It wouldn't be an overstatement to claim that Musc Nomade By Annick Goutal is an exceptional piece of perfumery and among musk fragrances it really stands apart, poised between the crossroads of animalic and clean, defined by neither, or -better yet- interpreting both qualities in equal measure to the point you forget about classifications and just revel in its chiaroscuro sensuality. If pressed, I'd say it's a "vegetal musk". And it is.
Musc Nomade (2008) is the fourth addition in the Les Orientalistes line which was introduced with Ambre Fétiche, Myrrhe Ardent and Encens Flamboyant. The inspiration of the scents was said to be the smells of the harem and perfumer Isabelle Doyen masterfully wove in sensuous, denser whiffs in the familiar fabric of gauze that runs through the Goutal brand, thus marrying two antithetical elements: opulence and transparency. Annick Goutal was already enchanted by the sophistication of musc devotees, the Qatar Princesses, who bathed their bodies and hair in a divine blend of musk powder and rose essence, and fragranced their rooms by burning oud wood. She dreamed of capturing the aphrodisiac effect of this material reputed to stir the senses and hold men captivated... Camille Goutal, the next in line after Annick's passing, decided to do an ecological musk and with the help of Isabelle Doyen they defied convention in that they produced a vibrant, lightly "animalic" musk without the use of animal-derived products.
To do that Isabelle Doyen employed Muscone, a very refined -and costly- ingredient which is the odorous principle of natural deer musk, married with the natural macrocyclic musks (see relevant article) present in angelica root (containing 12-methyl-13-tridecanolide and Exaltolide) and ambrette seeds. The artistry lies in manipulating raw materials which are difficult to handle: Angelica root essence is musty, with a note of bitters and the liquid emulsifies in alcohol dilution making the mixture cloudy like a glass of pastis. Nevertheless, Doyen managed to bypass all these problems and the juice is perfectly clear with an aromatic top note that singes the nose hairs most delightfully the way a good gin does, to unfold later on a dirty, pleasantly "skanky" ambience that recalls the smooth fur of Muscs Kublai Khan by Lutens and the cozy sex-on-the-haystack feel of L'Air de Rien by Miller Harris.
Its individual character and unassuming sensuality put it in my top 5 choices for musk fragrances.
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Notes for Annick Goutal Musc Nomade:
Muscone, white musk stemming from angelica root and ambrette seed, tonka beans, labdanum, Bombay wood (a papyrus variety)
Musc Nomade circulates in Eau de Parfum concentration in two bottle designs (depicted) with exactly the same scent (same as with all the Orientalistes!): One is the feminine ribbed bottle, the other the sleek rectangular masculine one with gold accents. I personally find the somber lines of the masculine design with the lovely arabesque motifs in the labels more fitting this line of enigmatic scents.
Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Annick Goutal news & reviews, Scented Musk-eteers: musk fragrances reviews
Clip from the film Il Ventre dell'Architetto by Peter Greenaway, Struggle for pleasure by Wim Mertens.