Muscs Koublai Khan by Christopher Sheldrake for Serge Lutens 1998


Post by Gabriella


So much has been written about this revered yet polarizing fragrance that I debated for quite a while whether it was worth adding my two cents to the conversation. But sometimes a fragrance is so moving and compelling that you just need to write about it. Serge Lutens’ Muscs Koublai Khan is one such fragrance.

Muscs Koublai Khan by Christopher Sheldrake for Serge Lutens 1998

Muscs Koublai Khan Serge Lutens fragranticaPhoto Stolen Fragrantica

Fragrantica gives these featured accords in one line:
Civet, castroneum, cistus labdanum, ambergris, Morrocan rose, cumin, ambrette seed (musk mallow), costus root, patchouli

The scent begins with the oft talked about animalic civet blast but I don’t find it nearly as scary or ugly as some reviews would lead me to believe. In fact, this whoosh of unripe skankiness is something that I find quite compelling and thoroughly enjoyable. Muscs Koublai Khan is very much a jolie-laide fragrance: it’s the nerdy, not very good looking guy that you initially dismissed in your early twenties only to find out when you’re 32 that he is he is the crazy, charismatic guy, full of depth, adventure and the one you should have picked all along. As the cliché says, beauty is only skin deep and so it is with this fragrance.

Muscs Koublai Khan Serge Lutens Amazon Battle WikipediaPhoto Stolen Wikipedia

Given that, Muscs Koublai Khan takes some time to unfold its captivating charm completely. All the unwashed notes of the opening do indeed transport the wearer to other worlds and olden times when women and men roamed the land, ready for battle clad in loincloths; invincible in their leathery hirsute armour. The fetid character also transports me back to sometime in my not too distant past, say the late 1970s or early 1980s, when it was still ok for women to have a fur coat. I would go to my Mum’s closet and smell the slightly mildewed aroma of her cast off handbags sitting in garbage bags ready for a garage sale and her mink coat smothered in dry cleaning sheets. The slightly perfumed mothballed aroma of the fur spoke of sparkled nights and unspoken deeds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto Stolen Who Cares? Flickr

Underlying all this unripeness is a blast of cedar and the composition then becomes considerably more sotto voce: all soft honeyed rose and the smell of salty damp skin after a night of passion and romp. Mr M immediately dismissed Muscs Koublai Khan as something rank and I hate to say that most of my close circle of friends would probably have the same aghast reaction. Thus, Muscs Koublai Khan is destined to be a very personal scent for me: one when I choose to shut out my benign petiteness and become a warrior princess: six foot tall, bound in swathes of tight leather and high heels and just completely indestructible.

Muscs Koublai Khan Serge Lutens wonder_woman DeviantArtPhoto Stolen DeviantArt

Further reading:  Bois de Jasmin and The Non Blonde
Muscs is now back in the Paris Exclusives line, but export spray bottles can still be found online. Amazon has it at $113.99/50ml
Surrender to Chance starts at $4/0.5ml

What’s your take on MKK? Are there any skanky scents you love?

With much love till next time!!

M x

34 comments on “Muscs Koublai Khan by Christopher Sheldrake for Serge Lutens 1998

  1. australianperfumejunkies says:

    Hey Madeleine,
    I love MKK, other skanky scents I love include Bal a Versailles vintage EdC, M/Mink and I would really like to find a feral, skanky BWF with a tuberose bent, any suggestions?
    Portia xx

  2. Tora says:

    I just love MKK. On me it is sweet and inviting and delicious. I tend to wear it privately, just because there are so many people who find the smell just vile. Not me. It is wonderful. Your description of the furs in the closet brought back good memories…..

  3. cookie queen says:

    M! I love MKK, most of all in the summer. I wear it a lot. Dirty sweet. Mmmmmm. I don’t care what anyone thinks. Raunchy is just necessary now and again. Don’t like it in the winter though, it just sits. Fabulous review.
    Hugs. VtCQ

    • Azar says:

      Hi Val,
      This post reminded me to thank you again for the extras you sent out with the Rouge Avignon draw awhile ago. A bit of the MKK escaped in transit and it makes me wonder about the reactions of those who came in contact with the package. The label was obliterated but there is no mistaking the top note of MKK. The funkiness doesn’t last long on me, though. In a moment the raunch is replaced by something quite lovely and tame. For lasting repulsion try O’Driù Lideale. This one is dirty from the top to the bottom, a sort of cumin “soliflore” that makes my eyes water.
      Azar xx

      • cookie queen says:

        Have been sporting Eva Kant today. I will be wearing it again. Can’t say more than that right now!! The package that arrived from O’Driu semi-shocked me. Haha. But back to the theme, it will nevet be am MKK. xxx

      • Azar says:

        No matter how good the perfume, personal care products will never be my idea of high (or low) art!

    • Jackie Rosen says:

      Hi Val,
      I’m wearing MKK now and there is a few sharp notes to begin, then it relaxes into a very sweet scent, very honey-like, on me. Zero skank. Perhaps, it is as you say the winter. Will certainly spray it again in the warmer climes of LA. Thanks for the attunement. @;^)

    • Madeleine says:

      Hi Val,

      It does seem to bloom better on warm skin. Dirty sweet is apt….

