Clash of the Titans – Serge Lutens Muscs Koublaï Khän vs Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur Perfume Reviews


As Autumn and Winter draw in, it becomes time for us Perfumistas to have a wardrobe reshuffle. We put away our lighter, airier perfumes and drag out our rich orientals, warm woody florals, mouthwatering gourmands and our musks. In autumn and winter we look for those fragrances that bring us comfort when it’s cold and those that match the colours and festivities of the cooler seasons.

Muscs Koublaï Khän (Serge Lutens) and Musc Ravageur (Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle) are two of the most popular musk fragrances on the market, in fact they have reached cult status amongst Perfumistas and love them or hate them, nobody can deny that they are both formidable characters.

Despite the fact that they are both so popular and are both musk fragrances, Muscs Koublaï Khän and Musc Ravageur are two very different fragrances, in fact the similarity stops with the ‘Musc’ in both of their names. In this review I’m going to put pitch these two ‘Titans’ head to head to see which will be the victor and earn the accolade of ‘King of Musks’.


Muscs Koublaï Khän

“I just can’t see what all of the fuss is about.”

The Notes

Civet, Castoreum, Cistus Labdanum, Ambergris, Moroccan Rose, Cumin, Ambrette Seed (Musk Mallow), Costus Root and Patchouli [1]

How Does it Smell?

I’m going to rock the boat with this one, Muscs Koublaï Khän is infamous for being one of the most ‘skanky’, nay ‘beastly’ fragrances to ever grace the skin of many a Perfumista, but I have to admit that I find it to be pretty tame. Also, It took me a long time to ‘get’ Serge Lutens, I tried most of the export line and whilst I found them to be high quality, well-thought out fragrances, none of them resonated with me and I couldn’t see myself wearing any (it’s important to note that I have discovered and fallen in love with three Lutens fragrances; Fleurs d’Oranger, Feminité du Bois and Tuberéuse Criminelle) and Muscs Koublaï Khän was no exception. If I’m being totally honest, I just can’t see what the all of the fuss is about.

Muscs Koublaï Khän opens with a trinity of skank – cumin, pepper and civet, there is also a strong note of castoreum (‘Beaver Butt’ as my ‘scented partner in crime’ Nick would say), so yes the opening is pretty skanky, but is also quite sweet and velvety. The trio of skank gives the impression of warm, sweaty bodies, it feels unclean and stale but it never quite feels disgusting or jarring in any way.

I have searched high and low for the listed rose note, which I know a lot of other people find quite prominent but I cannot find it anywhere, my nose finds it to be AWOL and I’m not sure I miss it. The musk however, is most definitely present and correct! I find musk a hard note to describe, it smells animalic yet it has a clean, snuggly vibe to it but what I find most interesting about musk is that it really adds texture to a fragrance and in Muscs Koublaï Khän’s case the musk gives the texture of a bear skin rug.

Muscs Koublaï Khän isn’t 100% linear, but after the initial spicy/skanky start it does soften to a warm, cosy & peppery musk with touches of amber and rests there for the remainder of its development. All in all, Muscs Koublaï Khän is a pleasant, well constructed oriental musk but it fails to thrill me and I can’t help but want a bit more from it. It’s nowhere near as filthy as I expected and in my opinion there are better musk fragrances out there. If you’re looking for a really filthy fragrance, and I mean really filthy, may I suggest that you try L’Air de Rien by Miller Harris, it will knock your socks off.


Musc Ravageur

“Musc Ravageur speaks to the gourmand lover within me”

The Notes

Top: Lavender and Bergamot
Heart: Clove and Cinnamon
Base: Gaiac Wood, Cedar, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Tonka and Musk [2]

How Does it Smell?

Musc Ravageur is another cult musk fragrance just like Muscs Koublaï Khän and like MKK it always seems to divide opinion. The fragrance was composed by Maurice Roucel for Frederic Malle and it was part of the original lineup of fragrances when the Editions de Parfums line was launched.

The opening of Musc Ravageur is an unusual, yet strikingly familiar, warm barbershop accord. There is a lot of citrus, namely bergamot and orange, which is coupled with light dabs of lavender. The bergamot fades quite quickly but the orange stays and it becomes progressively more spiced and candied as Musc Ravageur develops.

A heart of clove and cinnamon laid over a base of musk, tonka, sandalwood and vanilla makes for something truly delicious. Musc Ravageur speaks to the gourmand lover within me, and whilst it doesn’t smell like a particular food, it does smell so edible that I have to fight myself from nibbling at my wrists when I wear it.

Musc Ravageur is much less musk-centric than Muscs Koublaï Khän, in fact the musk doesn’t really start to become apparent until the base, it is much more about the gourmand notes and the opening barbershop accord. Musc Ravageur has good projection and longevity but I do wish the heart and base had the same oomph as the opening half an hour.

I truly adore Musc Ravageur and I can see that it’s going to be my go-to scent for this winter. It’s going to smell great wafting from my winter coat and scarf!

I’m not entirely sure that I would bestow the title ‘King of Musks’ on either Musc Ravageur or Muscs Koublaï Khän, MR isn’t musky enough and MKK is just a bit disappointing, but I do know which of the two is my favourite, so for that reason Musc Ravageur must be declared the winner.


Muscs Koublaï Khän is part of Serge Lutens’ non-export line and is available in 75ml Eau de Parfum exclusively from Le Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido in Paris. It was briefly released as part of the export line in a 50ml spray bottle and bottle can still be found from some online retailers.

Musc Ravageur is available 50ml and 100ml Eau de Parfum, prices range from £90-£130. A set of 3 x 10ml travel sprays (£60) and matching body products are also available.


This review is based on a bottle of Musc Ravageur and a sample of Muscs Koublai Khan from my own personal collection.



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