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Fragrance talk

The Snake Collection by Stephane Humbert Lucas – Act I: Amber Snakes

The renowned Stephane Humbert Lucas is known for his artistic approach to perfumery. He was once quoted saying “I don’t invent scents, I rearrange them and let them merge into one.” He sets contrasting notes against one another and surrounds them with other notes, blending them in until they find harmony.

He doesn’t follow any trends, merely his own instinct which I admire a lot. He has the courage to stand out and follow only what he has in his own mind. This skill has allowed him to create unique scents which can’t be found elsewhere. Adding appealing facets to challenging compositions is not an easy task. 

Crying of Evil from The Snake Collection
Crying of Evil from The Snake Collection

I’ve been following his work for quite a while. Slowly, I’ve begun testing and owning quite a lot of the fragrances from his own brand. It’s quite rare to encounter such a bold and outstanding brand that remains consistent despite the constantly changing trends around us.

Recently the house of Monsieur Lucas launched a new collection called “La Collection Serpent” or known as “The Snake Collection”. There are five new fragrances and two previously launched fragrances, “Mortal Skin” and the exclusive for Harrods, “H Mamba”. All the bottles in this collection have a “protective” snake on the plaque and the “peeled skin” of a snake on the cap. Two eyes made of Swarovski gemstones makes the bottle utterly outstanding, captivating and even pompously majestic. 

For the next few weeks, I’ll be talking about two at a time based on their scent profiles. I decided to start with the olfactive family that is close to my heart… Amber. These two have a remarkable amount of Amber in the composition, utilized in two different ways. They’re also the darkest ones in the collection.

Crying of Evil from The Snake Collection
Crying of Evil from The Snake Collection

The Snake Collection: Crying of Evil: A hymn to the love of beauty

The inspiration behind “Crying of Evil” is Charles Baudelaire’s poetry collection called “Les Fleurs du Mal”. These poems surround the unbalancing paradox between evil and beauty, man’s desire for the absolute and his attraction to vices. I’m not familiar with this poetic project but after I read them, I found one in particular that describes this fragrance the best; “Les Bijoux” (eng. The Jewels). There are two particular parts that are my favourite. They tell how weak and easily disturbed one can be by another’s beauty:

“Like evil angels rose, my fancy twitting,

To kill the peace which over me she’d thrown,

And to disturb her from the crystal throne

Where, calm and solitary, she was sitting.

The lamp resigned its dying flame. Within,

The hearth alone lit up the darkened air,

And every time it sighed a crimson flare

It drowned in blood, that amber-coloured skin.”

“Crying of Evil” is a base-note heavy composition built around rustic Leather which is dusty and sensuous with a smooth texture. However, the opening is quite intense and slightly animalic with lots of Spices as we walk through a spice bazaar. There’s some slight powdery and airy floral to lift up the composition not to be so stuffy, coming from the Violet.

As the edges soften up a bit, a flirt of indolic Tuberose reveals itself. The texture becomes creamy and smooth with Sandalwood. Combining with the rustic feel of the opening, this gives off quite a moody feel. A majestic Rose comes along and takes the direction toward a rather erotic side, adding sweet flirtation to the composition.

Crying of Evil from The Snake Collection
Crying of Evil from The Snake Collection

The powdery facets become more prominent as we approach the dry down. It also warms up quite remarkably as the sweet and Benzoin heavy Amber rises. This is rare to be seen in Monsieur Lucas’ work because he usually utilizes the Amber accord in a darker and more Labdanum forward context. There’s one note that is not mentioned but comes off quite clear and strong which is Tobacco, a leafy quality with a honeyed sweetness. To balance out the sweetness of this sensuous seduction, earthy Patchouli along with Olibanum (Frankincense) adds the carnal earthy feel. 

This scent doesn’t straightforwardly project much as all the notes here are quite heavyweights. But, the way it lingers in the air like a snake’s hissing voice … Wow! You notice it but can’t quite put your finger on it.  However, the feeling is quite intense when I move my hand where I sprayed the fragrance. The longevity is quite consistent, meaning you can smell it all the time but like I described it, as loud as a snake’s hissing. It lasts on my skin for around 10-12 hours. This is a sophisticated seducer that allures people in rather than choking people out and demanding their attention. “Crying of Evil” rather gets the attention with its luminous aura; soft and smooth but impossible to resist when encountered.

The Snake Collection: Mortal Skin: A Snake’s Three Acts

The inspiration for “Mortal Skin” is… interesting. As an ex-biology student, I can relate to the inspiration compared to the scent profile. It’s one of those fragrances that transforms dramatically from the start until the end. You have a hard time telling if it is still the same fragrance or not. To me, it shows how skillful the perfumer is and how his imagination went to compose such a thrilling, almost operatic olfactory experience.

Mortal Skin from The Snake Collection
Mortal Skin from The Snake Collection

When a snake is in pursuit of its target, there are three main steps that must be accomplished before it can enjoy its meal. First, it sets a large trap and lures it in with the hypnotic sound of its shaking tail or hissing. This first method is found in the opening of the scent as it is quite tempting, dark-skin fruity and warm. Once the target becomes prey, it rears up to strike in a flash, spreading its venom all of a sudden.  The scent turns “sticky” and captivating the same way venom does. The final act is to paralyze the prey’s whole body with the venom, here, dark venom is a metaphor for the base of deep Ambery sensation. 

The fragrance opens up quite dark, juicy and ambiguously warm. Blackberry is huge in the opening along with smoky facets making it smell a bit inky. There’s a little touch of floral leathery which might come from the combo of Saffron and Labdanum. This is the hook of the scent for me and I can’t stop sniffing it. It feels like a captivating and intense stare at something very unusual, threatening but also quite fascinating.

As it settles, the warmth intensifies with a rich, sweet Myrrh. Opoponax gives a remarkable weight to the composition while an inky sweet Ambery sensation dances fragrantly. Powdery Iris works to brighten up the feel a bit along with a smooth creamy Sandalwood. These two come to round the edges of the lively and sour Blackberry which continue to be quite noticeable in the blend. It feels like the warm skin of another soul against my own, a very intimate and sensual feel which comes from Musk. 

Labdanum starts to take control and moves along with Ambergris, pushing the dark Ambery facets of the Labdanum forward. The sweetness of Opoponax still remains the same but the floral facets are long gone. At this point, the dry down is very dark, the warmth turned into a block of piercing ice that you can feel in your bones.

Mortal Skin from The Snake Collection
Mortal Skin from The Snake Collection

This projects a bit better than the other one with the vibrant note of Blackberry and Iris. I would say, without two notes, this composition could fall flat after an hour or two. Now it has slightly contrasting notes on the top and heart, with an extra push of Ambergris at the base of the composition. This is a well-structured fragrance with dramatic and almost theatrical transformations during the lifetime of the scent. The longevity is also phenomenal, pushing to the 10-hour mark, thanks to the Musk.

In the next Act, we’ll be approaching the brighter side of the snake’s characteristics. One being a gourmand scent with a big and juicy texture and another an indolic white floral with the edge of the predator nature.

La Collection Serpent (The Snake Collection) fragrances are available in 50ml. Each retails for around $212 USD. The scents are currently not available on their official website yet but can be found at some European distributors.

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