The weighting of Musk
Marco Polo narrates in his “Million ” that, crossing Kashmir, he observed such an abundance of the Musk deer that the musk balls were found everywhere under the trees. Probably the animal was then protected by iron laws that punished its killing, and the kings of these regions had to pay the caliph an annual tribute of musk, as is reported in the Islamic archives. Today the small animal is nearly extinct, the hunters shoot him dead and cut off the precious purses in which the musk can be conserved indefinitely. The prices are obviously very high and cheats are numerous. There are some breeding farms of moschus in China where musk is collected without killing the animal. The musk obtained in such a way is reputed to be of inferior quality compared to the wild one.
As perfume, the musk was used pure, rubbing a tiny piece in the beard or in the hair, but it is given to few among the very few privileged who ever encountered it, to use it in this way. In fact, not everyone can bear the effect of its extreme power. The Perfumers of the past have found more aesthetic and economic satisfaction using it as a “magical” ingredient in their compositions. For this purpose they prepared infusions of musk in alcohol, with several concentration grades. Musk was also made to macerate in essential oil of sandalwood, for at least a year (better if five), and that is an excellent way to extract its aroma because these two scents are of a similar nature and they reinforce each other.
Musk is mentioned in the Quran as the substance with which are sealed the drinks of paradise. For the Muslims, the fact that the perfumed drinks of the hereafter (ginger, grape, etc…) are sealed with musk indicate it to be the king of all the scents and, because God printed his Name on the seal (the seal bears the name of the owner), Musk is the purest and noblest of all terrene matters.