Habanita is a giant in a field of gnats.
But man, it took me ages to understand it, let alone enjoy it. At first, I was repulsed. It smelled harsh to me. Indistinct and muddy – like a fistful of wet, mulched leaves. There was a sticky grey -brown cast to it that lent it a slightly glum feel. Who the hell wants to smell like this, I thought to myself.
But something kept making me want to wear it, and now, with time, I’ve come to love it. And I don’t mean love it from a distance. No, I actually wear Habanita once a week. Coming from a gal with as many perfumes as I have, that should tell you something.
I think I’ve got a handle on what makes Habanita tick now.
At the heart of Habanita lies a soft, worn leather note that recalls the smell of the inside lapel of a well-loved leather jacket. It is an intimate smell, a beat-up leather mixed with twenty years of human skin rubbing up against it. It’s not a leather with aspirations to luxury, like Chanel’s Cuir de Russie, or leaning towards unbearably animalic, like Montale’s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie. It’s just a low-down, rough-copy leather, a smell with history, and aware of its humble beginnings as a liquid used to perfume cigarettes.
The leather note at the center reminds me somewhat of Onda by Vero Profumo. They don’t smell alike, really, when taken as a whole. But the more I wear Habanita, the more I understand that Onda is the core of Habanita extracted, shaken clean of the powder, tonka, and the flowers, and reshaped as a gaspingly harsh leather chypre. The core accord in both is a grainy, grimy leather with a slightly unclean, carnal feel – a half-urinous, half-honeyed tobacco-like smell. There is also a whiff of floor disinfectant. Whereas this is what had repulsed me to begin with, I now find this very sexy. It’s a lived-in, intimate kind of smell. This combination of honey and tobacco or vetiver that works for me in a few of my other favorite fragrances as well, such as Serge Lutens’ Fumerie Turque and Jardins D’Ecrivains’ George.
There’s a lot more going on in Habanita than in Onda, though. Whereas Onda is all about that fierce, dry honey-vetiver-leather, Habanita wraps it all up in a thick blanket of baby-powder florals (rose, heliotrope, and jasmine) and submerges it in a base of sandalwood and vanilla. I also get a buttery almond-like smell akin to the cherry tobacco smell of an unlit pipe, so perhaps there is tonka in there too (I’m convinced there is).
But despite the complex list of notes, I have to say that Habanita maintains its rather singular identity all the way through. It never smells overtly floral (although there are tons of flowers) or incense-y (although it has resins). Even the vanilla and the vetiver don’t smell like vanilla and vetiver – they meld so completely with the honey, flowers, woods, and resins that their separate identities are consumed. What they give birth to is a new form – that nutty, dry leather core of Habanita.
I own three versions of it – the modern Eau de Parfum (inexpensive), the vintage Eau de Toilette (costs a fortune and is increasingly difficult to find), and the vintage-ish pure parfum (discontinued, I believe). They are all three essentially the same when it comes to the core accord that makes Habanita "Habanita", although there are some slight differences.
The modern EDP is plush, deep, and more intensely powdered than the vintage EDT, and has a gummy, lemon-green mastic note at the start that is missing from the other versions. The vintage EDT has a sharp petigrain note at the start and more of a spicy, clove-y character, but it dries down to the basic scent profile as is found in the EDP.
The pure parfum goes straight to the leather-tobacco core of Habanita without any of the harsh, wild green opening notes of the other two versions – it is altogether quieter and more buttery. It is also the version with the most smoke, which I enjoy very much. All three versions last on my skin for an eternity. But I wouldn’t necessarily feel that you have to hunt down the pure parfum or the vintage EDT unless you were really a hardcore Habanita whore like me. The modern EDP is a rare instance where a beloved classic was not only preserved but also maybe a little improved. Plus – and when do you ever get to say this about a favorite perfume – it is democratically priced.
I really wanted to like this, but after several attempts to get on with it I'm giving up and giving away my sample. On me this smells like furniture polish, with a very slight hint of a tobacco if I sniff my arm really intently. Meh.
