lundi 16 juillet 2012

Habanita 2012 vs. Vintage: Your take

On June 7th I decided to give the floor to you, so that you could write about your impressions of the new Habanita, a perfume that’s been too deeply a part of me for me to be able to write about it… So I drew six names among the people who’d generously offered to give their take. Here are they are in the order I received them: I hope you enjoy this different, choral approach, and I am extremely grateful to the authors for sharing…

Queen Cupcake: “A slightly floral granddaughter to the original”
I compared the latest version of Habanita eau de parfum to my very vintage Habanita in extrait form—simultaneously, one on each arm. A photo of my vintage bottle can be found here (click

A little alarming at first, the vintage extrait opened as a dusky, bitter and narcotic tobacco scent – more tobacco leaf and flower than actual cigarette. It dries down (never on clothing –
this one stains!) and the leather comes forward with fruit loitering in the background. Sniffing this one was like inhaling the scent of a cedar cigar box. I found it to be dry, spicy and utterly hypnotic. Leather stays as a significant partner with the tobacco, although to my nose it is a smooth suede leather note. This would be beautiful and incredibly sexy on male skin.

The eau de parfum sample that Denyse kindly supplied is also beautiful but not surprisingly, different. I suppose it is the geranium and/or spices but I kept imagining that I smelled carnation, even though it is not listed as a note. This version opens sweeter but not cloying. It still has a family resemblance to the fierce oriental, like a slightly floral granddaughter to the original. There is nowhere near as much leather in this for me, but it is a reasonably complex fragrance. I detect wood notes and a bit of vanilla, which I like. I can see how this would be more wearable for lots of people, and it is beautiful in its own right. After four hours, the vintage extrait is still humming along. The edp has faded to a lovely close-to-the-skin scent. I sampled both of these fragrances on a hot and humid summer day, so your mileage may vary.

Kostas: “Every possible "adult" nuance has been hushed down”
"Hello". So strange to finally meet a legend (even after she has undergone extensive plastic surgery). How does one describe that meeting when he is not a groupie? 
I have never smelled the original Habanita but I had a pretty accurate mental image for it that was founded on many reviews. In my imagination it was the perfume Gilda (Rita Hayworth) would wear. It would convey the classy decadence of that club: Vanilla, flowers and exotic fruits drowning in a mist of tobacco, booze and cosmetic powder. Leather is sex, the spark that ignites this high octane mix. The black art deco-neo classical hybrid bottle conveys an image of a black-clad dame, pencil skirt, bolero jacket, veiled hat and silk stockings. Passions burning under polished appearances and classical proportions. The extravagant corrosive sweetness contained in a block of onyx. Being negatively predisposed towards vanilla and with a declared love for bitterness in perfume I never searched for her, but I have always respected her. After all, she does have a cult following. On to the new version...

Upon spraying I am greeted with a bite from geraniol which most of us will recognize from its use as a replacement for citronella in most modern insect repellents. It is floral-ish and acidic green with powdery undertones. Sandalwood and a starchy musk soon join forces to pick up on the powdery facet of geranium and within minutes overpower it transforming it into innocent baby powder. From there on the perfume evolves very slowly on me, almost imperceptibly, and seems like a study on sandalwood. In the middle phase it becomes tinged with subtle floral elements with ylang-ylang being the most prominent, bringing bubblegum and mentholated elements in the composition. There is also some fruitiness from a quiet sambac – not the typical jasmine diva –, a gourmand orange blossom and a shy, winey rose that acts as a bridge. The excessive sweetness is balanced with terpenic elements (cedar?) and vetiver. Nutmeg serves as a dry and transparent contrapunto to what would otherwise be a very dense phase of the perfume. Towards the drydown everything becomes sweeter-heavier. The bubblegum is still there, joined by vanilla, patchouli and what appears to be a mix of resins with benzoin being the most prominent. The patchouli has a beautiful honeyed facet, vanilla is slightly burned and caramelized (but very discreet) and guess what... benzoin is somewhat powdery.
Regardless of the multitude of notes in the composition and the differences in nature in every evolution phase (green-floral-resinous) the perfume is one of the most linear I have ever encountered. There is no evaporation of one phase to reveal another but it is more of a succession of materials that strive to achieve the same effect. There is also a very prominent and persistent vertical element that enhances this impression of non-evolution. The powdery musk and sandalwood combo (and another silent accomplice) dominates over the naturals like a woman in pink sheepskin holding a dozen of poodles on a short leash. The third vertical element I can only suspect to be beeswax and helps unite the contrasting elements, adds some animalic complexity but significantly limits the transparency of the composition.

