Today, I wanted to take a closer, more detailed look at Russian Musk, the new parfum from Areej Le Doré. Though my mini review in the New Releases post covered the broad basics, I always think specifics are more helpful, particularly for a fragrance like this one which will automatically, inevitably, be judged and compared to its much-admired, popular predecessor, Siberian Musk.
Russian Musk is a pure parfum with the following note list:
Top notes: Russian Fir and Pine, Lemon, Bergamot, and Mandarin;
Heart notes: Orange blossom from Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and France; Indian Sandalwood, Tonka bean, Nutmeg absolute, Clove and Cinnamon;
Base notes: legally-obtained wild Siberian deer musk, co-distilled by Russian Adam; Agarwood (oud) oil from Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Burma and Thailand; Rose absolute, Fossil Amber, Patchouli, Vetiver, Cypress, Tree Moss resinoid, and Oakmoss absolute.
Russian Musk opens on my skin with soft, foresty aromatics which are brisk but not too brisk or bracing, thanks to the deepness, mellowness, and well-rounded nature of the notes. First, there is a mountain accord composed out of fresh pine, fresh fir, and the beautifully fragrant, aromatic oil of their crushed needles and pine cones. Underneath them is a handful of dry earth, sprinkled with one or two deer musk grains. Bright, sunny splashes of yellow are poured atop this green and brown woodland, foresty bouquet: a succulent lemon note, smelling of warm juices which are tangy, sweet, and tart, just like a good Meyer’s lemon instead of the more acidulated regular variety. The foresty and citrus notes are then cocooned within a soft cloud of quasi-aldehydic whiteness. It’s neither soapy nor waxy like actual aldehydes, nor is it laundry clean like white musk; instead, it’s a sort of aerated lift similar to the cool, clean air which you might find on a mountain top. It’s merely a light touch, milder even than the quasi-aldehydes in Siberian Musk, and it’s quickly swallowed up by the growing, deepening layers of crushed pine needles and juicy, tangy lemons.
Other elements peek out from behind this central bouquet. In the earliest moments, there are flickers of deer musk, smelling of actual warm musk rather than just soft earth and musk grains. There are also a few rustling whispers of soft, fruited florals. Roughly 8-10 minutes in, the mandarin pushes them both aside to join the foresty and lemon notes on center stage. Trailing behind at a distance are: soft mosses, bitter nutmeg, and a quiet cedar-y/cypress-y woodiness. The nutmeg is a minor touch, but the others aren’t and they serve to accentuate even further the impression of a fresh, crisp, coniferous, and plush landscape which captures both the mountain and the forest in one.
What strikes me is the different feel of the two Areej fragrances, even though they have virtually identical notes and extremely similar openings. It’s because the balance of notes is different in the earliest moments. To me, Siberian Musk (“SM”) felt like a chypre right from the start because the florals appeared almost instantaneously amidst the citrus, aromatics, aldehydes, foresty notes, deer musk, and verdant mosses, although not all those notes were equal in prominence or strength.
Russian Musk, however, has no florals with which to dilute or split its focus during the first 20-25 minutes, at least not on my skin, so the impression of being on top of a mountain is purer. Having said that, this mountain top is different than the one in SM. It’s not enormously crisp, it doesn’t skew chilly or cold in feel, and it doesn’t have quite the bracing feel of its predecessor. The reasons why are probably because the aldehydes in Russian Musk are significantly milder and mellower on my skin; its citruses are sunnier, sweeter, and not bitter or brisk like the lime in SM could sometimes be; and the amount of greenness and deer musk earthiness in the first 20 minutes are less. The cumulative effect reads as a more refined, mellower version of Siberian Musk which has had some of its edges rounded out due to tweaks in the proportion of notes.
