Think of the word ‘Musk’, and the universe transmutes into a Musk Pod, and a nameless aroma engulfs all. Yes, this is what Musk actually does. Musk, by nature is a fragrance. Its creation is to mesmerise and gravitate the olfactory, and then make one run to the origin, madly, lovingly and blindly. It is not a kind of safety measure- resin or gum- taken by a musk deer to protect itself from some possible danger. It is a sacred call of love. And in Sufic tradition ‘Musk’ is the symbol of divine love. Not a man-made or a man-distilled fragrance; it is the way the Creator created it. Ever intact. No dead mechanical techniques involved at all.
Once a house was constructed, and the unprecedented thing about that house was the cement used in its construction. No cement, but Musk. The scent of the scents! And the house was the house of God- Mosque. And the country was Spain. And the time period was the Medieval Era. The authoress- Anya H. King- of the book “The Scent of the Garden of Paradise: Musk and the Medieval Islamic World”, has written in detail about that very mosque in Spain.
Nature as such is ample and mysteriously fragrant, but human olfactory is limited enough to grasp the mystery in its entirety. Preferences and estimations are the logical outcome of that. Putting aside personal preferences, some fragrances are bestowed supremacy over others. It might sound weird and a biased one, but it is. Sacred traditions are there to establish this fact. Especially in Islamic Tradition, Musk is metaphysically and spiritually superior to all fragrances. This is ‘Misk’ that has been mentioned in a Quranic verse. Of course, it means something. One may contradict, but as per Islamic tradition, the holy scripture- the Quran- has precedence over all other references. Life has certain plains/ domains. The very fire of life determines the supremacy of one creation to others. The flame of life in animal kingdom is superior to the flame of life in vegetation.
Musk had ever been the nucleus of Oriental cosmos of fragrances. Whenever the top-class fragrance was sought after, that had been none other than Musk. Of course, it could not be used to fumigate, the way Oudh had been burnt to fumigate homes. But, when we try to find out about wearing a fragrance in Oriental civilisation, Musk is there to greet the researcher first. Oriental poetic sensibility regards Musk aroma more than an appropriate symbol to relate it to one’s beloved. (The concept of beloved in Eastern poetry is NOT to be considered equivalent to the one present in post Renaissance Western poetry.)
Its rarity is a universally acknowledged fact, both in terms of acquiring pure Musk grains and in terms of unequaled aroma. Yes, unrivalled and incomparable. It would remain a sacred secret. Incomparability is what exists nowhere else. Well, it, Musk, cannot be equated with some other fragrances at all, but the other fragrances are defined in terms of being ‘musky’ to establish their quality. Oud can be ‘musky’, but Musk cannot be ‘oudy’. Incomparability! Relating one particular fragrance to some other fragrances is a modern phenomenon. While, the traditional man, and now the man of tradition, was/is conscious about the effect on soul. Tickling brain cells was and is not something extraordinary. Oud is the best among herbal, woody, floral, citrusy fragrances. Established fact it is. And in Oud Universe, Hindi is the best among the best. Again, a universally acknowledge truth it is. When Musk comes, Kashmiri Musk aroma has precedence over the other Musk aromas. Siberian, Tibetan and Kashmiri! More than visible difference is there. Siberian is extremely sweet an a little animalic, and Tibetan is sweetly animalic. Both are the aromas generally named ‘feminine’ in perfumery. While the Kashmiri Musk is overwhelmingly deep, and its darkness is a sort of twilight. It is an ocean without shore and ‘the essence of all essences- itr ul utoor’. It is not the matter of preference at all. Frequency of the aroma testifies it. Just keep Siberian, Tibetan and Kashmiri Musk grains in different uncapped jars, and then let the aroma cast its spell. Kashmiri Musk aroma leads the other two. Masculinity, exuberance and grace always lead. If someone wants to be fully soaked in pure and pure Musk aroma, no maceration can do, but the grains. Uncap the jar, and the rest will be done by those grains. No need to bury one’s nose into the jar. The Musk laden waves would caress one and whisper: “Lo, I’m Musk, and I wish if you could withstand!” It is to be heeded. If it is to be macerated, Sandal is its best buddy. I cannot go for any other sandal oil but Mysore Sandal. Whatever the age and origin of the wood and oil are. Only Mysore Sandal is there that is created for Musk. Macerating it in Oud requires very refined sense of proportion- aesthetic sense. Generally, it is believed that some sweet Oud oils e.g. Malaysian are the best oils to have the best aromatic synergy. It is what is generally believed. But it is not the end of life. Experimentation reveals Ceylon Oud, Mysuru Santal and Jasmine are the oils worth-macerating in Musk. Just try!
Availability of Musk is a big question. But, how true is Paulo Coelho: “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” One who has cultivated one’s innate thirst for the Oscent, I mean the one who is a fragrance alchemist, is destined to find the alchemy, Musk. Siberian, Nepali, Tibetan and Kashmiri Musks are surely available, though not on the market. But it is available. Neither Musk, nor Oud has met its end. Tibetan Musk is present as well. The availability totally depends upon the area that species belongs to. The difficult ones to acquire are Kashmiri Musk and Tibetan Musk. One thing for sure, purity and authenticity of Musk grains on the market is the only equation more than intricate and complex. One must differentiate between Musk and something musky. Most of the oils are just musky, and the enthusiasts sprint hard to acquire without giving it a second thought that something pleasant to olfactory, better say just nostrils, is not necessarily pure Musk. If pure grains are macerated, the amount of grains macerated in oil is a big question. If one-gram Musk grains are thrown into 30 to 50-gram oil, it can serve only one purpose: to swear that pure Musk grains are there. But getting ‘Musk Feel’ will be a sort of hallucination. No more. Majority of Musk based oils, in Sandal or Oud, are without a clear-cut statement about the amount of Musk in the oil/s being offered.
Oudyssey is in reality a sacred journey from Oudwood to Oud oil. Otherwise, the wearers are bound to believe what the vendors say. Without having Musk grains and then without being all ear to Musk aroma, it is almost impossible to vouch for the purity of some Musk oil.
Musk is a fragrant black hole. It gives meaning to the universes of fragrances, but it itself is a mystery as its aroma is free from prefixes and suffixes. Musk … Nirvanic Bliss!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Ouddict community.