Jovan Musk for Women, White Musk, and Coty Vanilla Musk ~ fragrance review

Jovan White Musk

A week of reviews of drugstore fragrances wouldn't be complete without a rundown of a few inexpensive musks, and reviews of drugstore musks wouldn't be complete without Jovan and Coty. Lucky for me, a nearby Walmart stocks a gift box with 11 ml bottles of Jovan Musk for women, Jovan White Musk, and Coty Vanilla Musk Eaux de Cologne.

Jovan Musk for women has been a drugstore staple since it was introduced in 1972. Jovan's website lists its notes as jasmine, neroli, bergamot oils, and musk. Of the three musks, Musk for women is the lady. Musk for women is a slightly aldehydic, floral musk. The aldehydes fade fast, but the bergamot persists quietly as the musk ramps up, and I swear I smell a smidgen of lavender giving Musk for women's lushness a clean edge. The first time I wore Musk for women, I thought of the smell left after a hot shower with a floral soap. I smell kinship with Guerlain Vega, too, although I haven't tried them side by side.

Maybe encouraged by Musk for women's success, Jovan launched White Musk in 1990. The Jovan website lists White Musk's notes as jasmine, ylang ylang, honeysuckle, musk, "soft words", and amber. The result is a light, "teen" version of Musk for women, sharing Musk's gentle aldehydic lift and floral heart, but with more powder and honey than its older sister. As White Musk dries down, its musky base amplifies and the teen scent suddenly loses her interest in horses and Nancy Drew to cat around in midriff-exposing shirts at the mall. If I were to compare it to a niche fragrance, I'd choose Serge Lutens Clair de Musc. Like Musk for women, White Musk Eau de Cologne lasts three hours tops.

Although I like Musk for women and tolerate White Musk, for me Coty Vanilla Musk was the winner in the gift pack. (Coty owns Jovan, which explains why a Coty musk was packaged with the Jovan musks.) Riding the public's seemingly unending lust for musk, Coty released Vanilla Musk in 1994. Vanilla Musk is an uncomplicated blend of orange, vanilla, musk, sandalwood, and patchouli, and at first sniff it reminded me of Frédéric Malle Musc Ravageur. I compared Vanilla Musk and Musc Ravageur side by side, and of course Musc Ravageur was more complex, with androgynous depth and a Shalimar-like, camphorous opening. Plus, while Musc Ravageur was going strong, Vanilla Musk had faded to a vague trail of patchouli. But, at less than a tenth the price, Vanilla Musk is worth a try.

I took the musks to Montana Chad's in Billings, Montana for some two-stepping, and here Vanilla Musk was the winner, too. It felt just right in the company of cigarette smoke, cheap beer, and covers of songs like "Tequila Makes Her Take Her Clothes Off". The drugstore musks' fancier cousins will have to wait for symphony tickets. .

Note: image via Parfum de Pub.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    White Musk is one of my staples for cool weekend days when I'm running errands or just hanging with friends. I generally go with the body spray which lasts most of the day and has more powder than the cologne.

  2. Anonymous says:

    White Musk always reminds me of college – if my friends weren't wearing Eternity, they were wearing White Musk! I love the way it smells on other people. It is such a warm fuzzy scent.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Nice tip on the body spray, thanks!

  4. Anonymous says:

    It sounds like you don't like how it smells on yourself, though! I'm not wild about it on me, but I like it well enough on other people, too.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone remember their “Whisper of Musk”? That was my favorite back in high school….a very long time ago, lol. I've moved on and branched out, but I still have a soft spot for warm, musky scents.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I don't remember that one. I have seen Night Musk and Wild Musk, though. Musks sure are popular.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The Billing's bar at the end of your post cracked me up; my sister lives in MA and while I haven't visited Montana Chad's, I picture it perfectly. :)

    This has been my summer of musk; just can't get enough for some reason. Through sampling and swapping I've tried at least 20 in the last few months, from Musc Rav (my favorite so far) to Ava Luxe (overwhelming variety in this line.) But honestly, I've never tried Coty Vanilla Musk. I think it'll be next. Jovan was ubiquitous in high school, and some variety of *Musk Oil* that came in a black botte with an eyedropper for an applicator. Everybody had one. I think the smell was supposed to cover the smell of marijuana smoke on the body, the same way nag champa incense supposedly covered pot smoke in the air. Oh, that was one thick smell! I never cared much for Charlie which was popular at the same time, but I know that one whiff of that Musk Oil would snap me right back to my junior year. Such fun stuff to read, Angela, thanks!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I'd love to know what you think of Vanilla Musk, especially since you're a fan of Musc Ravageur. Musc R is definitely in a whole different class from Vanilla Musk, but Vanilla Musk has some of the same vibe.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Body Shop White Musk is my preference over Jovan White Musk. I haven't worn Jovan in years… I'll have to find some time to smell it again.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Maybe we need to have a White Musk showdown.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Rosarita, is that Coty Wild Musk Oil that you're thinking of?

