The scent of a woman

There are few things that embody the Riethian principles – inform, educate and entertain – quite as well as BBC Radio 4. On a long motorway drive just before New Year, I tuned in. There was satirical comedy about the start of nuclear armageddon. Discussion (in the light of Wienstien, #metoo etc) of the impact 2017 had had on being a man. And a show called The Forum – Making Scents: The Story of Perfume.

As well as the history and culture surrounding perfume, the latter looked at the ingredients.

The perfumerer’s pallet has also featured lesser known materials drawn from the natural world – animal extracts. […] Most of them are secretions that come from animals which have a sack, it’s not anal secretions but it’s in the perianal area of the animal.

Four ingredients were specifically mentioned: Musk (from the Musk Deer), Civet oil (from the Civet Cat), Ambergris (from the Sperm Whale) and Castoreum.

Castoreum comes from the Beaver. Beavers have something called the Caster Sacks on them. And these exude the material that is so prized in perfumary.

It features in such perfumes as Chanel Antaeus, Lancôme Caractère and Givenchy III.

So when a woman next walks past you and you think hmmm, she smells nice – I wonder what perfume she’s wearing?, pause to consider whether you’ve really just caught a whiff of beaver.

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