RETRO - Jovan Musk Oil (not an extremely thick oil)
Year Introduced: 1972 - Unisex
Notes: Slightly sweet light floral notes over a deep sensuous musky base
Advertising Slogan: Drop for drop, Jovan Musk Oil has brought more men and women together than any other fragrance in history
Jovan Musk Oil is the quintessential musk fragrance of the 1970s. Barry Shipp was a perfume salesman who discovered an aromatic oil being sold in a drug paraphernalia shop and developed it into a multimillion-dollar business called Jovan Musk. In the late 1960's he was a sales representative with Revlon, and while on a business trip in Manhattan he saw a line outside a Greenwich Village ''head shop,'' one of the small stores that commonly sold incense and fragrances, hashish pipes and hookahs. He learned that the crowd had been attracted by a very sweet fragrance called musk oil. People were lining up to buy it because others were talking about its unusual powers of sexual attraction, aphrodisiac powers and the fact that it could mask the odor of marijuana and anything else they wanted to mask. Mr. Shipp brought a bottle home and went to a fragrance house and developed what would become Jovan Musk Oil. He left Revlon and, along with an entrepreneur, Bernard Mitchell, founded a corporation to market an inexpensive synthetic musk that he patented and called Jovan Musk. Mr. Shipp and Mr. Mitchell were the first to mass-merchandise musk oil in the early 1970s. When most other perfumes were being sold with soft packaging in light pinks and blues, Jovan burst onto the scene in a bright orange box with a "talking package" that described the potent powers of musk in provocative tones.
The wording on the box reads: "It releases the animal instinct. Musk oil is the exciting scent that has stimulated passion since time began. Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Pompadour knew the spell it could create. So can you. Just a drop behind the ear, at the base of the neck, back of the knee will set pulses racing. Your sensual power is invincible. And while you scarcely notice its subtle scent. He will. Jovan musk oil perfume makes its own natural impression. And lingers. Suddenly you're more female. Jovan musk oil. It's as if we bottled a basic animal instinct. And only you can release it."
In a 1972 trend piece about musk oil having recently become popular, TIME Magazine quoted Bernard Mitchell as saying, “The scent will stay with you maybe four days. It doesn’t wash off when you swim or bathe.”
The product was also unusual at the time because it was marketed to both men and women under the same brand name, and it was introduced by a small company in Chicago rather than Paris or New York. Competitors thought it would just be a fad, but they were wrong and soon there were several similar fragrances on the market. Musk oil was HUGE in 1973. There were musk fragrances by Dana, Alyssa Ashley, Bonne Bell, Coty, Max Factor, Menley & James, Yardley, Revlon and Houbigant but it was Jovan who started it all.
Jovan Musk Oil was a synthetic version of an animal pheromone and was marketed for its ability to enhance sexual attraction. Until then, musk had been used only in small amounts as a fragrance additive. It was part of The Animal Kingdom by Jovan's Hunting Kit for today’s woman. It had a ‘fragrance arsenal’ that you could use to allure your man with Musk Oil, excite him with Civet Oil, and bring him to his knees with Ambergris Oil.
Vintage Jovan Musk Oil is a beautiful smooth scent with a subtly-sweet, soft floral note above the musk that balances the fragrance between freshly showered and just ravaged.
In 1975, the Fragrance Foundation voted Jovan's Musk Oil promotion the "most exciting and creative national advertisement campaign." Jovan's CEO, Bernard Mitchell, also earned an industry award. He was voted "the year's most outstanding person."
In 1981, Jovan paid the Rolling Stones $1 million to put the brand’s name on the tickets sold during the band’s American “Tattoo You” tour. It was the first brand to sponsor a rock tour and some critics felt that the Stones sold out to a cheap cologne corporate sponsorship. But it all added up to extra power for Jovan at the drug store.
Jovan Musk Oil is still available for purchase (although it has been reformulated) and is currently distributed by Coty.
This is the original 1970s oil version of the fragrance.
If you would like to know more information about musk as a perfume ingredient, please read:
Just a bit of background information about musk oil. Musk is one of the most penetrating essences known to man; just a few molecules can scent millions of cubic feet of air. That is why many animals and insects use this bodily secretion to send silent, invisible signals to mates or enemies. Humans are also attracted to (and sometimes repelled by) the smell of musk. Musk comes from a glandular secretion of the mature male Tibetan musk deer during rutting season. The musk deer is found in Pakistan, India, Tibet, China, Siberia and Mongolia. It was first mentioned in the Talmud in the 5th century, B.C. as an animal-based fragrance. Musk also fixes and balances a fragrance. The best quality musk used to come from Tibet and China (Tonquin/Tonkin musk). Since the extraction of the musk pods was fatal to the musk deer, they became an endangered species in 1979. Only old stock is used or musk produced from the little pellets that the deer drop on the ground while they graze. Natural musk is very pungent in its raw state - somewhat urinous and fecal. Angelica and ambrette seeds produce musky smelling compounds which are used in fragrances but are a costly resource for niche and natural perfumers.
All musk used in perfumery today is synthetic apart from only a handful of exceptions which are usually small artisanal perfumers. Synthetic musks are known as white musks in the perfume industry and are a class of synthetic aromachemicals used to replicate the scent of the musk deer. They have more of a clean, smooth, sweet scent and none of the fecal or animalic notes that natural musks have. Since the high cost and scarcity of natural musk has always been a concern for the fragrance industry, synthetic musks have been around for a very long time - much longer than the other animal notes. Nitro musk was first created in 1888 when Albert Baur accidentally discovered it while working on producing a more effective form of trinitrotoluene (TNT). The five most commercially relevant nitro musk compounds are: musk ketone, musk ambrette, musk moskene, musk tibetene and musk xylene. They are all rich and warm smelling and were used in vintage extraits and colognes. Unfortunately, nitromusks are no longer used in fragrances (since the early 1980s) and polycyclic musk compounds (another class of synthetic musk) are also being phased out. Macrocyclic musk compounds are now the most used class of synthetic musks in fragrances. Synthetic musks are essential in modern perfumery as they form the base note of most fragrances. They smooth and blend all of the other ingredients making it an excellent base material while imparting its own scent into the fragrance. Synthetic musks have a more airy, powdery effect that is said to be more appealing to the modern nose. But to lovers of the vintage scents, the use of macrocyclic musks changed their beloved scent.
Chandler Burr, author of The Emperor of Scent and The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris & New York, a former New York Times perfume critic from 2006 to 2010, and the founder of the Department of Olfactory Art at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City had this to say on real musk: "Tonquin musk is animalic in its most elevated form. It is a perfumery raw material that was extracted from a gland under the lower stomach and before the hind legs of the male of the species Moschus moschiferus L, the Tibetan musk deer. Tonquin musk is the real, natural, glandular product. It is one of the most astounding smells you will ever experience."
I had the opportunity once to smell the musk from a musk deer blended with Mysore sandalwood. It was the most beautiful raw, natural smell and it seriously brought a tear to my eye.