Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Musc Tonkin eau de parfum can be purchased from the Parfum d’Empire website, where a 100-ml bottle is currently priced at 120 Euros, or in the United States at LuckyScent.com, where the same sized bottle is priced at $140. My review is based on a sample I purchased.

Images: Photo of Dwight Yoakam (top of page) was stolen from someone's Pinterest site, but can be found various places on the Internet, as well as the photo of the mariachi band. The photo of Dwight Yoakam playing music with Buck Owens was stolen from the blog Serialeclectic.com, from an article titled "Bakersfield & Bourbon."

Perfume bottle image is from LuckyScent.com, where the perfume can be purchased.



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February 9, 2016: 

So, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. But you can find other interpretations of this gorgeous perfume here, here, here and here.*


*Please note that some of these linked reviews are for the extrait version of Musc Tonkin, which was the original formulation (issued as a limited edition) before the eau-de-parfum version was released. My review is for the edp.

Musc Tonkin, Mariachi and Men in Tight Pants

Weeks ago, when I jotted my first thoughts about Musc Tonkin in a notebook, I wrote: “A collision between dirty animalics and sparkly rhinestones and brass instruments.” It’s hard to explain to non-perfumistas how such a description could take shape in one’s mind, and I can’t say for certain what notes comprise this scent. Perfumer Marc-Antoine Corticchiato (he is both the nose and the brand owner of Parfum d’Empire) doesn’t divulge them on his website, and LuckyScent.com lists them as “African stone absolute, musk, and after that, your guess is as good as ours.” Nonetheless, I smell an aldehydic accord meeting the golden yet piquant smell of honey, and it becomes brass instruments and rhinestones. Why not champagne and diamonds, such as the aldehydes in a Chanel perfume often suggest? Simply because Musc Tonkin’s aldehydes are met by aromas reminiscent of rural places – pastoral places – to my nose (scents of hay, a tendril of jasmine, and the urine-tinged fur-and-skin scent of musk). The aforementioned aldehydes thus become the rhinestone suits and merry horns of a mariachi band, and joined to such a sensuous musk that won’t quit but keeps on strutting its stuff, I suppose that’s where long-legged Dwight sauntered into my scent scene.

When it comes to musk perfumes – by which I mean musk-dominant perfumes such as Jovan Musk, the drugstore musk scent that was popular in the 70s, or today’s upscale versions, like Bruno Acampora Musk Extrait – I’m usually at a loss. In a complex composition, with other notes to bounce off it, I can detect musk much better than when it is the heart and soul of the perfume. In other words, the more musk in a composition, the more “empty” or “invisible” the perfume becomes to my nose, and until recently there were only four musk perfumes I really liked (this one, this one and this one, as well as Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur, which I’ve yet to review). Now there’s another: Musc Tonkin from Parfum d’Empire, a musk I can smell, hear, feel and see! It’s not loud, but it is lively, as well as purring. It’s an interesting intersection of both these things, and when I wear it I find myself thinking about mariachi music and men in cowboy boots and tight pants (too-tight pants even, but in a good way), which is essentially to say that Musc Tonkin smells like the olfactory representation of Dwight Yoakam in his “Guitars, Cadillacs and Hillbilly Music” days (or his “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” days, when his cover of Queen’s former hit was used in a Gap commercial to sell khaki pants to the masses, while his own music video for the song showcased Dwight in his signature look, wearing what was surely the original version of skinny jeans).

I think I fell in love with Musc Tonkin because it also reminds me of the vintage, 1960s extrait version of Chanel No. 5 – the warmest and most sex-kitten version of No. 5 I’ve ever smelled, with its shimmering aldehydes, naughty nitro-musks and the honeyed jasmine at its floral heart. Parfum d’Empire’s Musc Tonkin smells of these same identical things, only in a different ratio: musk makes up the largest percentage of the perfume (at least in terms of smell), and though there are enough aldehydes in Musc Tonkin to make for a showy perfume, this is the country version of showy. Its sex-appeal is more open, natural, and upfront; more exuberant and declarative. Here’s a musk perfume that knows how to swagger and cut a rug at the same time it’s fixin’ you with a devil-may-care grin. On an animalic level, I’d describe it as having pants tight enough that you can smell its tang (its animalic quality that is slightly urinous), while being quick to note that Musc Tonkin isn’t a dirty perfume so much as it’s suggestive: it is far too intelligent to pander to the notion of being raw. To wit, a distinct aldehydic accord in Musc Tonkin imparts a sense of ebullience and style. A glittering, uplifting component of this perfume, it soars above the musk and heralds in the other most prominent element in the composition: a honeyed hay smell (jasmine-y and alfalfa-like), which while not strong is nonetheless detectable and influences the way I see this perfume. Were this whiff of hay not present, Musc Tonkin might cross over into urbane territory; there is certainly enough complexity and aldehydic sparkle to cast a wink in that direction. Yet it is there, underscoring the animalic nature of the perfume and giving it a campesino air, such that this hay component makes me see this perfume as having a provenance that is far from Hollywood – a place more freedom loving and down to earth, yet proud and sexy too.