21 October 2010

Animal Smells: Civet

The civet is a small spotted little creature native to Africa and Asia. Often incorrectly referred to as civet cat the civet is of the family Viverridae, which includes genets and linsangs. The civet has a long bushy tail and whiskers, physical characteristics that would make one think it is a distant relative to domestic cats. 

Civets produce an essence that is used in perfumery as a fixative and to give that animalic musk note. This essence is produced by the perineal grand of both male and female. Ethics come in to play when harvesting the secretions. Either the animal is killed to obtain the sac or the area is scraped from live animals. Because of the question in humane treatment of civets a synthetic option has been made available to use in perfumery though the real deal is still obtainable. Natural perfumers can opt to not use civet at all, though it is up to the individual perfumer.

I was gifted a small sample of a 2% dilution. I found it to be raw, fecal and smoky, like something burning. Musty like aged cheese. The drydown, while becoming milder, reminds me of the guinea pig one of my aunts used to have. A mix of the animal's own scent, fur and shavings on the floor of the habitat. There is a woody note in the drydown, kind of warm and mildly sweet. Of the animal scents I've evaluated so far civet and hyraceum have to be the two strongest in animalic properties. Both need to be highly diluted. The difference being in obtaining the essences. If I had to choose between the two hyraceum would win hands down.

No comments: