There is a perfume so famous that everyone on earth knows its name but it is so rare that only very few living human beings can boast at having ever smelled it. It is the Musk.
The Musk comes from a small deer that has two fangs that he uses to scratch forest lichens on which it feeds.
Under it’s belly there are two small hairy glands, which produce small pellets of a black substance with a very strong smell (Musk deer).
Only the male deer produces Musk deer, and it drops the small grains on its territory in order to warn other males that this is his home and they should not think to settle in the area.
The Musk deer grains also serve the purpose of attracting a female to his place because as we all know, females go mad for perfumes.
But also the females of human beings love this incredibly attractive perfume and from thousands of years men have been using Musk deer to perfume themselves in order to be more seductive.
Many years ago, when Marco Polo traveled in Kashmir, Musk deer was collected once a year from the ground in the forest, by the servants of the King of Kashmir and it was forbidden to disturb the deer.
But since Kashmir no longer has a King to punish those who harm the precious animals, the hunters kill them and cut the musk pods to sell them.
The Musk grains that are inside the pods are also a remedy for very grave diseases known to all antique pharmacopoeias.
There is a man in the mountain who prepares medicines with musk deer according to recipes handed down by ancestors and I have had the privilege of seeing how the real Kashmiri musk deer is prepared and above all, the privilege of smelling it.
The smell of the Musk Glands (pods) is most sweet but when it is opened to extract the grains, their perfume is totally different.
On first impact, musk deer is extraordinarily powerful, even for a perfumer like me, who is used to working with pure essences, and it is not particularly nice, is smells like ammonia, but only because it is fresh and very concentrated. In fact 3 small grains of one gram are sufficient to make a liter of alcoholic perfume.
The best way to understand and appreciate the delicacy of the musk deer perfume is to smell the box or the vase that contains it from the outside. It seems that it is so potent that it passes through the walls of the recipients.
There were two customers who were buying the ingredients to make a traditional medicine. They took the most costly of all products; thin edible gold sheet, Muskdeer, Ambergris, Saffron from Iran and Sea Pearls.
I did not ask what the remedy was for, because I knew that these are the ingredients that a husband uses when he wants to please his wife.
Unfortunately, because of excessive hunting, most of the deer musk are dead and perhaps in a few years there will be no more of the exhilarating Musk perfume left to smell on earth.
The avidity of men makes them destroy their own business with their own hands, a little bit like a man in a ship breaking the hull with a pick because he wants some wood to make a fire and warm himself. He does not understand that he will sink and will find himself swimming in even colder water.
The fishermen of the sea also complain: “There is no more fish, we don’t earn enough to feed our families!” Surely! If you catch too much fish, the newborn will not be enough to replace the ones you have killed.
The same happens today with deer musk, elephants, sandalwood perfume tree and with rosewood perfume tree.
For this reason the trade of Muskdeer has been forbidden but it is of no avail because the poor hunter wants to bring some money home for his family and so, he kills the deer musk.
A solution to this problem would be to do something similar to what is done in Italy for wild fowl; they are raised on farms and then freed in the forest.
Another solution would be to give a salary to the hunter for protecting the musk deer so that he no longer would kill them out of need of money for his family.
After that one could again start to pick the musk grains from the forest where the deer drop them, as was done in the time of Marco Polo.
For every problem there is a solution.
AbdesSalaam Attar, March 2006
See also Why Natural perfumes