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castoreum

Second day with this diabolic caress.


I am infatuated. I keep smelling my own skin and every time I do it smells differently. It feels like I keep chasing it, the scent. Trying to capture it. Eight hours after application only a soft basenote veil is left and you have to be very close to feel it. So I put my wrist right under my friend Fredrik’s nose. He is a photograper with a divine eye and he has been wearing Noir Epices by Michel Roudnitska so you understand… he understands. He tells me I smell like I am wearing a man’s perfume, but he says it with a smile that can only mean that it is in a really good way. Before he has finished describing his reaction the fragrance has changed again. Which gives me a reason to start all over and reapply. I have it in my pocket. I have been carrying the sample with me for two days, every now and then I have to reach for it. Love is an understatement. Fredrik leaves with arms covered in styrax and castoreum.

For some reason, for me it is really about basenotes. I am obsessed with basenotes. But then I also prefer afternoons, Sundays and autumn. The dance between the resinoids, woods and glands in this fragrance intoxicate me. I don’t feel the violet at all. I feel an almond that is not there. I feel so many things and this fragrance just keeps changing. But there is a constant balance between soft and coarse. Between close and escape.

This is what perfumery as an art is about. The creation of adventure. Artistry and mathematical precision in magic union.

Agarwood. gaharunusantara.indonetwork.co.id

You can see just looking at the word that it has to be something a bit nasty, can’t you? It sounds like a place on the human body that is geographically located in an angle that only very close allies ever visit. 
As we know, the poetic world of perfume would not be so seductive and mysterious without the mysteries and oddities. Just like a perfume wouldn’t. Perfumes that are just easy and sweet are… boring. Just like people who are just easy and sweet can be. And then we have those who use perfumes like Mandy Afteliers Secret Garden (also has natural civet as Mandy Aftelier is known for her use of natural ingredients), Cuir de Russie and Antaeus (of course…) from Chanel or Labdanum 18 from le Labo. 

Castoreum, comes from the castor sacs of a mature North American or European beaver. Both males and females have castor sacs located in cavities under the skin between the pelvis and the base of the tail. Together with the urine, it helps the animal to scent mark and mate. The secretion has a bitter and strong-smelling odor (as if you expected it to smell like roses…). To create the castoreum resinoid that is used for perfumes it is dried, ground and put into alcohol. The dried sacs are generally aged for two or more years for the harshness to go away. The scent it then gets is compared to dried leather.

Castoreum is not only used in fragrances but also in food. You can find it in alcoholic and other beverages, baked things, frozen dairy and ice cream, chewing gum, candy, meat products and gelatin. In Scandinavia it used to flavor a schnapps called Bäverhojt. A few months ago some people went rather ballistic when Jamie Oliver brought up castoreum at David Letterman. Interesting, since quite a lot of parents feed their kids artificial crap without any moral dilemmas. The vanilla ice cream and ”beaver glands ” appear around 2:30.