The florals finally arrive 25 minutes in, and they’re different, too. On my skin, Siberian Musk smelled predominantly of roses in its opening phase, followed by a frangipani-like tropicality and orange blossoms. With Russian Musk, it’s all about the orange blossoms right from the start, and they’re bright, sunny, lush, in full bloom, syrupy, and almost jammy, as though dollops of orange jam had been spooned onto their petals. There is only a whisper of something vaguely suggesting roses but it lurks behind orange blossoms, quite unlike SM. Roughly 5 minutes later, at the 30-minute mark, even that small whimper is drowned out when slicks of patchouli, cinnamon, dark resins, and vetiverish mossiness appear, staining the orange blossoms’ whiteness. In the base, the first signs of musky oud begin to pop up.
Together, the new arrivals spread across the mountain top like a wave, covering and muffling the pine trees, the fir trees, and much of the quasi-aldehydic aerated freshness. Chunks of tangy lemon pulp remain on the surface, along with a decent handful of crushed pine needles, oozing out their aromatic oil, but the olfactory focus has now shifted into full-on chypre territory. Instead of a mountain top, the bouquet is now centered almost entirely on sweet, lush, jammy orange blossoms splattered with tangy lemon and nestled amidst a bed of plush, mossy greenness which is streaked with spicy red patchouli and lesser amounts of dry-green-cedary woods, oud-ish woody musk, and resins.
The deer musk is present, but it veers between being a sideline note and a background one. It’s not a powerful central force. Instead, it ripples quietly, sending out soft puffs of fur to dangle around like orange blossom chypre bouquet, like dandelion puffs blowing in the wind. Nothing about it is animalic, dirty, skanky, or aggressive. It’s merely a soft earthiness and fuzziness which, at this point at least, typically smells like a fur coat that has been sprayed with a vintage chypre parfum.
Roughly 45 minutes in, Russian Musk shifts. The aldehydes disappear, replaced by an even thicker carpet of mossy greenness. The deer musk and its fur are now planted firmly in the background. The pine joins it there before disappearing about 20 minutes later. The most significant change, however, is that the orange blossoms grow sticky-sweet and heavy. The rose temporarily comes out to play, adding to the sense of jammy floralcy, while the oud begins to quickly seep up from the base, emitting lashings of dark musk along the way. When taken as a whole, it’s a rich, thick, deep, strong bouquet, even if it’s not the dense, chewy, super-charged beast that Siberian Musk was on my skin.
The two fragrances’ balance of notes continues to be different on my skin: Russian Musk is more syrupy, more indolic, and warmer; its flowers are overwhelmingly orange blossom-based; the mossy greenness is comparatively less or, to put it another way, it doesn’t feel like a co-equal note the way that it did in SM; the deer musk is milder; and the fragrance’s muskiness turns oud-driven much sooner than it did in SM.
This is Russian Musk’s second stage, and it continues for several hours without any major twists or transformations, merely some minor ones. For example, the bouquet gradually begins to grow airier and more diffuse in feel at the 1.75 hour mark. At that point, the deer musk feels quite soft, almost literally so because it is increasingly more of a fuzzy texture than an overt, clear aroma. Russian Musk is, indeed, musky, but now it stems almost entirely from the various ouds.
The orange blossoms change a little around the same time as well, growing almost candied in feel. However, I think it’s important to note that, when I applied a small dosage of Russian Musk roughly equal to 1 small spray, the sweetness was much less, not so pronounced, and not so intensely syrupy. It also didn’t drown out the deer musk to quite the same degree quite so soon. As always with fragrances brimming with rich all-natural raw materials, how much you apply can make a big difference to the nuances you experience as well as the balance of notes. You will want to keep that in mind.
Regardless of quantity, the deer musk eventually re-emerges and starts to do a back-and-forth dance, fluctuating in both its placement and its prominence. Typically in my tests, this first starts roughly around the 2.25 hour mark. The deer musk smells of soft fluff imbued with a handful of warm, clean fur and a quiet earthiness. It’s nowhere as strong or as clear as it is in SM but the note is clearly there nonetheless, even if it doesn’t stay. It flits away after 15 minutes, comes back maybe 20 minutes after that, and then the whole cycle repeats itself once more.
