28 maggio 2013

Musk and New Musk Extreme (Alyssa Ashley) 2/2

(This post originates here)
In the previous post I wrote the lineage of Alyssa Ashley's Musk is among the noblest, and I need to go back to post-revolutionary France to explain why. 
At the end of XVIII century, Muscadins were a political movemen which many young French aristocrats belonged to. They used to wear sophisticated clothes, besides particularly recognisable and costly Musk scents. Even Josephine Bonaparte, future Empress of France, sympathized both with Muscadins and their passion for musk scents: in particular, she used to wear one composed by Houbigant, with an accord of bergamot, rose, violet on a base of musk and civet. Now we must fast forward to two centuries later, around 1968, when the great surrealist painter Enrico Donati, Italian but living in the U.S., met and married the heiress to the Houbigant family.
Chantilly, Rafinée, Lutece were the Houbigant in vogue at the time, and were aimed to the "adult" group of American customers. But soon a global "Peace&Love" vibe subverted the social rules that had formed the previous generations and a new generation of young hippies began to look overseas for supply of scented oils like patchouli, musk, civet and ambergris. This suggested Mr. Donati to launch, within the Houbigant brand, a younger and modern label, in order to "catch" this new market sector. He chose the name Alyssa Ashley because Alyssa was the name of his teenage daughter, whose hair was ash blond. The first products to be launched were the legendary, long discontinued (and now unobtainable) Musk, Civet, Ambregris and Patchouli by Alyssa Ashley, distinguished by the word "div. Houbigant" on the label.

They were sold both as body spray and small bottles of perfume oil to be applied with a stick inserted in the cap. Boys and girls fell in love right away, decreeing the commercial success of the new AA brand. Where do you think Houbigant took the formula of Musk? Yes, from Josephine Bonaparte's Musk scent, whose formula was already in the archives of the Maison Houbigant. Even the modern Musk is an accord musks/civet -obviously not as natural as in the days of Josephine and her Muscadin friends- with a top of bergamot and a heart of rose/violet (I also smell something fresh/spring like and some aldehyde which makes it bright and sunny). In Italy Musk launched only in 1981, and I think the other three oils have never joined it because I don't remember having ever set my nose on them. But it seems that those who have worn and loved them continue to desperately scan the net for them. I think it's in order to respond to this trans-generational love that the brand has recently launched, next to the classic Musk, also Patchouli and Ambre Gris. I haven't smelled them yet, but I imagine that modern formulas might differ a while  from the original 60s, in (large) part because of IFRA restrictions, in part because of the high cost of some raw materials, in part because they were originally aimed at hippy adolescents of the 70s and I believe today's public tastes may be significantly different... and this is why I think we'll never see Civet -unfortunately. Well... in the meantime I'll stick to Musk Extreme!
Pics from Etsy 

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