While many Australians and New Zealanders love this vintage candy for nostalgic reasons, others detest its shocking perfume flavor.
In fact, the so called Musk Sticks have been likened to “the smell of old ladies at the bus stop“, and they are made with real synthetic musk essence…
These musk-flavoured candy are fairy-pink cylinders that resemble extruded toothpaste. They’re made mostly of musk essence, gelatin, and icing sugar, which gives them a semi-soft and powdery, fondant-like feel. Their dissolvable quality also means they can be “twisted on your tongue into a sharp point and used to stab your mate,” as one woman fondly recalled from her childhood.
The origin of musk sticks is uncertain, probably dating to the early 1900s or a little earlier: its earliest known written reference is 1927 in the Australian Worker, which talks about the “pink curly musk sticks” from 25 years earlier, which were still available.
Hate it or love it, the association between musk sticks and perfume is hard to shake: reactions inevitably involve comparisons to deodorant sticks and the smell of old ladies at the bus stop, and “musk” is the name given to glandular secretions from certain species of oxen, rats, ducks, shrews, beetles, and musk deer, having a strong odor. Considered a luxury cosmetic additive, it eventually endangered musk deer, leading some countries to ban it use. Perfumers now use musk essence, a synthetic compound. So do candy makers seeking animal gland scent for their treats.
While the Australian affection for musk candy may seem quite unusual, both Australia and New Zealand are actually holding on to a longstanding, global taste for musky treats. A medieval, Arab recipe for a treat of sugar, honey, pistachios, rosewater, and musk calls the result “as delicious as can be,” while the British made musk lozenges that lovers used to sweeten their breath before a kiss….
Interestingly, supermarket chain Woolworths is reported as selling about 24 million musk sticks per year, and ABC News said that “musk sticks manage to disgust tourists as much as they delight Australians“.
If you are curious, you can easily find musk sticks in corner stores in Australia and New Zealand!
Images from web – Google Research