Going back to Siberian Musk for a moment, the power, heft, and thickness of its chypre accord during the first half of its life can sometimes make one forget that it actually has an extremely strong oriental emphasis in its second half, and that the fragrance is therefore more accurately categorized as a chypre-oriental, rather than just a chypre or a musk fragrance. Russian Musk is the same way and has the same hybrid duality, but I find that the stages are more compressed. Moreover, the oriental part happens sooner in the process than it does in Siberian Musk.
In Russian Musk, the transition towards the oriental side begins roughly 3.75 to 4 hours into the fragrance’s development. The bouquet is now focused primarily on ripe, indolic, syrupy orange blossoms layered with greenness, then with varying degrees of spicy patchouli, sticky ambered resins, oud-based musk, and a mostly textural element of soft deer musk fuzziness. The oud’s muskiness is growing softer but also deeper and more velvety in feel. In addition, it’s beginning to waft wisps of wooded smokiness and, every now and then, subtle chocolate accents as well.
When taken as a whole, Russian Musk’s bouquet at this point is sweet and strong in aroma, but diffuse in body. Given the amount of dark, resinous and musky notes, you might expect its weight and density to be extremely dense or opaque, but it’s not. While this is not an “airy” fragrance as compared to almost any other brand’s extrait, when Russian Musk is compared to the attar-like heft of the original Areej trio, this one is “airy,” lighter, and milder. Again, it’s a purely relative thing. By objective standards, this is a strong, rich fragrance. I can’t imagine anyone on earth calling it a watery, diluted, bland milksop.
Roughly 5.75 hours in, Russian Musk’s third stage begins and is purely floral oriental in nature. The notes are a blur, a haze of orange, white, gold, brown, and black visuals derived from sweet, fruit floralcy, spicy resinousness, benzoin-ish amber, and dark musk. The diffuse, weightless cloud is smudged at the corners with greenness (though it is growing much softer and weaker), as well as touch of oud woodiness and a pinch of wood smoke. Then, it’s set against a backdrop of velvety fuzziness. I think the velvety feel comes primarily from the oud’s muskiness, but the deer musk undoubtedly plays an indirect role as well. It’s just that I can’t detect it now at all, not even in ghostly, occasional form.
Russian Musk changes its focus at the end of the 7th hour and the start of the 8th. In a nutshell, the emphasis is now on resinous (oud-derived) muskiness, not sweet, syrupy florals. They’re subsumed within the brown haze, along with cinnamon-ish benzoin amber, labdanum amber, and a touch of wood smoke. There is nothing mossy about the scent, nor, in fact, anything really floral-oriental about it, either. It is a pure oriental.
The bouquet is strong in terms of actual aroma if I bring my nose to my arm, but it feels even more diffuse and weightless in body than it was before. If you’re familiar with Bertrand Duchaufour’s old style, many of his creations combined olfactory richness with weightlesness. (Take, for example, MDCI’s Chypre Palatin.) Quite a few Vero Profumo parfums exhibit the same thing. Russian Musk is now similar. That doesn’t mean it’s a weak, insubstantial, or gossamer-light scent; it’s simply airier and softer as compared to SM which had an attar-like heft and room-filling reach at a similar point in time. On top of all that, Russian Musk’s textural feel is turning silky, as opposed to a pile of thick velvet. None of that is a bad thing and, in fact, were Russian Musk compared to most niche parfums, it would either be comparable or richer. It’s just that comparing it to its predecessor creates a distorted picture because Siberian Musk was such a behemoth.
