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Mortal Skin – I’ve been charmed – September 4, 2015

Image - Stephane Humbert Lucas "Mortal Skin" bottle by Roberto Greco - 

Hmmm. A new perfume called Mortal Skin. I’m instantly transported to myself at nine years old, a kid building forts with friends on a warm rocky outcrop near the woods, and coming across a fragile snakeskin in a crevice. Almost whole, it was a perfect specimen, and sparkled in the sunlight as I examined it. At home, I proudly showed my parents my new treasure. “Why do snakes shed their skins?” I asked.  “It’s simple”, said my dad, the font of all knowledge. “Snakes grow, but their skins don’t, so when they grow too big, they slither out of their skin, just shed it and grow a new one,” Brilliant, I thought. Snakes are brilliant.

The creator of Mortal Skin, Stephane Humbert Lucas, seems to have shed his skin a few times, too. Born in France, and starting his career as a classically trained painter, he became a poet and writer, then perfumer. “For many years, SHL, in love with writings and voyages, has tried to tame his trouble through psychoanalysis. Perfume is his catalyzer. Drawn to the Arab world, which he sees as the 'cradle of the universe', SHL literally frees himself and examines his desires through perfume. 'The Middle East has a smell; I love its smell.' “

Starting with his brand Nez a Nez, then SoOud, and then finally Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 Collection, all of his complex nuanced creations reflect his artistry and his fascination and deep love of the fragrant mystery of Arabic culture. I’ve written about SoOud Hajj- click here - a refined Oriental with notes of fruits, spices, leaves, and woods in perfect balance and harmony, a scent with serene luminous beauty.

Mortal Skin is the first release in his 2015 “Snake Collection”.  The snake is his inspiration, the viper with glittering pale blue eyes that hypnotize and seduce. From the SHL press release:

“1st Act:   The perfume, languid and colourful, hypnotises me, I am facing two eyes that desire me. Leafy coolness, fruits, the magic of the encounter, the seduction begins.

2nd Act:   The perfume rises up and paralyses me, The fangs ooze, wanting to sink into me. Throbbing heat mixed with blue cold, I think I am bitten. Sandalwood, tequila, intoxication.

3rd Act:   Bestiality, brutality, journey, The perfume smells of hot ash. Life slips away. It now knows that all is beautiful. Elegance. Captivity. Letting Go.”

As I lift the opulent black glass bottle out of its box, the snake’s head with the blue eyes and the scaly coppery skin comes with it – it’s a stunning bottle! And from the first spritz, I’m captivated. Blackberry, ink, incense, and labdanum are listed in the opening notes - spicy, cool, sweet, this opening accord is at first deliciously strange, exotic, animalic, but definitely not mammalian. The black ink note floats at the top, ethereal and metallic, then merges slowly with the smoky frankincense forming an incense that smells like its from another world.

Mortal Skin morphs as it moves into the heart. The ink disappears, and the cardamom note, there from the start, joins with earthy iris, opoponax, ambergris, and sweet myrhh into a slightly floral accord, soft, musky, and just sweet enough to lull my senses.  Mortal Skin is smooth as silk as it seduces. I’m waiting for the snake to strike, but then the quiet warmth arrives. Satiny sandalwood, aromatic resins from cedar and birch, the animalic heat of civet and musk mix with the strange incense accord, and Mortal Skin unfolds for hours in amber waves of soft sensual comfort. If I’ve been bitten by this blue-eyed snake and died, I’ve ended up in heaven.

With the dramatic snake bottle, and from the poetic imagery in the press release, I thought Mortal Skin would be a powerhouse, a deep, dark, dangerous scent. In truth, it is a quietly hypnotic skin scent, made for male and female skin, and which has a complexity that is compelling. Each time I wear it, I find another facet to explore, as the notes seem to appear in varying sequences and strengths according to temperature and time of day.

Stephane Humbert Lucas is an extremely talented perfumer, one of those under-the-radar perfume artists. Is he the snake with the hypnotic power, or is he the snake charmer? Whichever, I think he is brilliant. Mortal Skin charmed me, and I have a new fragrant treasure to add to my collection.

Mortal Skin is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $7.00 for 1 ml.