Monday, November 26, 2018

Answers from a Walking Smellopedia: Hunting Lures & Perfume

I received a curious email from a Smell & Tell attendee after delivering a Zoologist Perfumes presentation in late November. I was expecting a bit of prodding and nudging regarding Mammalia Incognito, a mysterious work-in-progress that was evaluated at the end of the Zoologist Perfumes scent flight (it followed the stunningly beautiful Chameleon, which is scheduled to show its colors in 2019). The attendee's query had nothing to do with Mammalia Incognito and everything to do with a deceased hunter's olfactory relics.

I have obtained permission to share the email exchange with readers of Glass Petal Smoke as the conversation affords a learning opportunity. The attendee's name and that of her partner are anonymized. What you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to encourage publication of existing and future inquiries (there are many).

November 15, 2018
Dear Michelle, 
Looking forward to next week's Smell & Tell. I have an interesting question for you. Going through my dad's effects this summer we came across a cotton ball container filled with fluffs and a bottle of deer "attractant". My dad hunted years ago so this bottle is old. It does contain some very potent essence of doe. I take it they put some on each little cotton ball and left a trail through the woods until they got some action (like Hansel and Gretel, but malodorous crumbs at that). 
Anyway, neither Hayden nor I hunt. We know no hunters and will throw this out unless you would be interested. I'm telling you it is foul stuff but you've got a nose that might find this an interesting addition to your collection of "sniffs". Let me know if you want it or not—it's definitely not something folks would want to smell. 
When I held it under Hayden's nose, he was appalled and hurt that I would do even asked me "Why would you?". So that's my unusual question. Hope you are staying warm and toasty on this snowy Thursday. 

November 18, 2018 
Dear Heather, 
This is a great question! I have an answer that you'll find intriguing. Animals respond to smells of kin and kind. That’s why glandular and urine lures, some of which indicate a female in estrous, are used in hunting lures. (I suspect that's what you found in your father's effects and it's worth pitching.) 
Animals also respond to smells of food, those they know in their natural setting, and those that smell like animals they hunt for sustenance. Then there are smells that make them curious. Hunting lures that utilize these kinds of smells are called curiosity lures. 
Many ingredients used in perfumery are also used in curiosity lures. Particular ones. Animalics like Civetone (synthetic civet), Ambroxan (a synthetic variety of ambergris), Castoreum, synthetic Musk, and flavor extracts like Anise or Apple, to name a few. 
When you read news stories about animals responding to Calvin Klein’s Obsession it’s because perfumes may contain ingredients that arouse an animal's curiosity. It doesn’t make the perfumes "sexy" though that’s the kind of nonsense supported by hack journalists, the silence of the fragrance industry (who remain silent because they can't talk about proprietary perfume formulas protected by non-disclosure agreements), and the ignorant. 
Perfumes are curiosity lures for animals and humans. If you come across hunters you may be able to get a few interesting stories out of them—many have secret formulas for homemade curiosity lures. 
My father and his fishing buddies used vanillin powder to flavor cooked yellow cornmeal that they formed into balls of bait at the end of their fish hooks (a kind of polenta-like Play-Doh®). They were after Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio), a species of fish that have an exquisite sense of smell. They caught a lot of carp (and were very particular about who they shared their bait recipe with)! 
P.S. The Simulacra of Rat perfume I formulated for The Plague Doctor's Cabinet of Olfactory Curiosities event contained a small amount of a hunting lure that has synthetic deer musk in it. Let me know when you want to smell the musk lure. You can tell Hayden that it's not a nose-wrinkler like the deer "attractant" you found among your father's effects.

Michelle Krell Kydd

I've received several email queries from Smell & Tell attendees, but Heather's was the first one regarding the smell of hunting lures. Adirondack Outdoor Company in upstate New York makes a coveted Tonquin Musk (Siberian Deer Musk) lure—the same one I used to create Simulacra of Rat for The Plague Doctor's Cabinet of Olfactory Curiosities program.

The lure is "quite lovely and animalic" according to Manuel, who commented in a "Best Synthetic Musk" thread on Basenotes (November 22, 2011 at 3:33 a.m.). I concur with Manuel regarding the lure's olfactory aesthetics, though Tonquin Musk lure is not something one should wear on skin (or expose in the woods where rutting deer can detect it). That would be as bad as wearing Boarmate™ in a pig sty. Tonquin deer are nearly extinct, so it's best to wear perfumes made with synthetic musks. There are many beautiful ones to choose from.

The Hunting Kit was a trio of Ambergris, Civet and Musk perfumes sold by Jōvan in the 1970's. The product copy on the outside of the box was aimed at women. "Lure your man with musk. Excite him with civet. Bring him to his knees with ambergris." The owner of the license needs to wake up and follow the scent trail. Just skip the gender specific copy and don't call it Spoor.

If you're curious about the use of musk in perfumery you should read Claire Vuksevic's musk articles on Basenotes. Re-reading part one and part two (which includes a review of 20 musk perfumes) reminds me why Claire Vuksevic's website, Take One Thing Offis the 3.0 version of fragrance blogs.

The perfumer for Chameleon by Zoologist Perfumes is Daniel Pescio. Pescio's Instagram is filled with fragrant inspiration, including his passion for kōdō.

I will be crestfallen when the sample of Chameleon that was provided for Smell & Tell runs dry. It's one of those skin loving scents that draws your nose to your wrist several times a day. I'll write about Chameleon when it's released. In the meantime I'll use what's left of Zoologist Perfume's Chameleon to take revenge on winter.

Art for Chameleon perfume by Zoologist Perfumes.

Cover of Hansel and Gretel, a pop-up book illustrated by Louise Rowe, via Tango Books.

Engraving of The Origins of Perfume by Simon Barbe (1699). This image features animals associated with perfumery. Ambergris floats in the sea, in the absence of the whale that regurgitated the sea-aged fragrance material. A goat awaits combing of aromatic Labdanum resin that clings to its fur. A caged civet awaits scraping of its glands. A deer musk is about to have its aromatic musk sacs removed, which will result in its death.

The Hunting Kit trio of perfumes by Jōvan appeared on Quirky Finds' online shop, but quickly disappeared.