Between the raunchy Muscs Koublaï Khan and the pristine Clair de Musc, it’s as though Serge Lutens had wanted to stretch the paradox of musk to its near-breaking point. And while Muscs Koublaï Khan epitomizes Lutens’ trademark baroque style, Clair de Musc veers into an unexpectedly serene, ethereal aesthetic.
The first sniff is all soap – if seraphim ever wash their wings, their suds must surely smell of Clair de Musc… With its hairspray aldehydes churning powdery swirls of carnation and iris, this feels like a pared-down version of grand, classic florals like Chanel N°22. The orange blossom and jasmine have clearly been sent home to scrub off their heady notes. Sandalwood is only allowed to join the fun if it promises to sit in the sidelines. Then, just as you’d forgotten about it, the musk rises to the foreground with the soft, nutty-rosy tones of ambrette, the vegetal musk, and Clair de Musc slyly extends a scented tendril towards her feral sister. She may be, after all, an angel with dirty wings.
Image: Francesca Woodman, Angel Series (1977)