It occurred to me recently that I’d never tried a pure musk scent.
Musk was associated with Jersey, disco, too-tight jeans etc., back in the day, so I never cared to smell Jovan Musk or the others. But a scent I’d seen around the boards called “Egyptian Musk” intrigued me. It sounded so down. I noticed that a large decant of Ava Luxe’s version of it was for sale on a decant site, and thought, well, it’s Ava Luxe, I’ve wanted to try their line anyway, so I ordered it.
It wasn’t that it was bad. It’s that it …wasn’t. Meaning, when the package arrived, I eagerly ripped it open and sprayed some on my hand and…nothing. Like water.
I sprayed some more. And then some more. Finally I was able to detect the faintest suggestion of…wax? Just plain wax, like an ordinary candle? Perplexed, I put it aside. When my husband came home, I sprayed on some more and asked him, “do you smell this?”
“Yes,” he said, “Yes, I do. Now go wash it off please.” It was very strong, he said. And he said some other things I won’t go into here.
Aesthetic judgments aside. It suddenly occurred to me, a dim memory of something I’d read; musk molecules are huge. So huge, in fact, that some people can’t smell them. They’re too big to fit into the smell receptors.
Once again, I hit the books.
There are, as anyone who has read the books by or about Dr. Turin knows, competing theories of how smell works. One area of general agreement is musk. Some can’t smell it. Others can’t stand it. There is also variation between people as to which musks can be smelled and which cannot. This appears to be a function of the “phenotype,” which is the physical manifestation of genetic coding.
In a 1996 experiment performed by Drs. Avery Gilbert and Sarah Kemp, 32 subjects were evaluated for musk hypernosmia. Twelve of them were hypersensitive to all the musks used. Sixteen were insensitive to all of them. Four of the subjects, however, were sensitive to some but not others. Through various statistical analyses, Gilbert and Kemp concluded that there appears to be a genetic coding for “presumptive odor receptors,” as they relate to the musks used in the study. Ultimately, they speculate, this may be similar to color-blindness; a phenotype.
Now I’m wondering: am I anosmic to all musks, or just some?
I’ve always had a sensitive nose, especially for malodorous substances (for example, I can tell long before my husband that it’s time to take the garbage out.) But…could it be that I haven’t even been smelling what other people have been? Especially if the perfumes contain musks?
Say it ain’t so, Joe!
What molecules does Ava Luxe use? If they’re the same ones used in the older mass-market musks, maybe I didn’t smell those either: oh, horrible thought, maybe I missed a big part of the Seventies because I didn’t smell them!
I have samples of "Muscs Kublai Khan" and "Musc Ravageuer" and others of that ilk. But what was I really smelling?
Looking at reviews of "Egyptian Musk" – and there aren’t many – uncovered generalities like “a nice skin musk,” whatever that is. One mentioned roses. One person (of two MUA reviewers) – a long-lost relative of mine? – couldn’t smell it at all.
I’d like to get some feedback on this. Dear readers: Have you had this same anosmia to a particular musk? Some of them? All of them?
Inquiring blogger wants to know.
For anyone who would like to look at Gilbert and Kemp’s study entitled “Odor Perception Phenotypes: Multiple, Specific Hypernosmias to Musks,” the link is http://chemse.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/21/4/411