  12. Anonymous says:

    The ubiquitous musk fragrance of my junior high was the body shop's white musk. That and dewberry were very popular. I could smell the dewberry down the hall! I still love the dewberry, though it's more of a smell than a perfume. Of the Jovan and Coty's, my favorite is the vanilla musk too. It's fun.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I've often tried to wear it, and other musk based fragrances too, but musks in general don't work on me. A little bit at the bottom of a fragrance can be ok, but they never work for me as major notes. I think this is also because, as I recently discovered, I am anosmic to most musks. I can smell White Musk, but then again, I can never know for sure if I'm actually smelling “all of it.”

  14. Anonymous says:

    For drugstore stuff, these don't bother me. I think I may actually like Vanilla Musk.
    I went to the drugstore last week out of boredom and played with some of these. Has anyone smelled Cherry Vanilla? And there is a knock-off of Light Blue. The things I learned there….

  15. Anonymous says:

    I forgot all about Dewberry! That sure brings back memories.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Cherry Vanilla sounds pretty dessert-y to me, but you never know.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I couldn't smell much of White Musk initially, except for a powdery floral smell, and I wondered if I was anosmic to some of the musk, too. But once it settled, no problem.

  18. Anonymous says:

    It's strange, I don't think I like it but it smells just like something else, it could easily be relaunched as a some expensive gourmand.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Now I really want to try it!

  20. Anonymous says:

    I don't know! It was in a black bottle with a silver label, and Musk Oil in black letters. Gosh, I haven't thought of it in years! We bought it at the drug store, which iirc was Rexall Drugs – there was no Walgreens or big box stores. Does that description sound like Coty Wild Musk Oil?

  21. Anonymous says:

    This idea sent me googling, and I discovered *the original natural Musk Oil perfume* from Cabot laboratories. It's apparent claim to fame is that it *smells different on everyone*. The bottle now has a black label with silver letters – maybe it always did? Anyway, I'm sure this is the same stuff. Thanks for piquing my interest, I'm glad I found this although I have no intention of revisiting; I remember all too well how it smelled, and Musc Rav it was NOT.

  22. Anonymous says:

    You found it! Well, some memories are best left undisturbed, and Cabot musk oil may well be one.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Well, that was *cough cough* more than 20 years ago.

    You can all erase that from memory now. :D

  24. Anonymous says:

    Don't worry, being that I'm only *ahem* 29, I can't remember every little drugstore musk out there…

  25. Anonymous says:

    ..but… but… but… no review on Coty Wild Musk? I never tried the others – Alyssa Ashley's Musk and Coty Wild Musk have been my drugstore scores since I was a teen.

  26. Anonymous says:

    I know! It didn't come in my three-pack, so I didn't review it. Bonne Bell musk is left out, too (if they still make that one).

  27. Anonymous says:

    Angela wrote: “…its musky base amplifies and the teen scent suddenly loses her interest in horses and Nancy Drew to cat around in midriff-exposing shirts at the mall.”

    You are so funny – I love reading your stuff! I wore Jovan Musk (the original) for a while in the early 70's (I thought earlier than that, but it couldn't have been). I have a clear, fond memory of the fragrance.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Thank you! The original Jovan musk is really nice, and I'm glad to have a small bottle.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Yikes, this Cabot Laboratories is just a few miles down the road from me in Carpinteria, CA. Now you've gone and done it… I'm curious! I have to confess I'm really not good at identifying musks, though I own Mure et Musc.

    Thanks for another fun review, Angela. Can't wait to read what you review next.

  30. Anonymous says:

    How funny, I'd never heard of Jovan's Musk until it popped up on a e-store newsletter on special offer. So I ordered a bottle on a whim as I used to be a typical teenage fan of Body Shop's 'White Musk' and thought I'd see how it compared.
    And… it's really *nice*. Not amazing, not anything to make you stand out in a crowd but a nice don't-know-what-else-to-wear or Sunday afternoon scent.
    (It's my birthday today and the boyfriend took my unsubtle hint and bought me the Ormonde Jayne tester kit. God, I *heart* expensive perfume :-D )

  31. Anonymous says:

    You should poke your head around at Cabot and report back! I wonder what a musk oil laboratory looks like, anyway.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Happy birthday! I adore Ormonde Jayne, and I'd love to know which ones you end up liking best.

