How to Make a Holy Grail

grail.jpgI posted recently on my efforts to construct three fragrance samples for Marina of Perfume-Smellin´ Things to test as her Holy Grail fragrance, while we wait for Clement Gavarry to work his magic and come up with the real deal on Made By Blog. Marina´s review of my efforts appears today on her blog, and I prepared this post last night, so I am as excited as anyone to see her reaction. Here is my Big Reveal, exploring the details of my foolish and amateurish, but nonetheless valiant, efforts. Be sure to click over to her blog (I have added a link at the end of my post) for her ridicule response.

As I sat down to consider how I might construct Marina´s Holy Grail, I drew on my store of knowledge about the art of creating a fragrance (zilch, basically) and came up with a plan. She is looking for something I described as a à¢â‚¬Å“wearable MKKà¢â‚¬? à¢â‚¬” something with Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan´s weight and depth (or skank), but with something that I picture in my head as a more rounded, golden aspect à¢â‚¬” something that would make it more romantic, and more personal, more à¢â‚¬¦ beloved, without losing too much of MKK´s dirtiness. She said she wanted the Skank Level to be an 8.5 or 9, with MKK being a 10 on the scale. Like Clement, I would be constructing a fragrance to please someone else rather than myself — and, to be completely honest, Marina’s ideal Holy Grail will probably be outside the parameters of something I would find enjoyable — it’s just too dirty, in the musk/animalic direction. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy myself trying to create it for her.

I decided right off the bat I wouldn´t use MKK (or Borneo) as the base, because in my twisted ethos, that would be cheating. Continuing in my approach: First, I would select the three bases à¢â‚¬” the dirtiest, funkiest scents I had sitting around. Then, on each base I would test three or four of my most floriental, ornate, or otherwise over-the-top fragrances. Finally, if the best of those still seemed to be lacking à¢â‚¬¦ something, I would throw in some leather and/or some incense, because there is no such thing as Too Much Leather (or Incense) in a Holy Grail.

Sample A à¢â‚¬” I started with Le Labo Vetiver 46, probably the most armpitty thing I own. I love it, don´t ask me why. Yes, I hate vetiver, and this one is completely outside my normal fragrance range. Yet, I bow to its will. I constructed Sample A while home alone, because the Big Cheese has declared Vetiver 46 a banned substance. So. Rock, Paper, Scissors. The first thing I learned is that Vetiver 46 will eat almost anything else, except Mitsouko, which ate the Vetiver, if you can imagine. It was clear I´d need to up the ratio of the top scent. I tried Jil Sander (gone), Cartier Baiser du Dragon (don´t ask), some other things. The winner was à¢â‚¬¦ Hermes 24, Faubourg! But it still didn´t seem quite butch enough, so I added some Demeter Russian Leather, because, hey, why not? Et voila, Sample A.

Sample B à¢â‚¬” I selected a base of Parfum d´Empire Ambre Russe. Oh, the pain I suffer for my art! But I know Marina likes it, and it´s got some skank. (sniffing) Well à¢â‚¬¦ this won´t do. I mean, I still hate it, but it´s nowhere near skanky enough (maybe a 6.5?) and it´s sweeter than I remember. Huh. Well, this will be the top, then, instead of the baseà¢â‚¬¦ (half an hour and some serious mistakes later) Wow à¢â‚¬” this is it! TDC Sel de Vetiver!! Combined with Ambre Russe it´s perfect, in a weird way. Honestly, how can two fragrances I loathe combine into something so à¢â‚¬¦ wearable? It´s got your feet, your amber, and it´s oddly shimmery, which I love. I´m feeling pretty pleased with myself right now. However. On the Marina Skank-o-meter, it´s probably only a 6, so I toy with it a bit more, but nothing else I add is an improvement. I´m going with it.

Sample C à¢â‚¬” I guess this leaves me with Piguet Bandit as my third base. Wow, that´s hilarious à¢â‚¬” after what I’ve been through building the first two, my dark nemesis Bandit is registering to me as a floral! Well, sort of. But I don´t really have enough of it, and it isn´t dirty enough, so I´m going to throw in some of Andy Tauer´s Lonestar Memories. I think its irrestible dirt/chile aspect will work well with Bandit. (What I´m also looking for, and can´t find, is my sample of Caron Tabac Blond to add. Well, we geniuses have to make do with what we have, oui?) The problem is: the base smells great, but then what to add that will register? It´s like trying to get Satan to tango. I try Malle’s Parfum de Therese, but that cilantro is way too obvious. And I´ve given up on Mitsouko as the top, because it just smells like Mitsouko no matter what I mix it with. (What would subdue Mitsouko? Paint thinner? Jet fuel?) I tinker some more, sniff some more coffee beans, weep in agony à¢â‚¬¦ finally I add Serge Lutens Chergui for golden richness, and also Fifi Chachnil for skanky glitter, because Fifi and my original leather base smelled nice together. But about 15 minutes into the combo, it gets soapy on me in a way I don´t like at all, although that goes away eventually. So I add a few spritzes of my all-purpose fragrance improver, L´Artisan Passage d´Enfer, and called it a day. If Marina doesn´t get the soapy part, she might like it. It´s definitely the skankiest of the bunch.

