A Quest for Civet Oil {Ask Marie-Helene - & the Readers}

Kashka Civet Fur Bergdof Goodman.jpg
When wearing civet cat fur was in (1925). One wonders how civet cat pelt smells like?

A little while back I received a query from Peter about a mysterious civet oil bottle. I answered as best I could - happening on an interesting thread while doing so - but thought that readers, in the US especially, might be able to give their input. Here is his message,


Back in the early to mid 1970's, I was given a rather small bottle of
civet oil. It was black and I believe dimpled in the center and a
small screw on cap with an applicator wand, could you tell me who
made that fragrance?

Thank you.
Peter, Block Island, Rhode Island.

Hi Peter,

I have seen repeated, even obsessive mentions of a civet oil from the 1970s by Alyssa Ashley. It also appeared under the Houbigant label. One testimonial indicates it was bottled in a small black bottle with an eye logo on it; you can find it also in a transparent bottle. It is discontinued and some people are looking for it really hard.

Since it is very difficult to find it (in oil concentration), you might want to look for alternatives. Someone suggested Dusty Rose Perfumery which makes a copy of the Alyssa Ashley Civet Oil. You can also find some real civet tincture at La Via del Profumo as well as synthetic civet at The Mystic Corner.

Finally, as a fragrance replacement that might potentially satisfy you, I recommend Oropuro by Laura Tonatto which can be characterized as a straight-up civet perfume (we need to have the equivalent of the term "soliflore" for animalic notes -- how about a "sola-bestia"?); I find the Eau de Parfum version to be more civet-y than the extract.

Orange Spice by Creed is a great civet perfume - very pure, old-world, with spicy and citrus-y nuances. Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent, which was mentioned by a reader, I find less purely delineated as a civet perfume than the Creed one and certainly less elegant, but if you like your civet to be dirty, on the rancid side, with hints of unwashed oily hair, that's the one to go for.

- Marie-Helene

Related Posts

19 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. I am glad I found Civet here. Yes, 1970-something and loved it better than regular Jovan musks.
    Now, how about Amergris and another called Gauntlet, I think....reminded me of strong crushed sunflowers or similar in color and smell; oily too, or maybe that was the ambergris. Ah, the old favorites.

  2. Have any idea about a perfume called Gambit, marketed in the 1970's.
    Also, regarding the above - the eternal quest for Civet Oil, By Houbigant: I remember purchasing it at JC Penneys in Washington state and the bottle was black with a silver cap and the oil was sweet-musky and it came with a roller, not an applicator stick.

    Debra Roberts
  3. Yet another here with very fond memories of Civet by Alyssa Ashley. I bought mine at an Osco drugstore where it was displayed as part of a trio of fragrances Musk, Ambergris, and Civet. It was in the round black bottle. At the time, I believe it reminded me of my grandmother's Avon Persian Wood cream sachet, another discontinued fragrance. That is what came to mind. I loved Civet and was often asked what it was, with a very puzzled look when I replied. No one had even actually heard of a "civet", and neither had I. I would love to find it again.

  4. Marie-Helene,

    I just aquired some Vintage Houbigant Civet Spray! Is it possible for you to contact me at my email? I would like to get your opinion of it, if possible. I am the same Cynthia that posted to this thread in April.


  5. I still have my bottle of Civet Oil by Alyssa Ashley. I bought it in the 1970 and still have it. It's almost all gone and I only get it out every now and then just to smell it. I have been looking for this for years, but there isn't anything out there that compares.

  6. I too have been searching for the Civet Oil I bought in the 1970's - the difference is, mine is a clear glass vial with a frosted white flower on the bottle and was made by DuCair Bioessence out of New Jersey. The oil is gone but I love getting it out to smell it once in a while - I had one made once via email at some company that swore they made it and it was the same. It was just awful - smelled like urine. This is a beautiful oil smell and I'm certain it's synthetic. Any information about this particular Civet Oil would be very much appreciated. Thank you.

  7. I forgot to put the anti-spam number in my post so here it is again.

    I have a bottle of Civet Oil by Bioessence out of NJ. I bought it in the 1970's and have never found it since. I love getting it out to smell it once in a while but would love to find it again. I had one made by an online company once and it smelled awful - like urine. This is a beautiful oil in a clear vial with a frosted white flower on the front. Anyone know where I might find this, it would be great to know. Thanks.


    • There are so many different incarnations of musks in oils nowadays but civet has ran out of fashion except in coffee form (Kopi Luwak)

      I like the Laura Tonatto Oropuro for a frank yet wearable rendition of civet and it used to be available in oil.

      Chant Wagner
  8. I have been on the hunt for Houbigant Civet Oil for 10 yrs. It is not made anymore apparently because it is now illegal to obtain the ingredient from the civet cat. It was the BEST smell on the planet! I saw a bottle on ebay a few months back selling for $700. If I could afford it, I would have paid it! It is that good. Nothing like a smell to take you back in time. Civet has a cult like following and for good reason! It was divine!!!!!!!

  9. i am a cash buyer ready to buy any civet oil or spray. i will pay top dollar for any amount. im am not the person that pays 650(that bottle is still on ebay but i bid against her to get it and drove the price up and she thinks shes going to get 650 for it,lol. she paid 238) but i will deff make the seller happy. thanks, jason jasincanfield@yahoo.com

  10. I see you have listed civet oils here, i wonder if you could find out what exactly was that delicious note in the civet oil from the 70's. I had a small 2 bottle set, one was labeled 'musk' and the other was 'civet'. i had it well into the 90's. The bottle only said 'brooklyn, ny' and i have never smelled anything like it. One came close, an oil called 'misletoe' i found at rite aid, marketed for christmastime, but i just found it in june of 2012. i have purchased many musks and the real civet, i have made mixtures from scratch etc., and nothing comes close. The real civet smells nothing like it. I want something that smells like that clean, warm lovely fragrance from the 70's, not something named after it. if Anyone finds anything like it, please list it here!

  11. I just wanted to add that both bottles were similar to the alyssa ashley musk oil and jovan bottles, clear glass, with silver tops, textured top with small vertical grooves that made the cap easier to grab and turn. I don't recall if there was a wand in the bottles. The oil was clear and oh so wonderful. Not like any of the musks or civets out today, just sweet, warm, clean and sexy. the scent stayed the same all day, all the notes combined and never resolved into anything other than what you smelled right out of the bottle. Oh to have that fragrance, i want it!

  12. I Recently cleaned out my mothers house after she passed away I actually have a bottle of civet oil by Alyssa ashley. I can provide you with picture if you like.

  13. I had a bottle of Alyssa Ashley's Civet when I was a teenager (late 60's, early 70's). It was indeed black with a tiny applicator wand. I would love to smell it again. As an adult I gravitate to the spicy, earthy notes of perfumes, but there is nothing that compares to Civet.

  14. I had this round black bottle of civet oil, and it was by Jovan.....they discontinued it, which broke my heart, doublely so when my housekeeper broke the bottle I had.......

    g. moller
  15. Hi just wantin to know whether civet perfume is still available and where is it obtainable. Would very much appreciate giving me the info. I live in South Africa. Thanks

  16. Civet musk is collected from civet cats which are classified among mammalian species.
    Ethiopia is the world main supplier of civet musk and it has a long-lasting history of civet musk trading to perfume industry and for pharmaceutical use
    We are exporters of natural civet musk here in Addis Ababa Ethiopia.

    Fuad nasser
    • Hi, just reading your post re: original Civet oil? Are you still able to obtain the original oil?

      • You would need to scour vintage auctions to hope to find it at this point in time. Good luck!

        Chant Wagner

Leave a Comment