Musk by Alyssa Ashley ~ fragrance review


It’s drugstore week! Robin is on vacation, and once again I’ve commandeered a week to review fragrances you can buy at the same time you pick up aspirin and kitty litter.

One thing you can say for drugstores is that they aren’t afraid to stock musk. Musky stalwarts from Coty and Jovan have been selling steadily for more than 40 years, and despite the reluctance of department stores to go there, Rite Aid appears to see no reason to fool with success. Alyssa Ashley Musk has been a drugstore favorite since 1968.

Last week I stopped by Nordstrom for a lipstick and ended up engrossed at a temporary display table for Houbigant. Michal Gizinski, billed by Nordstrom as an international fragrance consultant, stood over bottles of Houbigant Fougère Royale, Oranger en Fleurs and Quelques Fleurs, enticing shoppers with his European accent and Prince Matchabelli looks to try one of the fragrances. I told him I was doing a week of drugstore perfume reviews, and he quickly recommended Alyssa Ashley Musk. “Yes, Alyssa Ashley,” he said and nodded. (He also raved about Norell, said that the jasmine in Windsong is “quite good,” and put in encouraging words for Parfums Grès Cabaret and Rochas fragrances.)

Hey, if an international fragrance consultant recommends a perfume, it’s good enough for me. My next stop was Rite Aid, where I bought a quarter ounce bottle of Musk by Alyssa Ashley perfume oil, because at fifteen dollars it was the least expensive formulation. The Alyssa Ashley website describes the oil as “pure and alcohol free essential oil, the ultimate concentration of Alyssa Ashley Musk fragrance.”

The musk oil comes in a gold screw-top glass bottle with a glass wand to apply it. Its box is surprisingly classy, in gold, black, and white with linked male and female signs to show it can be worn by both genders. Tiny print on the back tells me the company is situated in Monaco, and the juice was make in Italy. 

And the fragrance? It’s a pretty floral perfume that in my mind skews feminine. I smell rose, ylang ylang and lily of the valley with the tiniest hint of clove. As the fragrance settles, an almost incense-y wood quietly rises.

The fragrance’s heart is musk, of course. The musk is not as animalic as Jovan Musk for Women, another floral musk. It’s also not as clean and sweet as Coty White Musk. It’s fresh and innocent but not a soapy musk. It has quiet sillage and lasts about six hours on me. Beware, though. The perfume oil is a true oil and takes about ten minutes to dry to something that won’t transfer to fabric. If you try it, apply it where you don’t have to worry about anything getting greasy.

Online reviews from people who wore Alyssa Ashley Musk long ago say that it isn’t the same anymore. It doesn’t last as long, and it’s flat and powdery compared to what it used to be. I can’t speak to that, but I can tell you that today it’s a lovely, inoffensive, clean fragrance that I would — and probably will — happily pass on to my niece to wear.

As for me, I have plenty of other perfumes that prod my imagination and kick my senses into gear that I’d reach for before I turn to Alyssa Ashley Musk. But if you’re a musk fan and looking for an easy, nicely balanced fragrance to wear just about anywhere, it’s worth a try.

Musk by Alyssa Ashley comes in 7.5 ml perfume oil for $15 or 15 ml for $21, 100 ml Eau de Parfum for $46, 50 ml EdP for $33, 100 ml Eau de Toilette for $28, 50 ml Eau de Toilette for $21, and 25 ml EdT for $18. It’s also available in lotion, body crème, bubble bath and powder.

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  1. Marjorie Rose says:

    Angie, I’m always a bit intimidated by the big Nordies downtown (even though I often feel superior in my fragrance knowledge!), so I’m having fun imagining you talking drugstore week with *anyone* while there, let alone an “international scent consultant!” You’ve got more hutzpah than I do, I think!

    • Angela says:

      The tough thing about Nordstrom, I find, is that the SAs never quite let you forget they’re on commission. But there’s a terrific SA downtown, the knowledgeable and awesomely named Brice Terrible. Highly recommended.

      • Marjorie Rose says:

        That *is* a great name! Might have to change mine. . . ;)

        • Angela says:

          Marjorie Terrible….your students would love that!

          • Marjorie Rose says:

            Hello class, I’m your science teacher, Ms. Terrible!

