Synthetic musk

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Synthetic musks, known as white musks in the perfume industry, are a class of synthetic aroma compounds to emulate the scent of deer musk and other natural musks (ambergris, castoreum and civet). Synthetic musks have a clean, smooth and sweet scent lacking the fecal animalic notes of natural musks. Synthetic musks are used as food flavorings and perfumery fixatives, supplying the base note of many perfume formulas. Most musk fragrance used in perfumery today is synthetic.

Synthetic musks can be divided into three major classes — nitro musks, aromatic ketones, aromatic ethers, and macrocyclic lactones. All groups have broad uses in industry ranging from cosmetics and detergents to fine perfumes and foods.

Nitro musks[edit]

Musk xylene

Aromatic ketones[edit]

  • 4-Acetyl-1,1-dimethyl-6-tert-butylindane
  • 5-Acetyl-1,1,2,6-tetramethyl-3-isopropylindane
  • 1,2,3,5,6,7-Hexahydro-1,1,2,3,3-pentamethyl-4H-inden-4-one

Aromatic ethers[edit]

  • 4,6,6,7,8,8-Hexamethyl-1,3,4,6,7,8-hexahydrocyclopenta[g]benzopyrane

Macrocyclic ketones[edit]

  • (R)-3-Methylcyclopentadecanone
  • 3-Methylcyclopentadec-4/5-en-1-one

Aliphatic lactones[edit]

Polycyclic lactones[edit]

Macrocyclic lactones[edit]

  • 12-Oxa-16-hexadecanolide
  • α,ω-Dodecanedioic acid ethylene ester
  • α,ω-Tridecanedioic acid ethylene ester
  • (10Z)-13-methyl-1-oxacyclopentadec-10-en-2-one


Iso E Super
  • 1-(1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8-octahydro-2,3,8,8,-tetramethyl-2-naphthyl)ethan-1-one
  • (-)-(6S,7S)-3,5,5,6,7,8,8-heptamethyl-5,6,7,8-tetrahydronaphthalene-2-carbaldehyde

Alicyclic musks[edit]


Alicyclic musks, otherwise known as cycloalkyl ester or linear musks, are a relatively novel class of musk compounds. The first compound of this class was introduced 1975 with Cyclomusk, though similar structures were noted earlier in citronellyl oxalate and Rosamusk.[1] Alicyclic musks are dramatically different in structure than previous musks (aromatic, polycyclic, macrocyclic) in that they are modified alkyl esters.[2] Although they were discovered prior to 1980, it was only in 1990 with the discovery and introduction of Helvetolide at Firmenich that a compound of this class was produced at a commercial scale.[1] Romandolide, a more ambrette and less fruity alicyclic musk compared to Helvetolide, was introduced ten years later.[2]

Environmental and health issues[edit]

Synthetic musks are lipophilic and tend to deposit and persist in fat tissue for a very long time. Nitromusks and polycyclic musks – having been used for 100 years – have low biodegradability and accumulate in the environment. Their environmental effects aside, these chemicals pose no significant risks to human health.


  1. ^ a b Kraft, Philip (2004). "'Brain Aided' Musk Design". Chemistry & Biodiversity. 1 (12): 1957–1974. PMID 17191832. doi:10.1002/cbdv.200490150. 
  2. ^ a b Eh, Marcus (2004). "New Alicyclic Musks: The Fourth Generation of Musk Odorants". Chemistry & Biodiversity. 1 (12): 1975–1984. PMID 17191833. doi:10.1002/cbdv.200490151.