Habanita EdP has above average longevity but bellow average sillage. After the initial blast subsides, it quickly turns into a well-behaved skin scent with minimal projection. Mind you, I tested it in hot and humid weather and because I used a sample the application was limited. I suspect it will project much better in the dry and cool as most musk based compositions do. A more liberal application might produce the aura effect that seems to be lacking.

I really can't say I am smitten with the new Habanita and I am afraid it is not just a case of me falling victim to my (very) high expectations. The composition is restrained and safe, the balance achieved is static and the musk that accounts for 70-80% of the olfactory impact is quite stifling. Every element seems to be sanitized (almost freeze dried), all edges are rounded and every possible "adult" nuance has been hushed down. I am not sure what this new introduction from Molinard brings to today's market that is already saturated with sweet dry musks. Most of all I am having trouble seeing what type of woman would use starch-bubblegum-wood as a means of seduction. Perhaps if this is sexy, it announces a new type of sexuality, one that avoids the typical raunchy clichés of perfumery of the previous century.

I think the composition is not decisively feminine and a man with an affinity to sweeter powdery scents like Prada Amber or Dior Homme could easily include it in his wardrobe. Among the mainstream fragrant offers, Pure Poison Elixir by Dior seems to share the same blood with Habanita EdP.

Shelly W: “Tobacco in the best sense”
The first two times I wore my sample of Habanita I had two reactions. First, it was very strong.  The second was that I liked it, which was surprising considering the first observation.  I tend to wear calmer scents think (Cuir de Russie from Chanel). Ten minutes later it not only changes but it is still very strong.  The sharp greenness at first gives way slightly to a heavier vanilla. Vetiver may also be noticeable to some. The second stage lasted for hours, which seems good results for the dollar. The best likeness I can make is to the aromatic pipe tobacco I used to package when I worked at a book and tobacco shop in college – tobacco in the best sense. I wore it around several friends, two of who ascribe to the “perfume gives me headaches” school. Their opinions ranged from “nice” to “that reminds me of my grandmother” and “baby powder”.  No one walked away with a headache. It was great for the outdoor café we were in, traveling a bit but not a sillage monster disturbing other tables.
It is very classy and classic to my limited experience of perfume.  This would not be a perfume for my day job.  Second grade classrooms and staff lunchrooms would not appreciate Habanita’s strength or uniqueness. At a party or a situation I would like to make a small mark on, it would be a definite possibility.

Nozknoz: “Like an ink-drawn fashion sketch – spare, direct and chic” 
I've enjoyed wearing the new Habanita.  I also have a mini of Habanita from three or four years ago, as well as an older EDT said to be more than 40 years old.  In the record-breaking heat we've been having here, I've been drawn to the sandalwood in the older EDT, but real sandalwood is long gone, isn't it?  I think Molinard has done good work in updating Habanita.  It hasn't been turned into a floriental, gourmand or fruitchouli, thankfully.  The impression to me is spicier than the earlier versions, so I also compared it to the new Spicebomb, which I don't like as much, actually.  Denyse, you compared experiencing this new Habanita to seeing a photoshopped version of your younger self.  To me it's like an ink-drawn fashion sketch –spare, direct and chic. 

