Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Conversation on Stanks

Since posting that piece on LPR about the horse chestnuts, I've been fielding questions about animal smells. Seems some people are a little nauseated at the prospect of using poo diddy and snoop doody in their concoctions. So let's do a little rundown of the more common, and in some cases illegal and unethical animal aromas, shall we?

First up, horse chestnuts. Not illegal. Not unethical. Not from the buttocks area of the animal. No. It's a toenail. A waxy, greasy-smelling, ultra-strong horsey aroma derived from the elbow area of a horse. Sans the leather tack smell. Tenacious scent that must be diluted -- a lot. Base note. Definitely a base note.

Hyraceum. Not illegal. Not unethical. Straight from the bowels of the hyrax, this stuff is the shit, literally. With a little piss thrown in for good measure. Also quite the tenacious scent. High dilution is required. Smells like the elephant pen at the zoo. Another base note. Or fixative.

Goat-- stuff. Not illegal. Not unethical. Derived from the hair of a smelly goat, or sometimes from tinctures of a strong goat cheese. Smells goaty. High dilution recommended. Base note or fixative.

Ambergris. Illegal in some countries. Beach combed ethical; killed whale unethical. It's puke. Smells like seaweed and halitosis and mustiness. High dilution recommended. Primarily a fixative.

Civet. Illegal. Unethical. The anal exudate of a weasel-like creature of the Viverridae family. Not poop, but close enough. Fecal smelling. Strongly fecal smelling. Base note and fixative.

Musk. Illegal. Unethical. The stricken "pods" of a male musk deer. Some say the pods can be removed or scraped or something without harming the deer -- let's allow someone to scrape your pod and see how painless it is, 'k? Musky (duh), deep, fecal smell. Also warm. High dilution required. Fixative and base note.

Castoreum. Not illegal. Unethical? Beaver butt sac sauce. Smells like it sounds. Fixative. Base note.

We've covered the basics with regard to animal aromas. It should be noted that some of these animal contributions are also used as flavoring agents, some as medicinals. So when someone tells you to go eat shit, you'll know exactly in which direction to head toward.


  1. Anonymous10:55 AM

    "-- let's allow someone to scrape your pod and see how painless it is, 'k?" Now I have to explain to my offspring what made me laugh out loud.

    As always with these most unlikely sources of scent, I wonder who first thought of trying these things, and why, and how??? (Prefer not to experience them myself; better off leaving the intimate bits and pieces of beasties with the beasties.)

    cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

  2. I imagine they noticed these smells, at least the animal marking smells, when passing through that animal's territory. How they made the leap from smelling tree bark marked with pod juice to smearing the stuff on themselves or blending it into perfumes is beyond me.

  3. Since you put it that way it does seem strange that these would would be considered perfumery materials. LOL I think you summed it up nicely.

  4. It did occur to me that perhaps we began using these animal smells to cover our own smells while hunting or tracking prey and progressed from there.

    Succinct, isn't it?



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