A dark, sexy beauty... (review for the vintage extrait).
There are a few fragrances in the world, that provoke such a strong response that you go "wow" when you first smell them. For me, Habanita does this straight away.
I find this a fascinating and utterly deep and intoxicating fragrance. It always evokes emotions in me when I try it. The story goes that the formula was discovered by a chemist working at Molinard in Grasse around 1921, and they released it as a fragrance to perfume women's cigarette papers. Three years later, it was released as a women's perfume in it's own right.
What this is, is a dark, earthy, smoky, deep vanilla fragrance. It's like if Shalimar were a heavy smoker almost! The interesting thing is though, is that there is no Tobacco in this at all! Many people get the smell of old dusty perfume and leather mixed with tobacco. But the real effect of tobacco here is a dark, smoky vetiver, a very dry grassy root which smells of earth and dust. This is mixed with a strong leather note, and with resins, orris root, heliotrope and vanilla. There is also a very faint hint of rose, jasmine and even a dried raspberry note.
The immediate impression I get of this is the 1920's jazz clubs. This is almost the smell of the air in those places. Women's perfume (not like today, this is the opulent, dark amber, rose & vanilla type), mixed with the smell of tobacco in the air and makeup etc. It's so evocative for me. Very deep, very dark, very noir. You can imagine slim young 1920's women with short, dark hair and ruby-red lipstick seducing rich men at the bar, the jazz music reaching a high tempo in the background, cocktails and golden lights, the trail of smoke from women with cigarette holders dancing in the limelight. This is such a "bad girl" type fragrance! In my mind I imagine a very elegantly dressed young woman, red lipstick, black dress, perfect hair, talking to a smartly dressed man at a bar... whispering into his ear, slowly seducing him, and him being totally under her spell with every look from her eyes, and every word she says.
To me this has such a very deep, dark, sensual aura about it. It's sweet but it's earthy and slightly dirty. It's from the era where women smoked and drank as a sign of rebellion. But it's still feminine, just in a dark, bold, powerful and confident way.
I have not tried newer formulations, just this vintage extrait. But what a beauty this is! I have never found another fragrance that stirs up so much emotion for me. The closest thing I would compare this to is Tabac Blond by Caron, also an Ambery, Powdery Tobacco-like fragrance, and with hints of something like Shalimar, but more mysterious. This is such an intriguing one, it's like a dancer that is always tempting you, she's so intriguing that you want to come closer, but you can't, she's almost forbidden. There's nothing you can do but sit and watch her do her dance, mesmerised... until the end.
I sometimes struggle to put into words such an intriguing experience. I would encourage anyone to seek this beauty out. Again it is a fragrance which sets a certain mood... and one which commands a certain behaviour from you. Me, I wear it only when dressed in black, and in top style. Leather, Amber, Vanilla, dry, smoky Tobacco-like Vetiver, if this were released today it would be considered a high-end niche fragrance (like Killian's Back to Black). This was so ground-breaking to me that when I smelt it I was instantly transported to another time and place... it's really just something else! I sincerely hope they never discontinue this one, and I want other people to experience this. Like a piece of history in a bottle... and totally wearable even today. Old, and also so powerful it's almost modern. A perfume which is to me so utterly mysterious and complex. Mesmerising!
Gorgeous. A herbal, bitter chypre with a smoky and soapy soul, resinous notes, spices (cloves?) and a humid, dark bouquet of dense and crisp flowers, all wrapped in a truly impressive leather accord – rich, dry, brown, smoked, stout. This is the explosive opening of this great scent, a black fog coming from a time machine which takes you back in time straight into the bed of a 1920's naughty flapper. Initially it's almost all about smoke and leather with a bold, raw animalic and musky accord, plus a soapy powdery side which will eventually emerge better later on, completed by a pungent herbal-aldehydes accord. The blend is raw but sensual, austere but luscious, dry but softened by a heavenly and at the same time, funereal powdery-talcum side. Plus it is also rather modern in its simplicity, as it's much straightforward, crude, less opulent and less aldehydated than other classic "old countess" chypres. I'd say it's also much more androgynous and less predictably "feminine" - it is, but in a modern way, and that is why it's perfectly great for a man too. The leather base is among the most prominent accords from the very beginning until the very end, so you've really plenty of time to enjoy it, and you surely will: this is a truly powerful and nuanced leather accord, smoky, animalic, mossy, crisp, dusty, earthy... together with the urine-animalic accord, the herbs, the narcotic spices and the sumptuous powdery-flower humid note it creates pure gloomy, aristocratic, decadent and utterly refined sexuality. After a while the flowers emerge with more power and clarity, lowering the dark and austere "rawness" of the scent and brightening it with a gentle dash of soapy talcum, always gloomy in a way, but lighter and brighter. Put some lipstick and garters on Knize Ten, that's Habanita. Brilliant!
Genre: Woody Oriental
Habanita goes on in a potent burst of smoke and tobacco, with sweet floral notes and leather in the background. The smoky leather accord persists while the florals recede to yield a very potent, dry, almost medicinal tobacco accord with dark leather underneath. At this stage Habanita smells like a stark, dry cousin of Caron’s Tabac Blond.
Then, very, very slowly, the floral accord begins to resurface, riding on a wave of smooth vanilla, vetiver, and powdery musk. Within an hour Habanita has transformed into a mysterious, smoky-sweet skin scent, with a hint of amber over a vetiver foundation. From an opening that’s outright brazen, it becomes a gentle and elusive fragrance, but one that is also overtly sexual and deeply compelling. You can forget you’re wearing it after an hour or so, but it will reassert itself again from time to time, always showing some new facet of its complex makeup. Worthy of classic status alongside the great Carons and Guerlains.
I was intrigued by this because both Luca Turin and Barbara Herman praise it as a classic. I found it had a rather unpleasant linear earthy scent at the start. It then dries down on me to a dry acrid leather. A far better version of this would be for comparison Parfum d'Empire's Cuir Ottoman. I'm not getting any of the many complex ingredients, just a dry acrid leather.
I just don't get all the hoopla about this one. I read where it was developed originally in 1921 to scent cigarettes, either as a sachet to tuck in with them, or as an oil to apply to them. Better to splash on some Tabac Blond.
This is what I am writing on behalf of..
A modern classic that can be worn by all ages all year..
The epitiome of unisex..
Drydown is to die for..
Honey/Vanilla and somewhat boozy
Pros: Great for an everyday scent