Ulric de Varens Cotton Musk Original (2018) {New Fragrance} {Perfume Review & Musings}


A new musk is (re) born. Ulric de Varens Cotton Musk was originally launched in 2001. It has been re-introduced as Cotton Musk Original in 2018 by the French mass-market label due to its intrinsic qualities as a musk scent, which has made it unforgettable to many in France. The only change the brand admits to has to do with its amped-up intensity. You'll get more of the stuff you love...

As a musk cognoscenti - and if you are one, you know what we're referring to - a musk found or talked about cannot be left unturned. The 2001 incarnation of the perfume composed by perfumer Henri Bergia was housed in a pink pebble-shaped flacon fitted with a not-so-helpful handle for your nimble finger. In 2018, it's turned a shade of neon hot pink and round as a fuschia moon.

As the name of the fragrance informs you, the title note is musk. Let's dwell a bit on the name, shall we. "Cotton Musk" is the metaphor the perfume industry has collectively adopted overtime to designate a certain type of musk cocktail which is perceived synesthetically as being white in color, soft to the touch - in your mind - and clean.

Cotton bolls never smelled musky unless you want to read into it that slaves did indeed sweat profusely on bolls while picking cotton in the fields of the South of the United States; come to think of it, this is veering very un-pc, which is not the intent behind the denomination "cotton musk." No one wishes to evoke hard work, forced labor and slavery. But still, isn't it a bit odd?

In perfume speak, "cotton musk" expresses the desire to smell subtly animalic as a human while not being offensive to the noses of most poetical souls. Exit in this case scenario, the frankly dirty musks of yore, enter the sanitized musk of today, still. In truth though, perfume lovers can nowadays enjoy a wider spectrum of musks than ever, from repulsive to soapy; sudsy is considered good rather than repulsive; the trend has gone as far as making Windex smell cool. But back to this very musk, born from the optimistic outlook that each brand ought to have their personal musk and that there are not enough musks already on Earth to satisfy general thirst for musk.

Culturally, musk benefits from a fetish status as it is considered as one of the primary building blocks of sensuality bottled. Jovan Musk, Kiehl's Musk, Egyptian Goddess, the regretted Japanese Musk by The Body Shop and so on, have about them the aura of necessary scents you can always fall back upon when in the mood of feeling simplistic. Behind the launch of a new musk scent is the eternal hope that it will catch on massively. It is, in a way, the holy grail of the mass-market, with commercial and cultural stakes at play. Jovan Musk is a bestseller and an olfactive icon, but also a cultural one.

Ulric de Varens, a French mass-market brand, has decided to re-edit in a more intense version their under-the-radar house classic. They work with perfumery greats although they don't like to disclose names. But they are telling the truth.

How Does it Smell Like?

The first impression is that Cotton Musk is an efficacious musk. It really does smell of musk in the way that musk purists will appreciate immediately. If it offers nuances of flowers and fruits, they are kept in absolute check so as to never go in the direction of a musky scent, than rather be an A-to-Z musk scent. Lilac was the main floral nuance attached to the scent in 2001; in 2018, it's been specified that it's white lilac mingling with jasmine and freesia - thanks to a helpful German source - and also lavender. Coriander, also listed, can be detected. But everything remains quite allusive.

This white musk composition offers inaugural floral overtones followed by a dark fruity accord suggestive of cassis, done in an abstract manner without commitment to reproducing the real fruit in 3-D. The perfume moves from floral abstraction to sweet abstraction becoming more powdery, with hints of milk and cacao (vanilla), but again - very allusive, abstract and vague, except for the musk and cacao powder.

Cotton Musk Original will appeal to straight musk aficionados as a white musk leaning in the direction of sweet, floral and powdery, while also being a bargain and giving off some of that pop-culture flavor that is one of the charms of straight musk scents.

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