When I think of niche perfume, Serge Lutens is one of the first houses that come to mind. I admit it took me some time to fully appreciate their perfumes as they are definitely not for beginner noses or those accustomed to mainstream type frags, which I was at the beginning of my journey into the fragrance world. Lutens ARE different. This particular perfume is an incredibly polarizing fragrance, as animalics tend to be. But whether you love it or hate it, “MKK”, as it is known in the frag comm, is an endearing perfume that was released in 1998 and has garnered a cult-like following.
I was introduced to MKK my fragrant friend whom I consider my perfumista mentor, at the same time I was introduced to Femme Rochas. The “sniffa” we had that day was focused on animal smells. And MKK is considered by many as THE holy grail of animalics. And probably even more so now that the 50ml size has been discontinued and is now reserved as a Palais Royal exclusive in the houses signature bell jar flacon. The last I checked, you could only order it online from Barneys or Serge Lutens website, testers are no longer in stores, though a few reputable independant decanter sites like the Perfumed Court do offer testers in various sizes for order. I found a new in box “old stock” 50ml on eBay for a steal.
I find MKK to be somewhat of a dichotomy. While it IS very animalic, loaded with civet and hints of cumin, it’s also a very gentle floral. The name is much grander than the juice plays out to be. And it doesn’t read as a chypre to me at all, but it’s listed as one nonetheless.
MKK opens with an obvious civet and rose accord that blooms into a musky floral bouquet before dying down into a more powdery musk. The projection and sillage is rather low but I appreciate the subtlety here. If it were any stronger it would smell very much like Papillion Salome with that overdose of cumin and musks. But here is much more refined and wearable. I generally dislike heavy civet but I really enjoy it in MKK since it’s very subdued and well balanced by the florals. It’s actually very addicting and everytime I wear it i can’t stop reaching to sniff my wrists. My favorite swap partner from Bakersfield said she thought MKK smelt like “dirty old man socks” haha. Civet can be grossly fecal. About a year ago I was gifted a few grams of civet paste by another fragrant friend of mine, which I tinctured into about a 5% concentration with perfumers alcohol and even at that concentration, I couldn’t stand it. I diluted it down further to 3% but decided to put it away to allow it to age and mellow. Maybe in a few years I’ll feel different about this civet in the raw, haha.
While MKK is very animalic, it’s not the beast it’s made out to be. I find it a very cozy scent. Not so sexy as I find Femme. But to me, this feels like wearing a luxurious fur coat or cuddling a puppy.
To any serious perfumista, this one I recommend trying at least once just to experience it, whether you end up liking it or not. Many frags were influenced by MKK and it stands as a real trail blazer that is discussed and compared to often. And while I wasn’t terribly fond of it the first time I tried it, I’ve since grown to love it. I did spring for a full bottle after all lol.