Lys: “A comfort scent that projects ‘perfumed’ luxury”
Despite its “perfume classic” status (or because of it) I wasn’t sure that I would like Habanita.  “Like” and “appreciate” are distinct categories.  I appreciate a lot of fragrances that I don’t enjoy wearing.  So how is Habanita?
Throughout its development, Habanita EDP is well-balanced, maintaining interest through a complexity of notes harmonized seamlessly within the dominant dusty-sweet vetiver-vanilla theme.  It is powdery from the start, with subtle citric and green top-note accents adding interest.  Its powderiness is accompanied by a plush sweetness – is Habanita possibly “cute” at this stage? – a warmth and distant earthiness.  Honeyed ylang-floral amber goodness joins the signature vetiver-vanilla accord creating a white-smoke impression, tobacco by association.  All the while Habanita becomes more and more comfortable, more lived-in.  This is a scent that likes skin but doesn’t subordinate itself to the wearer, maintaining a distinctive signature.
I like it.  And, beyond the usual perfumista suspects, so might anyone looking for a fragrance to project a vintage vibe or to provide a smart, decadent contrast to a minimalist ensemble.  There’s an underlying peachy creaminess here that would appeal to lovers of Piguet’s Visa that want something a little more badass.
Habanita’s powdery accord strikes me as rather contemporary, as it never falls into the more familiar aldehydic or ambery vintage clichés.  As mainstream fragrances dip their toes into the powdery pool (No. 19 Poudré; Baiser Volé; Love, Chloé), Habanita EDP seems on trend, while embodying a bolder take.
In short Habanita is confident and unapologetic.  This isn’t simply a tobacco-vanillic scent to snuggle into, this is an “I smell good and you’re going to know it” scent.   It's a comfort scent that projects “perfumed” luxury, sweet smoke and spiced blossoms, commanding an audience.     

Julz: “Vintage parfum smelled though a 'soft focus lens'”
This 'reincarnated' Habanita is different, yet even though it is a reformulation, I'm glad to discover it could not possibly be mistaken for any other. This is truly a masterful reformulation which updates the fragrance beautifully whilst still skillfully retaining that 'je ne sais quoi' so distinctly ineffably 'Habanita'.
This 2012 EdP version is altogether a dryer and softer composition. The distinct difference to my nose is mainly in the top notes, which open in a blast of aldehydes I don't remember ever being there before. At this point, and for the next 45 minutes or so, it's hardly even recognizable. These aldehydes together with the petitgrain (& the lightest touch of geranium) lend it a brighter, lighter, even ever so slightly 'soapy', fresher intro that's altogether a new facet. (Gone are the honeyed fruits & tobacco leaf of the previous). It's an interesting, more attractive, and welcome change which renders it substantially more accessible and versatile.
But fear not, soon as the blossoms of the heart start to bloom, joined by its essential 'signature' nutmegged vetiver and vanilla combo, it emerges unmistakably Habanita. The vetiver isn't quite as raw, earthy and smoky as previous, nor is the vanilla as sweet and deeply rich. Yet they're nevertheless just as captivating and more appropriately balanced to this composition. 
There was one specific attribute/note, present more so in the vintage EdT formulation, which I not only felt marred it's beauty but rendered it 'un-wearable' for me. It developed an extreme powderiness, with a typical "baby-talcum" note, which overpowered (overpowdered?) the entire composition like a heavy blanket. Thankfully this note is no longer present in this modern revamping, which for me is the most welcome change and significant improvement. Yes there is still some remaining 'powder', but now more just the warm and cuddly inherent smoothness lent by the orris and heliotrope notes. Comfortable, not oppressing. I also find the previous leathery nuances highly reduced, if not altogether eradicated (?) Which is the only difference I find rather regretful in this modern 'incarnation'. 
If you'll excuse the 'mixed metaphors', to my nose this new Habanita feels like the vintage parfum but smelled though a 'soft focus lens'. ~ It's no longer the ultimate film noir femme fatale fragrance it used to be, it smoulders at a much lower key now, but is still somehow all the better for it.  

5 commentaires:

  1. Thank you for providing the platform for us to compare vintage Habanita to the new edp. I really enjoyed reading the other reviewrs' comments.

  2. Queen Cupcake, the points of view are very diverse, aren't they? I found them an enlightening read.

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  4. It was very good reading other people's views on Habanita. I pretty much expected different opinions. but I was really surprised that the term "spicy" was used to describe it by many. It doesn't read spicy to me at all

  5. Kostas, I don't get spicy either... Maybe some note or effect "reads" as spice on some skins?