This is a glorious fragrance which is often included in the leather family, and I would not disagree - but it is equally a tobacco scent, and not only because it was originally created as an adornment for cigarettes. I am reminded of flavored pipe tobaccos when I smell Habanita, and its smokiness is as friendly and familiar as a fine blend.
Having extraits from the 20s and 30s, I can happily report that the current reformulation is excellent. Side-by-side comparisons between vintage and modern versions yield almost identical results for accords, sillage and longevity (expansive, enduring and consistent) - the only difference I can detect is that the current Habanita EDP has a very faint petroleum smell at the tail-end of its life on my skin, but the same could be said of almost every modern fragrance and it would not be noticeable to anyone who didn't have his/her nose plastered to my wrist with the intention of finding fault. I love Habanita.
13th September, 2015 (last edited: 14th September, 2015)
A salute to the glamorous lifestyle of the roaring 1920s.HABANITA is for the woman who gets into a lot of trouble(and likes it!).one of my undeniable favorite scent for evening on a seductive woman. Absolutely marvelous is exactly how you feel when using this fragrance.Powerful,Glamorous,Alluring, Spicy,Classic,Naughty,Deep,Intriguing and Utterly Seductive.
It possessing a blend of leather with mossy-floral notes such as ylang-ylang,heliotrope and patchouli. rose and jasmine pack an exciting punch.In fact an passionate and flamboyant scent with a seductive smoky trail left by tobacco and vanilla that makes a trail of mystery in the evening air as so many people ask you what are you wearing?It is a magnetic fragrance that can drive men absolutely crazy.
The dry down is the most captivating and sensual female dry downs that i have experienced.A great evening fragrance when you want to feel super sexy. not recommend for the shy.It is definitely for a night on the prowl.Perfect for COLD weather.it reminds me a smoker woman with interminable sexuality.HABANITA is seduction in a bottle.
Longevity?Great on my skin.
The Habanita's "boisterous" opening and the (long) way that it takes to evolve towards a perfect mild/soft status of holy balance conjure me the vintage Habit Rouge's tiresome travail (I mean the hesperidic Guerlain's one I used to enjoy in the course of the 90's) and its long laborious transition from the mess to perfection. Several temperamental mouldy/mossy/animalic scents (some effectively vintage or "neo" old-fashion in style) jump furthermore on mind for several of their nuances (from Mazzolari Lui to Aramis classic and Caron Tabac Blond, passing across the Gres Cabochard e/or Bogue Maai's massive chypre core to finally recall on memory several Jovoy Private Label/Sigilli Athunis's arcane dark/woody nuances). At the beginning Molinard Habanita is a compelling mess of herbal notes, turbulent spices, ylang-ylang, angular floral "models", oily hesperides, pungent dry tobacco and stout woody leather (over all surrounded by a bitter/acid licoricey-citric-leathery twist cutting the at moment faint intoxicating mildness). The aroma in this phase is on one bitter/hesperidic side almost off putting (with an almost salty feel provided by an "hellish" accord of leather, herbal notes, citrus and vetiver) but on the other side (gradually unveiling a secret sprouting soul) visceral, powdery/animalic, exotic and attractive. Along the way the leathery/hesperidic intensity starts "taming down" towards a more peaceful powdery amber/tonka/talky sandalwood/oakmoss accord with suede like, soapy, woody (vetiver) and floral (rose/jasmine) nuances. While the floral notes appear on the top somewhat lymphatic, earthy/leafy and vegetal (geranium/carnation mastering at the beginning) in the final phase those seem gentler in a way to "sweeten" the soapy powder with a soft rosey/honeyed (rose/jasmine) victorian whiff. At the end of the trip the vetiver takes the scene mastering over the however notable talky-erotic amber, tonka, honey, ylang-ylang and oakmoss. The final soapiness is kind of "powerfully neutral", yummy, woody, organic, mossy/honeyed and salty as an hellish potion stimulating the receptors of sex. Rarely I've stumbled over something more erotic than Habanita, guys. A majestic leather/chypre semi-oriental masterpiece of sensuality standing out as a Queen still nowadays.