      M xx

  4. mim says:

    Love MKK but am a little afraid to wear it often…Also Miel de Bois . They are ‘just for me’ scents. Also Xerjoff Mamluk smells like MKK’s sexy feminine candied counterpart to me.

  5. Azar says:

    Hi Madeleine,
    Thank you for this great description of MKK. My favorite skankies and funkies include a very old Jungle Gardenia, heavy, indolic, about to turn and Olympic Orchids Kyphi. For a whiff of the gourmand’s garbage can try O’Driù Lonciale. I really love a couple from O’Driù’s Perfhumance series but this one and Lideale are almost too much for me!
    Azar xx

  6. Jackie Rosen says:

    Hi Madeleine,
    Thank you for writing about MKK. I’ve been laying it since December. It’s been curiously sweet on my skin. I’ll continue to explore with it.

  7. SallyM says:

    Wonderfully evocative review. I’ve bemoaned this fact before and I’m bemoaning it again now – I seem to be skank-challenged. I love MKK and received a bottle of it for my birthday. I then introduced my friend to it and she didn’t get skank either. She bought a bottle of it:-) Same with all of the other skank bombs such as BAV, which I just adore and which wears like deep, rich, buttery, amber-y, vanill-y Crème Brule on my skin. Whats happening? Why? WHYYYY???

    • australianperfumejunkies says:

      Please try Harbinger by SOIVOHLE for a hefty, scary, skankalicious time Sally.
      Portia xxx

      • SallyM says:

        I am so on it! TY Portia -I’m determined to get my skank-card…

        (BTW -I am loving the LUSH Rose Jam shower gel – I just want to upend the entire bottle over my head. And the bathroom smells so gorgeous afterwards. Thanks again for sending it xx)

      • australianperfumejunkies says:

        Woo Hoo! I can’t wait to get back to Sydney and try mine day after tomorrow. I will be aRose Jam BOMB Sally.
        Portia xxx

    • Madeleine says:

      Hi Sally,
      what can I say? Vagaries of skin chemistry….keep going and I’m sure you’ll find one. Have you tried Absolue Pour Le Soir by MFK? that is a true skank riot fest!

      M x

  8. Maya says:

    Hi Sally. I’m with you on “skank-challanged”. That’s why I was so happy to read that how you smelled things was part of your genetic inheritance. I haven’t tried MKK but vintage BAV is one of my top 5 favorites and I don’t get any skank at all. As a matter of fact, I have NEVER gotten skank from any perfume.

    • SallyM says:

      Faints in relief. I’m not alone!!! Hmmm Maya, that’s very interesting about genetic inheritance – perhaps I should blame it on my mum! Mind you, I was born in the mid 50s so am no stranger to smelling those classic heavy hitters from an early age, so I also wonder if I mind have simply accepted that this is the way (many) perfumes should smell. I *am* such a vintage ho’ and have a lot of difficulty (aka derision) with how many recent ‘fumes smell in comparison. Maybe I’m smelling skank but don’t identify it as skank?

      • Maya says:

        Well – you and I are in the same age range and I also love vintage best. I think it’s that they were a lot less synthetic and maybe more daring and unique? My daughter, who prefers natural and niche perfumes, says vintage BAV smell great on me and she gets no skank either. She does get a tiny bit of skank from some perfumes occasionally. Genetics answers it for me.

  9. Nymphomaniac says:

    I slightly prefer “Absolue pour le Soir” to MKK, but I use it not very often, and only in the evening or night times !
    And I also love “Musc Ravageur”, which is sometimes considered as “animalic”, but not at all for me (it’s one of my “signature scent” with “Portrait of a Lady” !!).

    And as I have won on this gorgeous perfume blog a bottle of “Peety” from O’Driu some weeks ago (thanks again !), I have to say I find this one very “animalic” on me, although it is supposed not to have civet or cumin in there ! I have still some difficulties to wear it in a permanent way : like “Absolue pour le Soir”, it will be for special occasions only (both are very different, because Peety is more floral and more herbal than ApLS) !

  10. Sarah K says:

    I like Absolue pour le Soir and Jubilation 25 but probably wouldn’t dare to wear ApoS out of the house, and would need to give Jubilation 25 a good 3 hours to calm down before venturing out!

  11. poodle says:

    My skanky fume is Rubj. That one was nothing but sweaty undies the first time I tried it. Now that my nose expects the cumin I can smell the floral aspect of it. Oddly, my hubby did not think it smelled sweaty at all. To him, BaV was much skankier. To me, BaV isn’t that dirty. Different noses smell things differently I guess.

  12. Dionne says:

    I still haven’t tried MKK, and I’ll admit to being a skank newbie. Been too busy puddling around in other corners of the perfume pool, sampling all the irises and incense, and obviously I need to rectify this. Right now the only skank-ish thing I own is the new Femme by Caron, full of cumin and slightly scandalous, it’s all unwashed skin and ohhhh my!

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