Hey, Pretty – Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan

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.

serge Lutens muscs koublai khan

Lamis Dachwali – Humanity

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.

Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan makes our Best Musk Perfumes Comprehensive.  Perfume samples available at Surrender to Chance
  • tmp00 says:


    I just came across this looking through your archives. I bow to you; you said it better than I ever could.

    I love the opening of MKK, but my chemistry could de-skank a dead Civet.

  • Patty says:

    Gingele — I know you love it, it really is a lovable beast, that’s for sure.

  • Patty says:

    Welcome, Christine, glad you delurked!

    MKK is definitely worth trying, even if you wind up hating it, it’s just one that must be smelled.

  • gingele says:

    Fabulous review Patty! I am thrilled to know you love the Beast. I adore MKK, and it is wonderful to read about it here. Beautifully done.

  • Christine says:

    I’ve been lurking for a while, as I have just recently become interested in perfume and sampling.

    And I had to delurk to say that was just a lovely lovely review. Really just beautiful. I don’t know that I would love MKK but now I know I’m dying to try it.

  • Patty says:

    R, my friend, I agree with you mostly, but every now and then one of the other ones gets to me, like MKK.

    I can’t wait to get the book!

    Hugs back, my friend!

  • Patty says:

    Thank you, Jenn! I love it when a perfume moves me in some way. It doesn’t happen that often.

  • Patty says:

    Thanks, Marina!

  • Patty says:

    Elle — no surprise you’re in the MKK fan club. That I’m joining you there is shocking for me! 🙂

  • Patty says:

    March — you and your CB musk, you’ll need to put a sign around your neck when you have it on so people know not to get so close. 🙂

  • Patty says:

    Sariah, MKK was just a revelation, I truly did not expect to like it, much less love it.

  • Patty says:

    Solander — yeah, I like MR, but there’s more of a sweetness to it, it’s too gussied up and not as stripped down as MKK. More real.

  • Patty says:

    Cinnamontoast — I think it’s the closeness that I really, really like, once it dries down, it becomes more intimate and familiar.

  • violetnoir says:

    What a beautiful post, Patty. Thank you for your insights…and true, honest emotion.

    I have to admit however, that I still love to, have to smell pretty. For me, perfume is a dream, an ideal that helps me elevate myself from the mundane, boring, even sad events of the day. It helps me escape a bit to a world of beauty, love and eternal friendship. This does not mean that I am averse to trying the “skankier,” more “real” fragrances, but I probably won’t seek them out unless someone sends them to me.

    Anyway, read “Perfume.” It is amazing! I would give anything to be able to test those fragrances that Suskind conjures for us on the pages of the book. I imagine them as transcending any and every fragrance that I have ever smelled.

    Hugs, darling!

  • Jenn says:

    What a wonderful and unique observation on a scent.

  • Marina says:

    “MKK reminds me of what it is to be a complete human being, full of compassion for the human condition.” Aww, how beautiful! 😡

  • Elle says:

    This review should be required reading for all beginning perfumistas. Brilliant! And I am definitely in the MKK fan club. It truly is a scent I couldn’t live w/out.

  • March says:

    Well, there you go, putting it so eloquently and thoughtfully. Why does our traditional notion of pretty include smelling like things we’d never naturally smell like? A rose, a lake, a tree? Shouldn’t some of the most beautiful perfumes for people smell like people? MR oil had me from the get-go. MKK took me a wee bit longer, but not too much. CB Musk I can’t put down, although everyone around me will be begging me to do so, soon. (Reviewing it tomorrow, in a funny co-inky-dink).

  • sariah says:

    “This got me to thinking about what does pretty mean as it applies to scent? 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.”

    Well said Patty, that’s how I feel too. Glad you finally met MKK.


  • Solander says:

    I’m not afraid of skank, but I didn’t like MKK to begin with either. As you say it’s not “pretty” (on the other hand I don’t like “pretty” much in perfumes). I almost think it smells like barbecue – the sweet odour of fat, dripping, spiced meat. However, I soon learned that it’s addictive and irresistible for its primal, animalic qualities. I also think it’s very similar to Musc Ravageur. Musc Ravageur is like the raw nudity of MKK in a pretty dress of supporting notes.

  • cinnamontoast says:

    I’ve been shadowing your blog for ages, but must comment on the ‘joys’ of MKK. On me, it starts out as a very ‘classic’perfume; then warming down into that glorious pongy-ness. However, oddly perhaps, I don’t find it strange enough to wear all that often (when I first got it, I wore it every day) — it actually becomes too soft and close, losing the sharp uniqueness it starts out with.