There's a whole category of so-called dirty musk fragrances that smells human rather than animalic, and offers exposed clean(ish) skin instead of what's affectionately known as a sweaty camel. Musc Tonkin, a limited edition perfume from Parfum d'Empire hangs in the balance between the two. It was composed in a way that's supposed to closely imitate musk tonkin, a rare and coveted natural musk and is only offered in an extrait de parfum concentration, adding to the preciousness that surrounds this Parfum d'Empire offering.
The choice to bottle Musc Tonkin as a parfum is an interesting and fitting one. I often wondered how would MKK feel as an extrait (not that it's lacking in density as it is). Muscs Kublai Khan is quite potent and can be distracting if overapplied, though I admit I'm always tempted to fully anoint myself with it. Musc Tonkin moves closer to the skin following the first few minutes after spraying. The initial blast projects to high heaven, making a statement with a highly indolic, salty and almost marine presence. Yes, I said marine.The combination can be unsettling. It's interesting to observe that the "turd on the water" sensation is more in the air than on the skin or in the space between body and fabric. The husband who complained mightily on my sillage commented that Musc Tonkin smells different and much nicer when he got close (he has no issues with MKK and my other beloved stinkers).
My guess is that the issue is with the floral indoles. At this point in my perfumed journey I rarely mind them, and here I can fully enjoy the abstract flowers since Musc Tonkin blends these notes with leathery goodness, honey and beeswax and (I agree with the guesses on Luckyscent) an exceptionally dirty cistus. In any case, Musc Tonkin takes about 20-30 minuets to come fully into its musky self, when it's all about skin. Mostly clean skin, but already getting a bit ripe from walking in the sun and absorbing sea salt and air.
Parfum d'Empire often gives us statement fragrances and Musc Tonkin is no different. If you find Muscs Kublai Khan to be over the top there's little chance that this fragrance will sit well with you. Lovers of massive musks, though, will most likely adore it and lament the limited distribution.
Musc Tonkin is already sold out at Luckyscent but can be ordered directly from Parfum d'Empire's website (parfumdempire.fr): 120 euro, 50ml extrait de parfum.
Photo by Helmut Newton for Vogue Australia, 1964.