Oakmoss: Notes on Notes

Hello APJ, It has been years. Sorry for the radio silence but after the double hackings and the rigmarole to get APJ back up the steam had left my will to continue. We had lost all our followers TWICE! The first time saw a reasonable rejoin but the second time took us months to fix the problem and people stayed away in droves. Considering the work that went into seven days a week content it was easier to continue Guest Posting elsewhere and leaving APJ as historic content.  With A Bottled Rose on hiatus APJ will be the home of a new, small scale collaboration project. Old Herbaceous of Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities and I will be doing a monthly post on different perfume notes.

Oakmoss Notes on Notes BANNER

Oakmoss: Notes on Notes

Our first note is oakmoss. Picked by Old Herbaceous (hereon known as OH) and a really interesting first choice, especially now that it is so heavily regulated. Way back in 2014 my mate Michael and I did a perfume masterclass with Jean Kerleo at The Osmothèque near Versailles Palace in France. Mr Kerleo was talking then about the huge leaps in recreations. In particular Guerlain’s Thierry Wasser had overseen the perfecting of a synthetic oakmoss accord with different lift points through the perfume life that imitated the real deals lifespan. This meant that many of the early Guerlain fragrances could be saved, even after necessary reformulations to meet modern legal standards. He was so excited about this prospect and the work it must have taken to reach the desired effect.

What is oakmoss? It’s a lichen; so a fungus and algae combination. Found in forests of the Northern Hemisphere. If you see it in life you’ll notice it is a grouping of multiple antlers in acid grey/yellow/green that looks like hand stitched lace embellishments or coral. The best description I could find is on The Perfume Shop blog. The below picture is from Pixabay.

Oakmoss Notes on Notes

How does oakmoss smell? As for every perfume or scent  what I smell may be different to what you smell. I’m going to go with the generally agreed line of a forest floor in the cool of evening. That’s not all oakmoss is though. It can have hints of ink, wood, fern and bracken, bark and twig, humus and even leather. I give you all this and still it’s only scratching the surface. For my nose oakmoss is also furry and funky, it even has vegetal muskiness.

How is it used in perfumery? Oakmoss (and its synthetic counterpart/s) is a spectacular base note that often pervades the whole fragrance it’s used in. An excellent fixative for perfume notes with shorter lives, after they burn off oakmoss is left humming along with the other base notes. There’s some more good info on the LAFCO blog.

In which perfumes will you find oakmoss? Here are a couple of my faves. My bottles are old and pretty beat up. If you look close you can see my hands and phone in the reflections.

Oakmoss Notes on Notes Pixabay

CHANEL Antaeus 1981. Marketed towards men but a perfect femme scent if you have the chutzpah to give it a go. Though Antaeus has a whole lot of perfume going on from top to bottom it is built over a beautiful oak mossy base. That base is animalic and very ambery too. It’s also still readily available. People will tell you their vintage Anteaus is SO MUCH better, they might even be right, but the modern version is still killer. Jin wears both vintage and modern and doesn’t notice a huge difference, YMMV obvs.

Lancôme Magie Noire 1978. The perfect alignment of galbanum greenery and oak mosses furry forest floor with a gazillion other notes to buoy the two stars up. Yes, shoosh, the bouquet, the animalics, the spices and resins all contribute and the drizzle of honey lifts it all up. I agree, but it is the galbanum and oakmoss playing against each other all the way through that makes Magie Noire such a divine masterpiece for me.

Please go check out Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities and see what OH has to add to the Notes on Notes about oakmoss.

What are your favourite fragrances with oakmoss listed as a note?
Portia xx


29 thoughts on “Oakmoss: Notes on Notes

  1. Hello again Portia, lovely to see you back!
    I have a little bottle of oak moss oil that I bought many years ago, it’s thick like treacle but smells amazing, earthy and mossy. I’m not sure I recognise any perfumes with this note but am interested to see other responses.

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  2. Pingback: Notes on Notes: Oakmoss – Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities

  3. Look who’s back🥰 And what a sensational start to the revival with a mention of my beloved Magie Noire. Oak moss is a very versatile note veering from cat’s tongue feeling to the deepest, darkest forest.


  4. So glad you are BACK! I have a tiny vial of oakmoss absolute and the synthetic Evernyl but don’t always recognize them in perfumes. I also have that same bottle of Magie Noire (although without any text on the body) so will be sniffing for that interplay of galbanum and oakmoss you described!


  5. Hi Portia
    I used to read APJ in its historical form but didn’t comment back then. Now I’m happy to announce my fandom here as well as elsewhere.

    I have commented at length on OH’s blog about oakmoss as OH & I share many of the same chypre loves. Yes I’m excited about the forthcoming Mitzi piece.

    Your choices gave piqued my interest. They are both heavily animalic more than chypre to my nose, so I shall explore the current formulations next time I hit the smelly shops along with the EL chypres.


  6. So sorry that this happened to you twice, you have always been my favorite perfume blogger. But I’m happy to follow you everywhere 🙂


  7. I find oakmoss to be a tricky note for me-I feel like I should be more clever or more interesting, or altogether more scintillating! But here’s where I find oakmoss in my collection: 24, Faubourg (older versions), Givenchy iii (vintage), Mystere, older Mitsuko. Something I’m contemplating buying is Evernia, from Ormonde Jayne. I love the idea of it-really trying to cull my collection or at least not buy anymore-wish me luck with that .

    Long time lurker-thank you, Portia, for always being the most gracious host, and I’m glad to see APJ back in action 🙂


  8. Oh, how nice to see APJ back ❤
    I love old chypres but I have never tried oakmoss as an isolated note. I only feel that it gives depth to certain perfumes. My favourites with oakmoss are: Rive Gauche, Vu by Ted Lapidus, Jil Sander III, EL White Linen and Private Collection and many more.


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