    • chandler_b says:

      I know exactly how you feel! Two weekends ago I was in the Saks in Atlanta, and I was just overwhelmed by the sheer number of bottles and the sales clerk, I don’t think she thought I was actually going to buy anything which really gets on my nerves.

      • Angela says:

        Perfume really takes some time to investigate, too! It’s not as easy as “sniff this tester, great I’ll buy it.”

        • Marjorie Rose says:

          YES! That’s the challenge. You want to be able to sniff and to ponder and to consider, but there’s this perception of pressure to make an impulse purchase.

          • Angela says:

            I agree. Samples are the way to go–how else can you live with a perfume long enough to know how it evolves?

          • chandler_b says:

            I haven’t ordered any samples online before, (I really want to get a couple of Creed samples) but thanks to Sephora I leave the mall with 3 samples every time I go!

          • Angela says:

            Sephora is great for that!

  2. chrisskins says:

    Ohhh. Can you talk about the sad de-evolution of Skin Musk?

    • Angela says:

      That’s the one drugstore musk I haven’t tried! Has it really got a lot worse?

  3. Dilana says:

    He didn’t mention Chantilly?

    • Angela says:

      I’m surprised, but no! I suppose if I’d stuck along long enough it might have come up.

  4. Subhuman says:

    Not sure if you’re planning to review Coty’s Wild Musk this week, but I discovered it at Target recently and was rather bowled over by how much I liked it. A non-cloying drugstore musk is hard for me to find, and this one seems both richer and more interesting than the likes of Jovan or Vanilla Musk. (And I’ll admit, I was drawn in by the oakmoss listed in the ingredients on the box.)

    • Angela says:

      It’s not on the list this week, but you’re right–it’s overdue for a review. We’ve done Jovan Musk, Coty Vanilla Musk, and White Musk, though.

    • RavynG says:

      Coty Wild Musk has been my ONLY musk since 1978.

      • RavynG says:

        Coty Wild Musk is the dirty gin martini in a world of appletinis and mojitos…..

        • Angela says:

          And now I am very thirsty…

      • Angela says:

        I love it that you know the year you chose it!

        • RavynG says:

          I was 16. Probably the first really memorable year of my life…

          • Angela says:

            And Coty Musk was there to scent it for you.

  5. chandler_b says:

    Interesting that the bottle suggest it is unisex, Its sounds lovely just a little to feminine for me actually, but would make a great gift given the price and quality. Love the idea of a drugstore week!

    • Angela says:

      It definitely skews a little feminine to me, but I’m sure many men could wear it well.

  6. kindcrow says:

    How does it compare to Kiehl’s? I’m not really into musk, but enquiring minds still want to know :-)

    • Angela says:

      I don’t have a sample of Kiehl’s musk here to compare it to, but I remember the Kiehl’s as being more “musky” and less clean and less floral. Maybe if someone else here has tried them both side-by-side s/he can comment more helpfully than I did.

      • SmokeyToes says:

        Lovely review Angela, this is one of my favorite musks, I wore it in H.S. 30 years ago, to my nose, the original version was clean, crisp and powdery. Kiehl’s Musk is more of a honey/floral musk, with a teeny bit of dirty.

        • Angela says:

          Perfect! Thank you for the comparison.

  7. hooray, Drugstore Week!

    • Angela says:

      I’m glad you enjoy it! I have to admit I kind of enjoy it, too–but it horrifies me at the same time. Wait until you see tomorrow’s review of a Playboy fragrance….

      • kindcrow says:

        Is it the one with an energy drink note? I think it’s Super Playboy for Her? Sounds scary.

        • Angela says:

          It has more of a sour punch note. The one you describe sounds TERRIFYING.

          • Marjorie Rose says:

            Wow. Any reviewer who goes for that one should get combat pay!

          • Angela says:


  8. Nile Goddess says:

    Wow! Lovely review as always. I don’t know Alyssa Ashley but I know Jovan and it’s far too heavy for me.

    Can’t get over the fact that Rochas is now a drugstore fragrance. Even Femme de Rochas?!

    Our drugstores display Coty fragrances (still love Pret-a-Porter), celebrity fragrances (Kylie Minogue, Beyonce, Celine Dion, Naomi Campbell) and older fragrances such as Cool Water by Davidoff.

