Viewer Mail: I Want to Smell Like Me

Dear Katie,

I have reached a point in my fragrance-collecting adventure where I start getting funny little ideas that turn into quests to find a scent that fits the description.

Example -- violets are one of my favorite floral notes, and incense is another, and I had the idea to make my next purchase something with prominent violets/incense notes and I did: Silver Factory by Bond No. 9.

Now I am faced with a new dilemma that I need help with, because I have very little musk experience. I want a fragrance that smells like it could just be me. I want something that could come from the pores of my skin. A fragrance that becomes so intertwined in my natural chemistry that I could get away with lying and saying, "My perfume? Oh, I'm not wearing one!".

Am I making sense, or is this a pipe dream?

Your Loyal Viewer,

Jake, those “funny little ideas” are the devils on the shoulder of any card-carrying fumehead. One minute, you’re sauntering down the avenue, trilby pushed back on your head, whistling a tune from Guys & Dolls. The next, you’re wild-eyed and squirrelly-brained, pestering the perfume counter jockeys and running up your credit card on mail-order samples. Merciful heavens, the perfect oud-and-steak-tartar body splash has just got to be out there!

Thankfully in this instance, the “my skin but better” musk hunt is a well-traveled road to Mecca. We shall leave aside the more elaborate musk pairings, like Frédéric Malle Musc Ravageur with its vanilla spice, or Stella McCartney Stella with its rose, to focus on the creamy character of solo musk.

There are two approaches to musk perfume: clean and dirty. The dirty one, with emphasized beastiness, smells more realistically me-but-better, but if you’re a boy in a bubble type who prefers their fragrances to be as scrubbed up as they are, the bright, soapy flavor of musk might be more your speed.

For clean musks, try:

Narciso Rodriguez Musc For Him oil (musk with hints of violet leaves and concrete; becoming hard to find)
Le Labo Musc 25 (bright, clean musk)
Kenzo Power (woody, musky floral)
C.O. Bigelow Musk oil (clean, sweet musk)
LesNez L’Antimatiere (it’s like invisible ink: a light musk fades up into consciousness after about 20 minutes)

On the dirty side, there is:

Bruno Acampora Musc (my personal favorite; the smell of slept-in sheets and unwashed shirts)
Annick Goutal Musc Nomade (warm, thick, a bit sweet and powdery)
Amouage Epic Man (a flamboyantly complex composition that dries down to the relative simplicity of leathery-oudy musk.)
Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan (a “who let the dogs out” perfume of the first order. The eventual drydown gets you to “sexy skin smell”, but not before you do battle with all the passengers on Noah’s Ark.)

May your musk quest be fruitful, Jake. It better be -- because I just spied another funny little idea lurking up ahead.

Fumies, any “skin musk” tips for Jake?


  1. Kiehl's musk is another good one.

    Chergui applied with a light hand could be mistaken for someone who has a sweeter b.o. (my b.o. has been likened to maple syrup a few times...and not pejoratively...which is why i make that suggestion)

    and of course, the only fragrance i've mentioned on here 5 million times: L'Air de Rien

  2. Another L'air de rien vote here.

    As for clean musks, why not try out some Egyptian Musk oils? There's many different brands, like Kuumba Made and Body Time, and they are tres inexpensive.

  3. The perfumes found in the Gulf of Arabia are really second to none!
    Abdul Samad Al Qurashi
    Al Haramain
    Arabian Oud
    Syed Junaid Alam
    Swiss Arabian

    The list goes on...

    perfume zahras com

  4. Zahras J, I'm only familiar with a couple of those lines, and the knowledge that there are fume yet to discover gets the squirrels running in my head...again!

    opusgrrl - oh yeah, those Egyptian Musk blends are nice.

    dea & ogrrl, your on-going enthusiasm for L'Air de Rien makes me sigh and realize that I'll need to give it another shot. For me, it crosses that line from intriguingly musty to plain ol' stale. But with perfumes, my perspective is constantly shifting, so I shall try, try again.