  33. Anonymous says:

    “Skin” musk by Bonne Bell is no longer made by them. Parfum de Coeur makes it now.

    FWIW, Sarah Jessica Parker bought all the last of the bottles (a warehouse full) of Skin oil from Bonne Bell. She uses it in the layering of her own signature scent.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Hi Angela. Haven't tried the three musks in your article, but I wore Coty Wild Musk off and on for years. Funny – I wear many different scents, from mass market to niche, with Coty Wild Musk as the cheapest of the bunch (don't currently own it, but may have to go out and pick up a bottle after reading your review)! Anyway, in the late 90's every time I wore Coty Wild Musk, my boyfriend at the time would go crazy over it. I could wear any of my other more expensive scents, and he wouldn't have much reaction; but Coty Wild Musk? He loved it. Ironic, huh? He liked the cheapest scent I owned!!!! Kind of depressed me. Ha ha. I admit I like the scent, but it disappears within an hour! At that price, though, doesn't hurt to keep spraying it. Ha ha.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like I'll have to stick to Jovan and Coty!

  36. Anonymous says:

    Coty Wild Musk sounds like a crowd pleaser, and sometimes that's the way to go! Can you believe I haven't smelled it yet? I'll have to remedy that.

  37. Anonymous says:

    oh! i have been hunting for inexpensive musk scents for the past two months. Finally you review them! I've ordered Jovan Musk for Women and Alyssa Ashley Musk Oil from ebay yesterday and looking forward to trying them.

    i live in hong kong so i have almost zero choice of “drug store” perfume. But girls back in high school did wear Body Shop White Musk, which I found a bit too floral, heady and synthetic, though i own a body mist myself!

    thanks for the great review! after you compared white musk with SL's CdM and vanilla musk with MR, i think i should try them both, no?

  38. Anonymous says:

    Definitely try them! I think it's a must for you given your interest in musks.

  39. Anonymous says:


    haha! i was not particularly interested in musk coz i found the soapy musk ppl wear is too simple and the animalic one too powerdful! but then in the heat of summer, i need a skin scent! though i think the best choice will be Hermes' Un Jardin Après La Mousson!!

  40. Anonymous says:

    You're a classy gal.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Well, I've now cogitated and deliberated over my Ormonde Jayne sample set and the results are:

    1. Ormonde Woman

    2. Orris Noir

    Joint 3rd: Tolu & Ta'if

    4. All the others

    There's not one perfume I even dislike a tiny bit in there. They are all the most beautifully blended scents – and are the perfect demonstration to my bf why I love perfume as I'ev stuck my wrist under his nose after each trial and his general response is 'wow!' Even he's raving about the Ormonde Man and he *never* wears aftershave!

    Ormonde Woman just pipped Orris Noir as I could wear it anytime, anywhere (to quote Martini!) – it's everything I could want from a perfume – sexy yet subtle, comforting but refreshing – I don't know how she does it but I'm in love! In fact, despite the rather delicate state of my finances I'm about to hit the 'order' button from the website because I have to have some!

    Orris Noir is definately an evening only (or maybe depths of winter?) scent. On me, it has echos of Comme des Garcons No.2 (another favourite of mine). I absolutely love it but I know I'll get much more wear out of Ormonde Woman. Perhaps one for the Christmas list?!

    Tolu and Ta'if are both lovely but not quite individual enough when compared to the previous two. Tolu – I had definate echos of Shalimar – but more refined. Ta'if was the most gorgeous heavy rose scent but I don't think I'd wear it that often.

    All the others were probably a little too floral/aqua/pretty for me. I'm much more of an oriental/woodsy kind of girl. Next time I'm in London and have the time I am going in there to caress the bottles and soak up the ambience.

    Now, where did I put my credit card!?!? :-D

  42. Anonymous says:

    Ormonde Woman is my favorite, too. I really love it. I also really like Champaca, especially when the weather is warmer. As you say, there isn't a dud in the bunch.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Hi I am an Italian woman that around 20 years ago has known an American soldier that was 20 years old in that time and that the soldier did to the Nato barracks in Vicenza (Italy). Many others and he his friends had a perfume that he remembered a lot the talc and the musk, a good perfume of clean. According to me it was a typical perfume that the American boys used since that time and since I liked as and I would like to smell again that fragrance. I am making some searches asking some names of perfumes that could perhaps use the most greater part of the boys of that time. Someone on yahoo answer has recommended me white musk for man, could help me and to know how to tell me if could have that fragrance that have described above?! Thanks thousand. If by chance some other name comes to mind it tries to write me it

  44. Anonymous says:

    It could also be the regular musk–Jovan Musk for men. You can find it in most drugstores in the U.S., but I don't know how common it is in Italy. Good luck rediscovering the fragrance!

