Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Muscs Koublai Khan

After trashing Serge Lutens' fragrances for so long here and on Basenotes, I think it's finally time to give credit where credit is due to this niche perfume brand, and review their brilliant Muscs Koublai Khan.  This is the one and only Lutens fragrance that I like and own, and I have a feeling it always will be.  I've tried probably eight or nine other Lutens perfumes, and they all smelled basically the same to me: overly warm, rich, sweet, and annoyingly androgynous.  I hate his fragrances, and find them overly complex, pretentious and unwearable.  But Muscs Koublai Khan is the one huge exception, and is truly a special scent.  It is the best musk fragrance in the world, hands down.

Muscs Koublai Khan is colorful, complex and animalic.  I notice people either hate this fragrance for its animalic funk, saying it smells like someone's asshole, or they claim they don't find it dirty or skanky smelling at all.  My perception of it falls somewhere in the middle.

Muscs Koublai Khan clearly leans towards the dirty, sweaty, beastly end of the musk spectrum, with the opposite extreme being the clean, powdery musks used in laundry detergents.  Though made of synthetic musks, MKK certainly smells natural, and in a way that makes a lot of people uncomfortable; it always reminds you and those near you that musk was originally an animal product.  It literally smells like MKK is a perfume made of almost entirely bodily fluids.  However, it is not a raunchy, gross smell of B.O. or skid-marked underpants.  This is more "body smell" rather than "body odor".  It reminds me of the smell of sweat on clean, warm, tanned skin.

It's a complex scent, but not the ego trip of the other Lutens fragrances I've tried.  The sense of perfect balance and complexity in Muscs Koublai Khan is amazing, and makes it so comforting to wear.  It smells like there are several different types of musk used in MKK - light, heavy, white, dark, etc..  They're all unified by soft floral and herbal notes, which add depth to the scent and prevent it from smelling like someone's asshole.

I've often described complex and colorful perfumes as being "kaleidoscopic".  Muscs Koublai Khan is also kaleidoscopic, but in a different way.  Instead of thinking of bright, dazzling colors like blue, red and yellow, think of a kaleidoscope of all different shades of brown, gold and black.  They're the colors of the earth and of skin, and those are the kinds of colors that come to mind when I wear this fragrance.

Muscs Koublai Khan is not only the most wearable Serge Lutens perfume I've ever smelled.  It's perhaps the most wearable scent I've ever worn, period.  This is a fragrance, more than any other I've tried, that absolutely must be worn on skin, and that's because it smells like skin.  When you wear this, it becomes a part of you, smelling like it's part of your body.  It's both extremely masculine and extremely feminine, depending on who's wearing it, and it melds itself to its wearer.  I can't imagine Muscs Koublai Khan smelling unsuitable on anybody.  So it's both daring and suitable for anyone.  Think about what an incredible acheivement that is for a perfumer.

I don't wear Muscs Koublai Khan very often, but it's one of the fragrances I treasure most in my large collection.  It is truly the perfect musk fragrance in every way.

MY RATING:  10/10

Fragrance House:  Serge Lutens


  1. The praise some SL fragrances get made me think I was going to love all of them. Although I didn't care for some of the popular ones(Chergui, Arabie, Fumerie Turque, Fille en Aiguilles), I thought Amber Sultan, Gris Clair, Vetiver Oriental, and Datura Noir were worth sampling.

  2. Yes, I agree with every word. Brilliant scent. I also like Borneo 1834 (although it isn't really wearable).

  3. If all niche perfumes were this great, I'd have a better opinion of them in general. When I'm expected to cough up $125 for a 50 ml. bottle of perfume, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect it to be of Muscs Koublai Khan quality.

    Though I can't stand Lutens' fragrances, I cannot accuse them of peddling cheap smelling perfumes. I may not like them, but I'll admit that they all do smell expensive and luxurious, if you know what I mean. I just can't stand that style of perfume.

  4. I just sampled MKK and I dont understand people's extreme negative reactions to it. It is so rich and opulent and smells so wonderful on my skin. I smell none of the malordous things that people claim to detect while wearing MKK .i.e camel balls, someone's asshole, unwashed armpits. I would definately get a full bottle. I just came across your blog and it is great! Love it. Keep up the good work. I think I may have to review this one on my own blog.