

I've also tinctured the hair from the back haunches of rutting billy boats - Harry and Mike - and they're also being used in Pan now - imperceptible to the nose, but more of a hit than ever. This tincture smells more like true musk deer musk. The gland of the musk deer is not used in perfumery anymore due to the cruel manner in which it is collected - the deer is often killed. There are Chinese farms that now extract the gland via laparoscopic surgery, but those musk grains are used in Chinese medicine, and tightly regulated.

Why the fascination with musky scents anyway? Salaam - Dominique Dubrana - a perfumer as much as a philosopher - often writes on how humans evolved on this planet with animals, and their warm, musky scents are built into our engrammes - our brain chemistry wiring - and we are subtly, inextricably pulled to that stranger across the room - by this animalic call that reaches our limbic brain faster than a wild mountain goat can scamper up a cliff.

The musk scent need not be perceptible in the perfume to be effective - that is the key. My Pan contains a minuscule amount of the tincture. An experienced hand knows when to be light.

FiveOaks, a lovely commentator on a perfume forum kindly said about my bold move:
"Very interesting about the goats and NJ's avant-garde use of goat hair. I have a feeling goats are coming into their own today. Around here there are lots of goat-milk soaps and cosmetic lines. Goat milk and its cheeses are very popular not only in specialty food stores but in mainstream supermarkets, and now they're making their way into perfumery. Goats may just be the answer to reintroducing non-violent animal notes into perfumes. Let's hear it for goats!"

David on the same forum gave a shout-out: You go, girl! :-) Thank you for your ingenious and humane innovations."

But maybe I wasn't so avant garde or ingenious - perhaps, with the prodding of Salaam - I merely found a subconscious link back to our fragrant history. From a blog on labdanum: The second method of harvest utilized the herds of goats that are so prevalent in this part of the world. "As the goats browsed on rockroses, the oil accumulated in their beards. Each year the long beards of the goats were cut and the oil extracted. For the pharaohs, the false beards glued to the chin were in fact these ladanum-rich goat beards which would surround the man with the desired scent. This is origin of the name for such facial hair, the goatee."

Who knew?!

We know they like much stronger scents back then, and the strong goat scent was welcome - not in my Pan, sorry! A bit too ripe, like an aged goat cheese, it would not be welcome at most public functions.

One thing that did worry me a bit after I spoke with a microbiologist was the fact that bacteria and fungi could live - perhaps - in 95-proof ethanol. I couldn't understand this, still don't actually, especially since supposedly they wouldn't thrive in 70-proof ethanol. So I had the tincture and Pan tested, and they were found to be microbiologically clean. Phew.

I mean, people drink raw goat milk and eat raw goat cheese all the time, and if there were a lot of episodes of microbial problems I suppose we would know about it - not that you could *ever* get me to eat or drink the stuff

But a little dab or spritz of Pan? Heavenly, soft, warm, sexy - and an ancient pheronomic light goes on inside, and the game is on. After all, isn't that what perfume is all about?

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