Russian Musk’s extensive, long-lasting drydown begins roughly at the end of the 8th hour, but it has parts to it, each with its own particular focal emphasis. From the 8th hour until the 11th, the fragrance is a duet of ambered resinousness and muskiness with thin strands of syrupy floralcy weaving the two together. It hovers just above the skin like a sheer but durable silk gauze, although it continues to be strong in aroma when I bring my nose to my arm. In the 11th hour, however, things shift yet again. A strong, clear, distinct labdanum note appears, temporarily becoming the start note, and the oud’s muskiness takes a back seat. All lingering traces of floralcy disappear. Russian Musk is now just silky-soft, bronzed-brown, ambered fuzziness and fluffiness with a quiet muskiness layered within. In the 16th hour, the deer musk briefly re-emerges to join the festivities, smelling of soft fur with a pinch of even softer, milder brown earth mixed in. It’s a minor note, though, and it doesn’t last long, maybe an hour at most. In the 18th hour, as Russian Musk starts to gradually wind down, all that’s left is golden warmth with a fuzzy softness about it. The fragrance dies that same way several hours later.
Russian Musk had low-ish projection, initially big sillage that shrank after 5.5 hours, and excellent longevity, even if it’s not the insane monster longevity of its predecessor. With several squirts from the sample atomizer, roughly equal to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle applied to a roughly 3-inch patch of skin, Russian Musk opened with about 2.5 to 3 inches of projection. The sillage was about 5 inches, then grew to 8-9 inches after 15 minutes. The numbers began to drop incrementally after three hours. 3.25 hours in, the projection was about 1 to 1.5 inches, and the sillage around 5-6 inches. At the 5.5-hour mark, the projection was 0.5 to 1 inch, and the sillage was around 4 inches. Russian Musk turned into a skin scent 8.75 hours into its development, but was easy to detect up close until the 13th hour, at which point I had to put my nose right on the skin. 17.5 hours in, I thought the fragrance was about to die, but the ambered, musky silkiness clung on tenaciously until just before the 21st hour.
I think those numbers are excellent by any objective standard. It’s only when you compare them to my figures for Siberian Musk that the scent seems weaker. With SM, when I dabbed a tiny amount, about two small drops worth, I got 16-24+ longevity, and that was an amount far, far less than amount I typically used in my tests here. With the 2-spray equivalent that I used here, Siberian Musk was still going on in the 36th hour when I finally gave up and took a shower.
But, let’s be honest, do any of us actually need 36 hours of longevity? It’s fantastic, yes — exceptional, in fact, and it always makes me jump up and down with glee — but that doesn’t mean 21 hours is peanuts or something to be scoffed at. Yes, Russian Musk is weaker, milder, and not as strong as the original, but it’s purely relative to the original which was such an absolute behemoth in terms of longevity, room-filling sillage, density, heft, and heaviness that it skewed the scale to an abnormal degree in every possible regard. But if you compare Russian Musk to an extrait from, say, Roja Dove or SHL 777, they’re comparable in weight, projection, sillage, and longevity. In fact, I think Russian Musk is stronger, richer, and heavier than some Vero Profumo and Serge Lutens parfums. It’s definitely greater in sillage than Lutens’ Section d’Or luxury extraits (which typically cost $250-$300 more for the exact same size bottle). In short, Russian Musk is not water, it just isn’t Goliath.
Having said all that, there are a few things I want to mention which I noticed in my tests. I had asked Russian Adam for a second set of samples in non-spray vial form, so that I would have sufficient quantity of juice to test for possible changes in aroma, nuances, sillage, or some other element if I applied different quantities or if I dabbed instead of spraying. After all, many of you will be getting non-spray samples from Luckyscent, and I think most people are aware that aerosolization typically increases the reach and power of a fragrance when compared to dabbing.
In playing about with quantity and methods of application, I observed a few things. First, the deer musk note was clearer, more overt, and more enduring when I applied a small amount of fragrance: several dabbed smears, roughly equal to 1 spray from an actual bottle, on the same 3-inch or 4-inch patch of skin. With that amount, the deer musk wasn’t swallowed up as quickly by the orange blossoms and it lasted longer. Plus, the flowers were better balanced and not so syrupy sweet. However, the sillage was much less in the first few hours, perhaps 5-6 inches instead of almost 9 in the opening hour, and the fragrance didn’t last as long, roughly 14.5 hours instead of 21.