  45. Anonymous says:

    I remember seeing this a month or two ago while moping around the local Wal-Mart. I was off the next day, and I couldn't think of anything better to do than to, so I went straight to the perfume aisle and took a look around. It makes me think of my father's aunts who BATHE in this stuff (I haven't heard so much from her sister, Carol, who preaches the Gospel of Avon since selling their products). It took me right back to holiday dinners with them, complete with smoke clouds and and dirty jokes choking all the life around the stagnating air.

  46. Anonymous says:

    I love this story! Jovan fits right in with it, too.

  47. Anonymous says:

    i am a big shalimar fan, but was completely obsessed with a drugstore brand- parfums de coeur's vanilla musk, which ws discontinued several years ago. i have tried the brand's other scents but they do not compare, and have tried having perfume made for me that smells like the vanilla musk, and have tried high and low end, but nothing comes close. i thought i would see if anyone here has an idea?

  48. Anonymous says:

    And the Coty Vanilla Musk doesn't work either? I wonder if layering a vanilla, like L'Artisan Vaniglia or one of a dozen vanillas out there, with a musk, like Lutens Clair de Musc, or even Parfums de Coeur Sexiest Musk, would work? Good luck.

  49. Anonymous says:

    thanks angela, i will try thes and report back!

  50. Anonymous says:

    i just took advantage of a *3 for 10 dollar* (!) deal at CVS on JOVAN/COTY fragrances as gifts for my mom, who, bless her heart, loves to open lots of prezzies on Christmas and doesn't care if they are expensive :) (i used to love to get a bottle of Love's Baby Soft or Sweet Honesty as a young teen on XMAS morning!) i was a bad girl and GENTLY opened all the fragrances first to test them…

    i got Adidas pure something, the original JOVAN musk, and a Vanilla Fields (they had the white musk but there was something about it i didn't like)…after smelling the drydowned musk on the cardboard, i was struck by how close it seemed to the “soapy-clean” shower smell i am always wanting to find in a fragrance, and have spent considerable time and effort trying to source in fragrance samples i have purchased from scentedmonkey (what a name)…

    anyway, the aldehyde, which is NOT my favorite, indeed fades, leaving a soapy clean. i think this might be my cheap and chic buddy for a while…and mom is going to have to only get two bottles of fragrance instead of three this holiday lol!

  51. Anonymous says:

    What a great deal! And it's always nice to have a “cheap and chic buddy” as you so eloquently put it.

  52. Anonymous says:

    …two days later, i am wondering if i have to reassess my feelings on this frag…however, i think some of it might have been “user error”.

    first of all, what fragrance is on your clothes from direct spraying, the aldehyde does not seem to go away as much as on your skin, so bear that in mind before you consider this a good “closet-spray” frag (for which, by the way, Oxygene is absolutely fabulous)

    secondly, a little of this frag goes a LONG way…it's pretty strong to my nose, so don't overapply until you see how it works on you…

    it seems to last a LONG time as well, and that combined with my over-application, and the muddled-up aging of the fragrance (some of it on my clothes, some of it on me) sickened me for an entire day. after my senses get a break from the overwhelm i will give this another, much more conservative, try.

    today i am wearing a D&G Light Blue (women) sample and liking it quite a bit. reminds me of my usual fave, oxygene, but with a strong grapefruit start, which goes more to the middle after only about ten minutes.

  53. Anonymous says:

    Yikes! I've definitely been sickened by fragrances, so you have my sympathy. At least it didn't cost a lot. D&G Light Blue sounds like a good antidote.

  54. RavynG says:

    I doubt anyone will see this post as it is almost 4 years old–but is there anything out there that has the dirty sharpness to it that Coty’s WILD MUSK had? I hated Jovan when I was a teenager–it was too sweet and syrupy, but WILD MUSK was sharp and clearer. I am not looking for vanilla either–but it may be my only option from Coty…

    • Angela says:

      As Antje below says, SSS is great. Also, there are a lot of department store musks out there, and some of them are pretty good! Walgreens usually has testers. Plus, doesn’t Coty still make Wild Musk?

  55. Antje says:

    Hello RavynG – my RSS feed picked up your comment so you are not forgotten!
    Besides the usual suspects for muscs (MKK?) I would recommend Sonoma Scen Studio Sienna Musk.

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