The civet (from the Arabic Zabad) is a small African feline. The absolute one of civet is obtained by filtering the secretion of the anal glands of the animal in alcohol. The civet rubs his back on the trunks and on the rocks to mark his territory and to signal his presence to rivals and females. The olfactive exploration of its odour, is initially faecal, and strongly reveals a world of unique emotions: a person wearing it arouses a timorous respect. Exactly the same effect that the felines have always provoked in man, as possible prey. Civet is a female odour as is Grey amber. Used in compositions, it gives them an imprint of animal heat and sensuality.
Castoreum, with its thick, strong aroma, is a pure masculine odour. Castoreum absolute is extracted in the same way as civet absolute. Its perfume is more "animal" and it evokes the wild beaver, however with time it evolves on the skin into a delicate and very persistent leather perfume. The typical odour, that it evokes is printing ink, and is used in the chypre and leather compositions.
The archetype of the animal perfume is musk from the musk deer that lives in Tibet and China, by now almost extinct. It remains a perfume that few human beings will have the privilege to smell.
One of the first places where it is mentioned is in the Chinese pharmacopoeia, it is also cited by Marco Polo in the trilogy of the history of the perfumery together with amber and incense. The Greeks and Romans discovered it following the conquests of Alexander the Great; in Islam it was in third place of female preferences. After the Renaissance, when it was revered, came a period of decadence up to the modern era, where it returns in favour however in the form of macrocyclic and polycyclic musk nitrates, interesting molecules but not up to the height of the natural molecule.
The superiority of musk, and of grey amber, is their similarity to human odour in its highest spirituality (it is the perfume that is emitted from the bodies of prophets and saints). It confers a sensual touch to compositions, untouchable by synthetic molecules.