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.
We all have a promised land in perfumery, one where we gambol and cavort with our favourite olfactory notes, all combined in such a way that the pleasure, comfort, and joy amounts to a sense of a perfect fit, ease, or even the feeling of being “home.” There are many promised lands, each falling within a different genre, each so difficult to find that it’s as though we’re searching for the Holy Grail. (At this point, I’m convinced that my personal Vanilla Valhalla does not exist.) The difficulty stems from the perfection that is implicitly involved in such a magical creation, the coalescence of personal, subjective factors to form one perfect bouquet like no other.
Close your eyes, and imagine yourself in a field in Provence. Fresh lavender stretches out in an aromatic purple expanse as far as the eye can see. Slashes of white are interspersed throughout, heliotrope whose delicate blooms launch a powerful cascade of vanilla, marzipan, fresh anise, and powdered meringue. Running through the heart of field is a river of vanilla, silky and creamy, coiling its way around the purple and white flowers to create the scent of lavender ice-cream dusted with meringue and anise. The earth below them is made of patchouli, its spiciness complemented by something a little extra that smells of cinnamon, cloves, and chili-pepper. All around, encircling the field like a dark wall, is a forest filled with myrtle, wafting its unique aromas of spicy herbs, fruity sap, herbal flowers, and green woods. Cedar grows there, too, along with green vetiver that first smells mineralized, mossy, and minty, and then, later, smoky and woody.
Patchouli, how I love thee. Let me count the ways: spice, chocolate, woods, tobacco, smoke, earthy glows, and golden warmth, you’re such a thing of beauty in my eyes and your intoxicating richness may run through as much as 70% of my fragrance collection. So, I was thrilled to hear that Frederic Malle was going to focus on one of my favourite notes for his newest fragrance, Monsieur. Not the hideous, purple-skewing fruitchouli gunk that makes up so many modern fruity-florals, but on the real thing. Unfortunately, Monsieur ended up being a fragrance that this “Patch Head” wouldn’t wear under any circumstances.