    Wonder which one you’ll do next … :-)

    • Angela says:

      I know! In my heart, Rochas stands far above the drugstore–and the department store, for that matter.

      I’m glad your drugstores are still carrying the flag!

  9. Nile Goddess says:

    OMG, a Playboy fragrance? (just re-read the last line)

    Well …. I’m ready ;-)

    • Angela says:

      Then you’re more ready than I’ve been…

      • AnnieA says:

        Well, can they be any worse than Axe? Oh dear, maybe they can…

        • Angela says:

          I haven’t tried any of the Axes, but a showdown could be, uh, interesting.

        • Marjorie Rose says:

          Hard to compete with a fragrance that comes in an arosol disperser! It’s such a classy touch!

          • Angela says:

            So far the only aerosol review I’ve done has been for Vanilla Fields. I think I left the can on top of a toilet somewhere…

          • Marjorie Rose says:

            As good as air freshener, huh? ;)

  10. Lise says:

    My mother used to have a little bottle of this lying in the bathroom of our summerhouse, and I loved to sniff it. Childhood memories! I remember it smelling divine then. Hope your niece will enjoy it too.

    • Angela says:

      I bet smelling it would bring back lots of memories for you!

  11. Joe says:

    Definitely looking forward to drugstore week. This should be fun. Trying to remember if you ever did a review of Ciara in the past…

    • Angela says:

      No, funny you should mention it! I wanted to do Ciara this week, but I couldn’t find a tester, and I’d already shelled out for two bottles of perfume (and cadged three samples from testers at the same time) and I didn’t want to buy another.

    • galbanumgal says:

      oh, you just reminded me of Charlie and Enjolie…

      • Angela says:

        Enjoli had one of the theme songs ever!

        • AnnE says:

          Yes, and Charlie, too. :-)
          I was just wasting time on the ‘bay, and saw that a bottle of vintage Enjoli went for ~$100! Yikes!

          • Angela says:

            I always loved the Windsong theme song, too.

            $100 for Enjoli! Yikes!

      • Marjorie Rose says:

        Charlie! When I told my dad that I was getting into this whole perfume thing a few years ago, he strongly recommended that I look into Charlie–he has positive associations with it! I admit, I never have taken him up on his advice. . .

        • Angela says:

          I know Charlie has its fans, but it has nasty associations for me.

          • Emily says:

            For whatever it’s worth, Angela, your review of Charlie is a tremendously evocative piece of fragrance-related writing — though I’m sure that doesn’t make the fragrance or its associations any less unpleasant.

          • Angela says:

            You’re so kind to say so!

  12. engelwurz says:

    I’ve always been drawn to the packaging since androgyny tends to pique my interest. Musks don’t really interest me, though, although I did like Musc Nomade.

    • Angela says:

      You’re probably not surprised to hear this musk isn’t much like Musc Nomade. But the packaging is nice!

  13. Emily says:

    Here’s another unabashed hurrah for Drugstore Week! I’ve heard some good things about Alyssa Ashley Musk (mostly the older versions, I think) but have never tried it myself. Will keep an eye out for testers.

    A previous Drugstore Week review was responsible for my purchase of Love’s Fresh Lemon. I’m not sure I would have survived my vacation to the Utah desert last summer if I hadn’t had that bottle to stick in the fridge.

    • Angela says:

      I keep a bottle of Jean Naté in the fridge, so I know just how nice it is to have something fresh and inexpensive (and lemony) to splash all over!

  14. mals86 says:

    Yay for drugstore week!

    I’ve somehow never managed to smell the Alyssa Ashley, though I like the Jovan Musk for women and Skin Musk (no, it doesn’t smell quite as good as it did in the 70s, but it’s not THAT bad).

    My drugstore pick would probably be the Juicy Couture parfum, which isn’t nearly as watermelony as the EdP. I see the little clamshell packages of 5ml parfum for around $11 at CVS and Walgreens and Wal-mart.

    • mals86 says:

      Would love to hear about Wild Musk, too.

      • Angela says:

        I really think we need a review where we try the musks next to each other.

