by BIAN LICHAOSI
BEIJING (China Daily Show) – Perfume stocks fell sharply yesterday after convenience chain 7-Eleven announced a surprise foray into the fragrance market.
“7-Eleven Musk No. 3” is the latest formula of the unique aroma, first launched in Las Vegas in 1971 but only perfected for the Asian market in 2009.
The trademark musk is seen as integral to the interior ambience of the retail outlets and will be used to differentiate them from domestic, often odorless alternatives.
The last two years have been spent attempting to find a viable way to synthesize some of the scent’s more recondite elements – including slightly damp pleather, two-day-old acidic rice and the merest hint of fungus – into a mass-market product.
Now 7-Eleven Asia believes it has finally found a way.
“We extracted the lifeless air from a slightly expired, vacuum-packed sandwich and spent weeks mixing it with cheap cigarette blends in a sterilized, uncomfortably warm atmosphere,” said Dr Chen Hai, who heads 7-Eleven Asia’s R&D department.
“We hit pay-dirt last February using a pack of pipe tobacco left over from the Korean War.”
Production of “7-Eleven Musk No. 3” began last week and, Dr Chen claims, it hits “just the right uniformly distasteful tang at the back of the throat.
“It’s indefinable but it’s certainly there and nothing else quite matches it. That’s why this distillation process took so long.”
According to retail lore, the formula for the original musty classic – “7-Eleven Musk No. 1” – was discovered by accident in an Austin, Texas branch of the store in 1967, after a part-time cashier accidentally left a damp cardboard box, containing malt and cat fur, on a storage heater.
Legend has it the manager returned to find dozens of shoppers milling around bemusedly, and immediately called head office: Musk No. 1 was born.
The resulting smell was found to have an irresistible allure for US shoppers, attracted by its bready overtones yet vaguely repelled enough to purchase something hastily, so as to exit and purge the pervasive whiff from their nostrils as soon .
But bosses had struggled to replicate the odour’s success in China.
“Chinese supermarkets have their own idiosyncratic scents, very different from America,” says Hong Kong-based retail analyst Michelle Wong. “Take Jingkelong, for example: clenbuterol, mop water and turtle glands – with a dash of mild frustration – all come to mind. But who can say what it is exactly?”
The China breakthrough allegedly came after managers at the Dongzhimen outlet placed cartons of stale durian on leaking radiators and turned the heat up intermittently.
The new musk is part of a range of commemorative scents being released by the Guan Yuan Cultural Relics Preservation Honorable Corporation to mark the official 63½ anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Others fragrances in the anniversary collection will include “Bar Street, Closing Time,” “Hotpot Restaurant Female Bathroom” and “Shanghai-Nanjing, Carriage No. Six (Hard Seat)” – the latter described by the company as “an indefinable yet quintessential salad of aromas, instantly recognizable to anyone who’s ever endured this classic route.”