There are some scents out there in the world that I feel I’m pre-destined to hate. By the description, they sound completely averse to anything I’d like. Hey, Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan, looking at you here!
The deeper I get into niche scents, the more my mind and nose has opened to some of the odder perfumes out there, though I think I’m still pretty closed-nose on many of them. Take Serge Luten’s Musc Koublai Khan. I’ve heard it described as sweat and sex and horses and sometimes horsey sex, and none of those descriptions really give me any level of comfort that this could be a scent that I’d remotely like, enjoy, or tolerate.
When March reviewed Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan recently, and liked it, that really didn’t surprise me. She loves to get her skank on. She generously sent me her sample, and I avoided the whole thing like the plague for quite a while, fearing that if I opened the vial, I’d puke on nose contact.
Finally I got brave enough to splash some on. The top notes of Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan are just fiercely godawful and the closest thing to putting your nose right in a festering armpit I’ve ever smelled, and it confirmed my fears that I would need Clorox to get the memory of this festering mess out of my nose and brain. However, I’ve learned to always give Serge some time, so I didn’t wash it off right away and I stopped sniffing it and just held my hand out the window for 30 minutes. Then I put it back under my nose.
How could I have been so wrong based on first impression? This is the single most animalic thing of beauty I have smelled. It is not the scent of horses or sex or sweat. It is the smell of humanity. Not the idealistic or beautiful part of it only, but the real part, the well-worn place of skin and sweat and memory and emotion. I can do nothing but bury my nose in this scent and breathe in all the misery and joy of being human. I can’t be without this scent in my life because every time I forget what it is to be flawed and real, I can smell this and remember.
This got me to thinking about what does pretty mean as it applies to scent? I used to think it was about beautiful smells — flowers, rainbows and yummy things in a bottle. Now I think it is about what it does to us and how it makes us think and feel in reaction to what we smell, bringing us to a place of memory or revelation about who we are.
When I first started into perfume, I put on scents meant to define me, and it had very little to do with who I actually was, but was more about who I wanted to be. Now I put on scents that show a facet of me –beautiful, terrible, earthy, saint, sinner.
Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan reminds me of what it is to be a complete human being, full of compassion for the human condition.