How close did I get in my quest for the Holy Grail? Here’s a link to Marina’s blog so you can see for yourself.

Image: The Holy Grail by Dante Rossetti,

  • March says:

    BBliss — we did that too! Always making “cakes.” With less than brilliant results.:-&

    Loren — ohhhh, Eau de Deergonad. I’d wear THAT. I have mixed feelings about Baiser. I love its dirtiness, but am not wild about the amber.

    Emote — yeah, there you were, mixing Coty Chypre with dishwashing liquid and apple juice…=p~

  • Emotenote says:

    I am so impressed by your efforts, I wold never try to do this in case I created something really evil smelling that I couldn’t remove. As a kid my cousin and I went through my grandmothers perfumes and performed the same magic except with some added kitchen ingredients. I guess this would be the source of my fear. Now I think back and wonder which wonders of discontinued beauties we destroyed!

  • loren says:

    I am beginning to think MKK represents an idea more than a fragance– I’m a great devotee of Cartier’s Le Baiser du Dragon, which is an ambery musk, and my one experience with MKK reminds me greatly of the Cartier fragrance.

    Perhaps my skin is to blame. I was expecting Eau de Deergonad, and I have a powdery, warm, comforting smell instead.

  • Marina says:


  • BBliss says:

    This is absolutely brilliant on all counts – creator, test-subject and readers who have recreated – I am fascinated this could even work! Shows you how small my “inclined to experiment” gene is. Actually, I take that back – as kids, we used to do something similar with condiments from the fridge…with less than stellar results. /:)

  • Patty says:

    March, TBC has great taste for banning the Vetiver. I like him already. 🙂

    This is just hilarious. A is still my favorite, but I really did like all three, which is weird.

  • Pam says:

    March, it’s been great to read your reveal as well as Marina’s reviews. You’re giving us all some great ideas to do our own mixes. This is how I look at it—Some bakers make brownies from scratch, and they’re quite delicious. Other bakers use a mix, doctor it up a bit, and guess, what. Their brownies are as good as the ones from scratch. Okay, it’s not a perfect analogy, but you get the point. You set about this project thoughtfully and came up with some great formulas. Well done!:)>-

  • violetnoir says:

    This is priceless, March. And, from the looks of Marina’s blog entry for today, you may have found a second career! =d>


  • March says:

    Everyone — FYI — I commented on Marina’s reviews on her blog, under her comments. I was pretty close in my guesses. She liked C the best, although now they’re over there adding Meat Sauce to Sample A… I am going to accept Marina’s gracious offer and come up with an Ideal Fragrance I’d like designed for me. Marina and I like enough of the same things, and she knows my tastes well enough, that I believe she could do it.

    Judith — I put the ratios on Marina’s blog comments, but I think you’ve already seen them

    Elle — oddly, it never occurred to me that My Fearless Readers would try to make these. Duh.

    Marina — I’m cogitating!

    Ina — I wish. If I trot out the Vetiver again, the Big Cheese files for divorce.;) He wasn’t loving Sample C, either.

    Cait — I remember reading that. Can you IMAGINE?!?! That’s just … wrong. “Stable” is a matter of opinion.

    Robin — me, too!


  • Robin says:

    Am off to read Marina’s response, but had to add — what a great idea! And can’t wait to see what Marina comes up with for you, LOL…

  • cait says:

    This is fantastic. Wasn’t Creed reputed to have done something like this and charged loads of money for it? I didn’t realize the scents would remain stable. Love it.

  • Ina says:

    March, you’re a genius. I’d love to try these. Do you have a sample program? :d

  • Marina says:

    “There is no such thing as Too Much Leather (or Incense) in a Holy Grail.” And to that I say, Amen!

  • Marina says:

    I will of course comment more, I haven’t finished reading, but I just had an idea. I would love to take revenge…um reciprocate…How about I create Your Ideal Scent? …if you are not too scared…I won’t do it “blindly” so to say as I would like you to submit a proposal first…as a post on your blog, for example?…Just an idea…

  • Elle says:

    Update. I am now wearing #1 and #3 (well, couldn’t replicate your exact amounts, but I’ve at least got the ingredients) and am now polishing the “Mad Genius Perfumer Czarina” crown (studded w/ MKK bell jar stoppers) and preparing for the cyber presentation ceremony. You SO deserve this! Bows down humbly.

  • Judith says:

    This is wonderful!! And as I said on M’s blog–I WANT ALL 3. And since I now know I can make all 3, I will be doing so very soon! One question: what concentration Bandit? You are a genius!

  • Elle says:

    “It’s like trying to get Satan to tango.” LMAO! I think all three sound like pure inspired genius and I’m going to be trying them ASAP.

  • Andy says:

    O lala… I imagine a spritz of Serge Lutens Orange Flower would do wonders, too.
    I have to move on immediately to see Colombina’s agony…..
    Enjoyed your perfumery approach a lot 😉