The tincture is obtained by infusing the powdered raw material into pure organic non denaturated alcohol 96°. Hyraxes seem to be quite average little critters, resembling an over-grown guinea-pig and famous almost solely for being the closest living relative to elephants.
They are indeed strange animals. A hyrax’s brain is like an elephant’s, while its stomach is like a horse’s. The skeleton, however, is akin to a rhinoceros’s. The hind feet are entirely different from these animals, more like a tapir’s. Peeking into the mouth of a hyrax, you may recognize similar upper incisors from rodents’ teeth, upper cheek teeth from rhino’s and the lower cheek teeth like a hippo’s. They even have two teeth in their upper jaw that resemble elephant tusks. The overall anatomy of a hyrax, however, is like an elephant’s or horse’s. Hyraceum was used by men long before perfumers did it.
This substance has been a traditional remedy used in Africa and middle east for thousands of years. It is not strange that other animal scents such as Civet, Muskdeer Castoreum and Ambergris belong to all traditional pharmacopoeias with the same indications; epilepsy, convulsions and feminine hormonal disorders.
All these animal odoriferous substances are in fact pheromones. Although all animals largely use pheromones in the reproducing process, very few of them, such as Civet, Musk deer and Castoreum possess a specific gland that produces them in quantity to be expelled in a pure form from their body. Most animals, including humans, expel their pheromones together with sweat, urine and feces.
Hyraceum is formed from the urine of a Hyrax or Dassie. The urine is not as fluid as that of other mammals but is rather passed as a jelly like substance. Hyraxes will always use the same place, mostly caves or clefts to urinate and a different place to defecate. This product is mostly very old and a Hyrax colony would build up a large mound of Hyraceum only over thousands of years.
Hyraceum is very dense and hard as stone. The jelly urine first dries up then it compacted by the animals and then it is fossilized by time.
It is no wonder that Hyraceum is considered in South Africa a remedy for kidney and bladder diseases and dysfunctions. All mammals expel their pheromones through urines and the leathery smell of Hyraceum shows that it contains a lot of these.
Hyraxes choose a place nearby their homes and it is probable that this odoriferous mass has a social pheromonal function (for example regulating the sexual maturity of the individuals), as well as marking the territory of the colony.
Perfumery Hyraceum is fossilized, and it is in fact extremely dry, heavy and hard like a stone, the product can date from the mid Holocene period and be as old as 10 000 years as researchers have ascertained (Carr et al., 2010).
The tincture is obtained by infusing the powdered raw material into pure alcohol for a few weeks. The smell is akin to Castoreum but has a distinct urinary note that can be found only in goat hair tincture among perfumery materials.
Hyraceum definitely has an affinity with human beings, as its medical use shows. Its smell as well is not at all disgusting as one may think, but it could be described as “very interesting”, even to unprepared people who are not at all perfumers. Duchaufourd commented it as “magnifique et fascinant”.
In fact we are genetically conditioned to react to this type of smells, particularly women who by their nature of mothers have to do “biologically” with children’s urine. Pheromones from different species are not that much different, even those of insects and mammals.
This is why we human can be influenced by such substances, and aromatic Hyraceum can certainly participate in the construction of the tri-dimensional perfume.
Comments on Hyraceum from the blog of Denyse “Grain de Musk“