Unpleasant, even noxious

One of the odder things about perfumes is how much they have depended over the centuries on the scent of other animals — for instance, ambergris, a fatty excretion of the sperm whale, or the musk from the anal sacs of a civet. In concentration, some of these scents are unpleasant, even noxious.

 — From Fine Perfumes of the Animal World at the New York Times Opinionator blog. Hat tip to Oakland Fresca!

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5 Comments

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  1. floragal says:

    I’m glad you posted this. I read it this morning and thought it was fascinating. I’ve often wondered about some of those notes such as civet and ambergris, and how they help create such appeal in perfumes.

  2. nozknoz says:

    Interesting, and quite a wide range of comments on that article, too! For example, commenter moosehead from Maine recounted, “A few years back ten of us males completed a long mountain trek to be greeted by our wives at the base lodge. On a challenge all ten wives were blindfolded and asked to identify their mate purely by scent or smell. 90% of the fairer sex identified the correct partner.”

    Personally, I think that at some point in the H. sapiens family tree, our ancestors were much more attuned to our own and other animal scents, and some part of our brains misses these kinds of aromas, especially in the shower and detergent age. ;-)

    • Robin says:

      So, now you have to wonder what happened with the one woman who could not sniff out her husband!

      • nozknoz says:

        I know, right? It’s like he ended the story just when he got to the good part! ;-)

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