Old and New: Serge Lutens Muscs Kublai Khan

So you read the saga of the car last time. I didn’t mention that I was actually saving up for a different one that was sold before I could get to it. Which was kind of a blessing in disguise because it left me with a little bit of money to play with. Not enough for a face lift or a European vacation, but enough that I could splurge on a bell jar of Muscs Kublai Khan when Serge Lutens sent me yet another email telling me it was back for only about the next ten minutes or so and if I didn’t get some I would never see it again. Plus I got a branded travel sprayer (value $1000!?!) and samples (and shipping) for free. How things have changed since the old “Exclusives/Exports” days when the bell jars were only sold in Paris or shipped within the EU. (Was that revenge for the whole “Freedom Fries” silliness?)

MKK wasn’t the first bell jar I jumped through hoops to get. That was Chene, which I had shipped to a friend’s parents house in the EU when he was going home for the holidays. He kindly offered to carry it back for me. He is a nice friend.

MKK was one I had my BFF pick up. I admit I majorly whined and begged and cajoled to have her stop in Paris on her way to a wedding in the South of France (I know, rough life.) She came to visit and presented it to me, telling me how she had to drag her mother and recalcitrant nephew to the Palais Royale to get it for me. She neglected to tell me until later (when I saw the bottles on her dressing table) that she bought three of his creations for herself and her Mom bought two others as well. No word on whether the recalcitrant nephew purchased. But I had my bottle, and before Barney’s brought the whole line including bell jars to the store on Wilshire, an easy stroll from my hovel. Until Barneys themselves went bankrupt.

Now I had of course heard rumors that MKK was redone (and had seen on their site that it was briefly called just “Muscs” {or maybe “Kahn”}) but I figured “how bad could it be?”

Bad. Then really good.

First opening did not augur well. The new juice is slightly lighter in color, not the rich brown of the stuff I have. At first whiff it is disappointingly not as rich as the older stuff, and I can smell a bit more of the fecal aspect that others have fled from in the old formula. The older one is more rounded, more rosy, the new sharper and more skanky. Normally I am totally into the skank, but I prefer the shading and depth of the older one. The older one is also far more present in the first hours of wearing, for good or bad.

But as time went on something curious happened- the new one seemed to become more like the old as the old one faded in comparison into a more “perfumey,” conventional scent. Both stay close to the skin (I dabbed from the stopper since I only had one sprayer) but the new version not only lasts markedly longer (I washed it off in the shower after 18 hours to retest) but maintains the balance of roses, musk and spices where the older one is pretty much done after 8 hours- as a matter of fact the new one even survived the shower and multiple hand washings to be discernible long after. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you.

Say it like Kirk: “KHAN!!”

Of course some of these differences could be because of the fact that I am testing a bottle that might have been mixed in the last month or two to one that was mixed in the aughts. Or, because even with my careful storage in it’s box in a hall closet in my apartment that never gets hotter than 70 degrees or colder than 50 things change. But I have to admit that I was a bit scared to have this be a bust- I guess I am the sort who girds his loins against disappointment and is happy when the opposite happens.

The “New” MKK made me happy.

MKK is available at the Serge Lutens website, $305 for a bell jar, shipped. My bottles in the photo were purchased from them and at the now defunct Barney’s Beverly Hills. Samples of the vintage can be had from Surrender to Chance.

Photos are mine, Wimedia Commons, and Pexels

  • Tatiana says:

    MKK doesn’t smell great on me. I do have a tad bit left of ISM. Not sure what I’ll do when I use it up. I miss Barney’s SF store. I bought sooo much perfume there.

    • Tom says:

      I miss Barneys a lot. It’s such a touchstone in our lives. Even a recurring plot point on “Will & Grace”

  • Eldarwen22 says:

    The bell jars are stupidly expensive. I was lucky enough to find mostly full bottles of De Profundis and Sarrasins a few years ago. I wish I had bottles of MKK and ISM but that’s years down the road before I get them.

    • Tom says:

      IDK – there are a lot more out there selling stuff that’s not nearly as good for a lot more..

  • Filomena says:

    All perfumes now are rediculously expensive. I have three Serge Lutens bell jars: De profundis,Une voix noire and Iris Silver Mist. However, I still have more than half left in my regular bottle of Muscs KoublaI Khan, but wished I had that one in the bell jar.

    • Tom says:

      They really have gotten crazy expensive. Which makes me want to kiss my elbows that Guerlain classics are still in the $120 range.

  • March says:

    Oh, this sounds wonderful! Like they each have their strengths and weaknesses … maybe you could layer them? Get that oomph of the old one first, and the longevity of the new one? MKK was suuuuuuper barnyard on me (and not in a way I enjoyed haha) but I think it’s an incredible fragrance on other folks.

    • Tom says:

      I was thinking that- layering them. TBH I honestly don’t have an occasion to wear these out (I wear most of these things for my own enjoyment) So I am kind of liking the differences..

  • Portia says:

    Hey Tom,
    I love MKK. Jin fell madly in love with it on one of our visits to the Palais Royale when the gorgeous Elvire took us through the whole range up in the yellow room. So many fragrances I’d passed by took on life and became real loves. Bragging aside, Jin is now on his second MKK bell.
    I might have an unopened 50ml export bottle with the old Palais logo that is now too precious to open and my joy is knowing it’s there.
    Portia xx

    • Tom says:

      I remember the year or so it was in the export bottle. I went through it in record time..

      One of these years I will get to see the mothership, even if I have to use a walker and trail an IV doing so..

  • Dina C. says:

    It’s nice to hear that not all reformulations mean that everything has gone to the dogs. Sometimes it seems that way. I’m happy for you, Tom. When a person pays so much for a luxury product, it’s good to hear that someone on Quality Control is doing their job! Yay!

    • Tom says:

      Sometimes it really does, but it’s a good idea to keep going back and trying. I remember a disastrous iteration of AG Eau de Hadrien after the IFFRA wars when I thought “well, that’s just it then.”

      But a year later there was a new formula that was 98% of the Hadrien I loved, so yay!

  • Tara C says:

    So happy you got another bottle and it turned out okay. My husband has been wearing MKK and Fumerie Turque as signature scents for years now. Regardless of reformulations they still smell good on him and we are well stocked. I just restocked myself on Cuir Mauresque in the gratte-ciel tall black bottle from a discounter before it moves back into the bell jar. All the musical chairs repackaging changes at SL lately are driving me a bit mad.

    • Tom says:

      Yeah, his packaging kookiness is a boon to discounters. And I guess to us.

      Fumerie Turque is so darned gorgeous. I don’t think I really understood just how gorgeous until I wore it on an almost unheard of humid day here in LA. As good as it is in dry heat it’s just that more stunning in humidity.

  • cinnamon says:

    MKK seems to makes some interesting journeys. My belle jar came from Paris too via a friend visiting the city (I can’t recall if she bought anything for herself at the Palais Royale). I decanted half of the juice in London and sent that on to a friend in Michigan. I got the belle jar and the other half. On me the old version was a beautiful, soft skin musk with a whisper of pong — nothing outrageous. Just very well done. Enjoy your new bottle.

    • Tom says:

      Thanks! I do admit that part of the joy in the owning of those little bell jars was in the chase. It was great to just go to Barney’s, whip out the store card, and make low-easy payments for months. But the whole cloak-and-dagger aspect of having them smuggled in from the EU was pretty cool.

      Now you can order them direct and make four payments with Klarma or PayPal credit..

  • alityke says:

    Horrendous green eyed monster over here! Nuff said.
    New Beamer AND MKK!