        • annemarie says:

          I’d like that too. What I’d really love would be a comparison of how skanky they are. You know that slide thingo that Luckyscent uses to indicate how masculine or feminine a fragrance is? I’d love a musk equivalent of that: dirty at one end – with what? Muscs Koublai Khan? is that one of the really dirty ones? – and clean at the other – SJP’s Lovely, or something. Trouble is of course that people’s perception of dirty/clean tends to differ. Like the hotness of chilli!

          BTW, I thought I saw something on Fragrantica to the effect that Narciso Rodriguez is bringing back its NR for Her musk oil as a LE as part of its celebration of 10 years since the release. No idea where to get it or how widely distributed it will be. Or even if the rumour is true! I’d love to try it though.

          • Angela says:

            Yes, maybe a skanky-to-clean scale, since some people are turned off by really soapy musks.

            It’s been ages since I tried the NR musk oil. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t even know it was out of production!

        • mals86 says:

          Musk comparisons would be awesome!

          On an only-slightly-related topic: Wonder if Musc Ravageur is EVER going to come back in the oil? I liked that better than the edp.

          • Angela says:

            Good question! I bet it had lots of fans, too.

    • Angela says:

      I’ve seen those little packs of Juicy Couture! To me, that’s almost cheating, though. It seems so much more like a department store fragrance.

      • mals86 says:

        Well, Wal-mart carries it… no, I’m pretty sure CVS does too.

        • Angela says:

          I saw it at Rite Aid, too. I just *seems* fancier.

          • Marjorie Rose says:

            Well, I can see how the fragrance would benefit from brand association–all those sweatpants with “Juicy” penned across the rump *are* very fancy! ;)

          • Angela says:

            Do they still make those? Ack.

  15. poodle says:

    Drugstore week is one of my favorite weeks of the year.
    I always liked this one but I really liked Skin Musk better. The Jovan one made me think of my dad so I never wanted to smell like my father did.

    • Angela says:

      Someday we’ll have to have a “musk-off” and try the musks side-by-side!

      • poodle says:

        That’s a brilliant idea!

  16. Stevan says:

    Being a consultant myselft, the best one liner that kills me with laughter the most is when I ask the customer what fragrance they wear and they respond with, “axe”. It’s cute when they’re a teen and you want to teach them about the good stuff, when they’re in their 20’s, you want to tell them they need to grow out of using deodorant as fragrance, but by the time they hit 30+ and tell me they’re using axe…I feel SO sad that no one had shown them the way. Makes me think of the fragrance from Ron Burgundy; sex panther.

    • Angela says:

      Thank goodness, at least, that you’re there to introduce them to something that doesn’t come in an aluminum can.

      I forgot about that Ron Burgundy scene! That was hilarious.

    • leathermountain says:

      I don’t know that wearing Axe is a sign of immaturity or general ignorance. No more than wearing some other fragrance is a sign of maturity or sagacity.

      I’ve never worn Axe, but I know lots of young people who do, and I’m sure plenty of them will keep on wearing it into adulthood. As their teacher, I find it hard to think that all the intellectual development I see in the classroom is somehow undercut by Axe.

      • Angela says:

        Sadly, I know lots of brilliant people who smell awful. I haven’t smelled any of the Axes, but their marketing doesn’t say “refined fragrance” to me. But who knows? There’s nothing I love better than a great drugstore scent!

        • leathermountain says:

          I don’t find it sad. Everyone smells awful to someone at some point. ‘Refined’ is a very specific cultural construct.

        • Subhuman says:

          In the interest of fairness, I must admit that some of the newer Axe scents aren’t half bad, as far as these things go. The young’uns could do worse. Pity for those of use who live to mock – Axe seems to have stepped up their game lately.

          • Angela says:

            I’m glad to hear that!

  17. SmokeyToes says:

    Angela, have you tried Sand and Sable? Another nice drug store scent that is very under the radar.

    • Angela says:

      Sand & Sable is a great one, I every drugstore week I keep thinking we’ve already covered it–but we haven’t!

  18. leathermountain says:

    Check out Calyx93’s comment here:

    Perhaps we can see why the Houbigant gentleman was so, um, familiar with the Alyssa Ashley line?

    • Angela says:

      Nice! As one of the commenters above noted, I’m surprised he didn’t mention Chantilly, which is also (or was also) a Houbigant fragrance.

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