Thursday, 6 May 2010

Muscs Koublai Khan and other musks

Perfume notes (from Luck Scent) - vegetal musks, costus root, labdanum, grey amber, vanilla, patchouli, ambrette seed, moroccan rose)

This is a post mainly about Muscs Koublai Khan by Serge Lutens. I am a huge fan of this line anyway, but have only sampled very few of the non-export line, which are only  available in Paris. Ok, I'm only across the channel, but first, I don't travel to France very often, and second, I am not inclined to spend £100-plus on an untried bottle. Having said that, each year a non-export perfume is released to the rest of the world on a limited edition basis. This way I have managed to at least sample Chergui and Fumerie Turque. In December 2009 Muscs Koublai Khan was also released this way and I was extremely excited, as out of all the Serge Lutens line, this seems to be the one that generates the most discussion on forums (incidentally, I have read that the non-export release for 2010 is going to be Cuir Mauresque!). 

So what about the reviews? I must admit, I find a lot of reviews of MKK quite amusing. So many of them play on the Mongol Warrior association and use the concept of dirty musk to describe MKK as smelling of circuses, a man's unwashed privates, sweaty saddles and horses, dust rising up off the steppes, and so on. It was fascinating to read, if a bit fanciful, but I also know that I am quite tolerant of 'skanky' perfumes in general and I don't usually find musk a challenge; I'm not anosmic to musk, I smell it well enough, it just doesn't smell that dirty or animalic to me. Having said that, I do know there is a distinction between the so-called 'dirty' musks and the 'clean' musks, of which the latter are often referred to as laundry musks. The whole area of musks is very complex and I don't have the technical skills to go into any detail. If you want to read an in-depth review of musks, please refer to Helg's blog, Perfume Shrine, here

The opening of MKK is quite bright, with a brief burst of what seems like citrus and a rose note that is immediately obvious to my nose. The musk is evident from the start and it is clear that this is not a clean musk; it is dusty and reminiscent of fur, but clean fur. There is an element to the musk though that feels (more than smells for some reason) of the steam that is released by an iron in a laundry room. Its a slight tickle or buzz at the back of the nose, ever so slightly metallic or ionic, just beneath the florals. The musk does intensify and if I'm in a particularly imaginative mood, I can probably make some association with mongol warriors and sweaty horses, but honestly, I don't find this particularly animalic or dirty like so many do. In the heart the rose note subsides and the musk becomes a bit dustier and drier. That furriness is still evident, which does give it a slight animalic edge but not overly so. The rose is still there, but very subtle and in the background. In the dry down MKK has become fairly linear - its still dry, dusty, slightly furry, perhaps a little sweetened by the vanilla. I'm not able to detect any patchouli, but it must be there, lending a somewhat animalic vibe. I still get that slightly fuzzy, ironing/laundry buzz, like freshly pressed clothes, which I assume must be some sort of musk in the mix, but the effect is not laundry-clean.

So, is MKK worth the hype? I think so, but perhaps not in the way it comes across on the boards. It definitely is not a clean musk fragrance, but neither is it the skank-fest other people find it to be, at least not for me. Generalisations notwithstanding, I have read that women often find musks to be stronger and more animalic than men (perhaps we are just stinky bastards) and perhaps its no coincidence that a lot of the posts I've read that describe MKK in hard-core skank terms are by women. In any event, whichever way you look at it, MKK is a very well-crafted fragrance and is worthy of the attention it receives, perhaps just not in the way its often portrayed.

So what about some other musks? To be honest, I find the so-called dirty musks more interesting than the cleaner, laundry-type musks and the following are ones that might tickle your fancy:

Musc Ravageur by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle - sultry, sweet, musky and loaded with sexual frisson, this is a musk for a night on the town, with a bit of naughty loving afterwards!

Musk Reinvention by CH I Hate Perfume - I haven't tried this personally but I have read that it is quite an intense musk, albeit somewhat linear.

Horny Little Devil by Smell Bent - this is quite a quirky one. Its a perfume oil, and is quite a insidious musk, striding the line between well behaved and ever so slightly kinky. An unusual twist is its mix of pepper and chocolate, the chocolate making this reminiscent of Musc Maori by Parfumerie Generale.

So, if any of you can think of some other musk perfumes that are dirty, skanky, sweaty, lusty, or whatever, please drop me a line and let me know!


  1. Hi,
    I am looking for a musk oil or Attar that is similar to MKK if you know of anything like that please mail me the info to

  2. Santhosh, I emailed you some ideas, including Kiehls and CB I Love Perfume.


  3. Heh... I tried MKK and my female friend was immediately revolted and said that it smelled like "a homeless person that's urinated on themselves".

    I wouldn't quite go that far... but I'd definitely describe it as florals mixed with worn underwear. I'm sure it's due to a lack of olfactory exposure and education, but I still wouldn't wear it outside! :)

  4. Mistertaz, one man's poison is another's medicine and I think the same may apply to MKK! I love the smell of musk generally and having worn MKK quite a lot over the last couple of years I still don't perceive it as that skanky, but I realise that a lot of people feel otherwise. Thanks for commenting.



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