  5. To me, L'Air de Rien is flat Coca-Cola, really cheap incense, and oh, yeah, manure. Lots of manure. The notes sound great, but that's what I got, so I have to pass.

  6. Ha ha, Sniffa! Good luck trying to actually focus on smelling the things you came to try! You will be pulled a million different ways and overwhelmed and will probably forget about that list. But...but, the trade off is that you will discover a lot of things you didn't know were out there. Have fun!

    Oh, and don't forget to try the Kiehl's Musk-- it's much less expensive than the other suggestions. To me it smells like a masculine version of Musc Ravageur and L'Air de Rien mixed together.

  7. The ultimate skin musk for me was DSH Special Formula X, though it may be a bit feminine?

    Then SSS Opal, though with the same caveat.

    Keiko Mecheri Musc is very "barely there", so much so that I think it is discontinued. : - )

  8. I'll be seeing/smelling you at Sniffapalooza, Jake! Anybody else going to be there?

    Pen Pal Dan will roll his eyes here, but don't overlook the Musc Ravageur oil when you try MR. I find that it's a more focused skin scent than the edp, which adds in lavender and the cinnamon/clove. Dan thinks oil iterations are sissy, or surplus to requirements, or something...

    Further to dea's recommendation for Kiehl's Musk, be sure to hit the oil version, rather than the edt, as the oil is the purer, more focused musk.

    And I actually find the Kiehl's and Musc Ravageur pretty distinct from each other...but Renee Musk is very similar to MR, if you want to compare some lookie-likeys in that genre.

  9. occhineri, such visions you've put in my head in advance of me resmelling L'Air de Rien! Even if I don't think it smells nice, I'm always in favor of scents that are so polarizing. It's fun!

  10. I would love to smell a man wearing Kenzo Power!! I wear it myself and it's fabulous :)

  11. Another vote for L'Air De Rien here! I finally got my hands on some yesterday and omigosh what a fab scent! So subtle on my skin, beautifully earthy, I think you could almost get away with "oh but I'm not wearing any perfume" with this one (as long as you don't get the manure thing).

  12. Jake - Sarah's comment reminds me that if you're really on the prowl for a "pores of the skin" fume, Musc Ravageur, as much as I love it and wear it, is not one of those. It's more complex and "there". Just so's ya know...

  13. dea, opusgrrl, ochineri, you're the first to know: I've just had a L'Air de Rien breakthrough! Miller Harris just sent me a package of the "oh no, you shouldn't have" variety, containing samples and a few choice bottles. One of the bottles is "Un Petit Rien", an eau de cologne version of L'air de Rien.

    What???! I love this shizz! I've not yet tried it side by side with L'AdR, so don't know if it will affect my position on the original version. All I know is that right now, I'm a head-to-toe powdery little puffball of pretty incense. (Jake, this ain't no "body musk" frag, just so's you know.)

  14. Un Petit Rien? Maybe there's hope after all!

  15. occhineri, there IS hope for us shut out of the L'Air de Rien club. The MH folks tell me Un Petit Rien is brand new, only available in France and the UK at the mo. I'm very inspired by this one, and will cook up a review in the next few days.

  16. gotta get me a sample of UPR - I absolutely love love LadR - I want her little sister! Katie, LadR makes me think of Last Tango in Paris. In a non-butter way. If you know what I mean.
    (now that I have gotten over my fear of posting on your blog, you'll probably wish I never did!)

  17. Oh no, Bloody Frida, I don't like to hear that it might be intimidating to post here! How can I fix this? A trail of perfume samples leading to the comments section? Less use of my infernal term "fumehead"? A Caribbean cruise for the 100,000th post?

    Yes, UPR isn't the "full stick of butter" of LAdR. More like the whipped light butter version.

  18. I'm kinda new to the perfume blog-o-sphere, and you're a personality, so it's me, not you (don't you love when someone says that!). Plus I never watched your videos so I didn't realise how approachable you are

    ..but heck, a cruise wouldn't hurt!

    hahaa - full stick

  19. Whew, that's a relief, Bloody Frida. Now pass the butter.