The golden dunes and shifting sands of the Taklamakan are an appropriate setting for Stéphane Humbert Lucas‘ upcoming perfume by the same name. Taklamakan is the name of the world’s second largest shifting sand desert, composed primarily of large, striking sand dunes. It is also China’s largest desert, located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and a part of the ancient Silk Road trade route that helped to spread spices from China to Persia, Greece, Rome, and beyond. Spices, scorched sands, dryness, and golden warmth are very much a part of Taklamakan, the perfume, but there were other things that struck me about choice of a desert name.
Sometimes, things don’t work no matter how much you try. That was the case for me with the fragrance that Stephane Humbert Lucas as a Harrods’ exclusive. It is simply called “Harrods,” and it was the second release last year in his new Snake Collection.
This review will be slightly different from my usual ones because I fear I have to start with more explanations than concrete, official details about the scent. One reason is because the background to the fragrance is a bit confusing in the context of names. Another is because there isn’t much information about the scent out there. And, lastly, there is the issue of friendship. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first a brief explanation is needed about how the Harrods exclusive fits into the wider context of Monsieur Lucas’ brand.
Every week, I get at least three or four emails from people seeking fragrance recommendations. The vast majority of them are men, but there are some women, too. Most of them are not long-time readers of the blog and have simply stumbled upon it, so they don’t know my long-time favorites that I talk about often, but a few are subscribers who seek specific suggestions. Sometimes, people start by giving me a brief idea of their tastes and/or names of prior fragrances they’ve worn. Typically, though, the information is insufficient for me to know what might really suit them, so I write back with a list of questions, trying to narrow down what notes they have issues with or love best, how they feel about sweetness or animalics, how their skin deals with longevity or projection, and what sort of power they want in both of those last two area.
What I’ve noticed is that I tend to make certain recommendations time and time again for particular genres or fragrance families. So, I thought I would share them with all of you. However, please keep in mind that these names are in response to some pretty set criteria given to me by the person in question, even though many of those factors end up being quite similar. For example, the men who like dark, bold, rich or spicy orientals all seem to want a certain sillage or “to be noticed in a crowd,” as several have put it. In contrast, most of those who want clean, crisp scents prefer for them to be on the discreet side and suitable for professional business environments. Men whose favorites are classical designer scents that fall firmly within the fougère, green, fresh, or aromatic categories (like Tuscany, Guerlain’s Vetiver, or vintage Eau Sauvage, for example) tend to want very traditional scents, even “old school” in vibe, and not something sweet, edgy, or with a twist. So, that is what I try to give them as recommendations, which means that there are a whole slew of fragrances that fall outside the category.
Woods and herbaceous fields, spices and sweetness, incense and leathery smoke — those are some of the various strands of Mortal Skin, the latest release from Stéphane Humbert Lucas. It is a scent that echoes some of his other fragrances for me, but it is ultimately its own creation, and one which I think will appeal to lovers of spicy, smoky, woody orientals.
Mortal Skin is a new parfum or extrait that initially looked as though it were being released under Stéphane Humbert Lucas’ own name, unlike the 777 fragrances. That confused me at first, so I asked Monsieur Lucas about it and about the significance of the “777” being omitted from the packaging. He explained that “777” is merely one collection within his overall brand, which should officially be considered as “Stephane Humbert Lucas” as a whole. The Snake Collection is a separate line altogether and has its own signature aesthetic. He provided the images above to underscore how the packaging emphasizes that “777” is merely a collection, not part of his brand name. He also brought up Kilian, who has various unrelated lines, like the Arabian Nights, the Addictive State of Mind, or the Asian Tales.
Mortal Skin is the debut release in The Snake Collection, along with the new Harrods Exclusive, and it will be slowly rolled out at all regular SHL retailers over the next 6 weeks. Luckyscent already has it, with Osswald NYC to follow in a few weeks. In Europe, I’ve been told that it is already out at Harrods. The fragrance originally debuted at the Esxence perfume show in March, but that was an earlier version that has been substantially altered since then. Monsieur Lucas told me that, in total, Mortal Skin has gone through roughly 200 or so modifications before being finalised after Esxence with the version that will be hitting stores shortly. I’ll explain the specific changes in a moment.