British chef and food activist Jamie Oliver ignited a firestorm in January 2011 when he mentioned on the Late Show with David Letterman that castoreum
, a substance used to augment some strawberry and vanilla flavorings, comes from what he described as "rendered beaver anal gland.
That other whiff of animal in your perfume could be musk secreted from the sheath gland of the musk deer or a dash of castoreum
from glands in the groin of the beaver.
These are not the heavy doses of civet or castoreum
one might have expected.
From their discussion and the reference in Schafer it appears that the first clear reference to civet in Chinese (as opposed to castoreum
from the beaver) is indeed to be found in the eighth-century text of Ch 'en Ts'ang-ch-i.
For while, as Dannenfeldt notes, castoreum
from beavers, musk from male deer and ambergris from the stomach of the sperm whale were all known in the ancient world as sources of or foundations for perfume, civet was only discovered by Europeans in the mid-fifteenth century, and only became widely available as a commodity from the early sixteenth-century onwards as colonial expansion into Africa and Asia took place.
But it is true that when beavers are trapped for their pelt two small glands near their anus that produce a territorial marker called castoreum
are removed and their contents extracted with alcohol for commercial use.
The hair trap and visual attractant were baited with a non-commercial scented lure (1:1:8 ratio of propylene glycol, glycerine, and beaver castoreum
, plus several drops of catnip oil and cougar or bobcat urine).
These inoffensive animals were hunted to extinction for their fur, meat and castoreum
, a substance taken from large glands located by the beaver's tail is used in the making of expensive perfumes.
There is the very active remedy of Menophilus, which consists of: long pepper 4 grms; castoreum