Second, regardless of whether I dabbed or I spritzed, I noticed that when I applied too much fragrance to the same area — an amount roughly between 2.5 large sprays and 3 small ones from an actual bottle — then the orange blossoms went nuts. Like, overload nuts. There are, after all, four different types of orange blossom in Russian Musk (seemingly four times as much as Siberian Musk which only had one listed), and I think the flowers grow immensely concentrated in aroma, force, and power when you apply a lot of scent. What I didn’t like, at all, was the way the flowers turned into pure candy. Cloying candy. I have a low tolerance threshold for sweetness, so the syrupy nature of the flowers when I applied the Goldilocks/middle amount application was just about pushing my limits as it was, but the intensely candied version was too much for me. If you share my struggles with sweetness or cloying excess, you will want to be careful not to apply too much fragrance. This is one scent which I thought was actually prettier, more refined, and more appealing with the smallest scent application possible (the 1-spray equivalent), although one ends up sacrificing some degree of sillage as a result.
Russian Musk is too new for me to provide you with comparative reviews at the time of this post. The fragrance has not yet been added to Fragrantica’s Areej section, but I’ve provided the link for you to check in the weeks ahead. You’ll have better luck checking the Basenotes’ Areej discussion thread sometime in the week ahead. The link I’ve provided goes to the last page (currently page 31) at the time of this post, and no-one has received their samples to share any reviews but that will soon change.
For now, you’re stuck with me and my impressions. Overall, I think there is a lot to like about Russian Musk. However, after having tested it extensively and repeatedly, I think its predecessor works better for my personal tastes. It’s not because Siberian Musk is more of a powerhouse or a Goliath; Russian Musk actually feels more wearable and versatile in many regards, and it also rounds out some of Siberian Musk’s edges in a nice, mellower way. No, the main reason is due to the sweetness issue and my difficulty in getting the right sort of balance for my personal tastes without sacrificing reach and sillage. What I’m talking about specifically is the orange blossom’s syrupyness which is too much for me if I apply anything more than a 1-spray amount. I loved the deer musk note which appeared at that low dose and thought it smelled more delicate and refined than the comparable note in Siberian Musk with a low dosage, but then the sillage was affected. Normally, I can increase scent reach by increasing scent amount, but doing that saddles me with cloying, heavy amount of orange blossom candy.
Separate from all that, I liked how Siberian Musk’s chypre phase lasted longer and the mossy greenness was a stronger, heavier element in the composition, at least on my skin. Russian Musk’s greenness was not as hefty or enduring, and that was true no matter how much or how little I applied.
On the plus side, though, Russian Musk has a lovely, and rather addictive, drydown. It’s the sort of thing which reminds me of nuzzling the heated skin in the crook of a loved one’s neck, if that neck had been lightly coated with amber and musk. Siberian Musk’s drydown was equally lovely, but since that fragrance is no longer available, this is a wonderful substitute.
At the end of the day, many of these points are largely academic and of interest solely to owners of the original fragrance. They don’t change the fundamental bottom line which is that, taken on its own merits, Russian Musk is a very good fragrance with a refined, deep, smooth, and luxurious nature which will appeal to fans of both the chypre and floral oriental genre. I realize that it will always be compared to its predecessor amongst those who have tried both, and that’s quite natural, but Russian Musk has a lot to commend it if one just views it on its own or in a vacuum. If you’ve never experienced the original, you won’t be laden down by comparisons to the past. And if you’ve never experienced the wonderful textural fluffiness, fuzziness, and velvetiness created by real deer musk, then I think you’re in for a treat.
Disclosure: My sample was provided by Russian Adam. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.