It’s hard to review the classics and I’ve always shied away from doing so on this blog. What can I add to the discourse that’s not been said already? It’s definitely tricky, so up until now I haven’t really reviewed any classic fragrance, but I feel compelled to review Habanita simply because my relationship with it has always been a bit difficult and up until recently it was not a classic that I felt I could wax lyrical about.
I’ve always wanted to like Habanita, I love the story behind it, the fact that it was used to scent cigarettes and people loved it so much it was made into a perfume, I feel like it has a chequered and interesting past. Denyse Beaulieu of Grain de Musc spoke highly of it in her book ‘The Perfume Lover‘ and I wanted to love it as much she did (well maybe not quite so much) but it always seemed to disappoint me, it was too soapy, too light and not really bad-ass enough on my skin. Well people, I have had the chance to try the new Eau de Parfum version of Habanita and let me tell you I feel like shouting, Oprah Winfrey style “I GET IT PEOPLE, I GET IT!”
Habanita was originally released by Molinard in 1921, since then it has been through a number of revamps, the latest being the 2012 Eau de Parfum version. The Eau de Parfum version intends to keep the spirit of the original and “offers a new fresh side, whilst maintaining what is essential: strength, depth, poetry, a touch of originality, unlike any other”  The bottle, like the scent, has been redressed in red and black but still keeps the original Lalique frieze, maintaining the theme of reinvention but keeping the spirit of Habanita alive and intact.
Top: Lentisk, Geranium, Petitgrain and Ylang-Ylang
Heart: Vetiver, Jasmine, Nutmeg, Heliotrope, Mimosa, Rose and Cedar
Base: Vanilla, Tonkin Musk, Patchouli, Amber, Moss and Sandalwood
How Does it Smell?
My experience with Habanita Eau de Toilette is limited, as I say I have never really got on with it, so this review will not serve as a comparison of the two versions, instead it will look at Habanita Eau de Parfum as a stand-alone fragrance, but please do feel free to chime in with your thoughts if you have tried both versions.
Habanita Eau de Parfum opens with aldehydes and sweet florals. It is entirely reminiscent of its time and one could almost mistake it for a Chanel, a house that is well known for their aldehydic florals, however Habanita is nowhere near refined enough to be a Chanel, it is much more of a sensual perfume.
There’s a slight soapy quality to the florals in the opening but before they can become too drugstore or cheap smelling they are tempered by some carnation spice, adding tiny facets of cinnamon and clove to the mix. Note that I say “some carnation spice”, it really isn’t particularly prominent, it just adds that little kick that the top notes need.
Rose and jasmine reign supreme in the heart, both flowers have a slightly fuzzy texture to them thanks to cedar and amber. There is a slight skank to them, but it isn’t overtly animalic, it’s more like sour, hot skin that hasn’t been washed in a while because above all Habanita is an incredibly comforting scent, the warmth it exudes is plush and cushy, one can’t help but fall in love with it.
What I have learned about Habanita is that the magic really lies in the base, a heavenly, nay divine blend of vetiver and vanilla. Both materials appear to have their smoky facets amped up in order to create a warm, earthy, creamy and beautifully smouldering vanilla that will have you hooked. This vetiver/vanilla smoke is slightly reminiscent of Etat Libre d’Orange’s Fat Electrician but the effect is on a smaller, softer and more polished scale.
Habanita strikes me as one of those perfumes that is utterly timeless. Yes it definitely smells like something released in the 1920s but it also smells like something a contemporary niche house could have released last week. It’s still not quite as bad ass as I imagined it to be, I don’t see it as a leather-clad femme fatale, instead it appears to me to be a self assured, confident woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to reach for it.
Don’t you just love it when that olfactory penny finally drops?
For the latest incarnation of Habinta, the Eau de Parfum has been dressed in the bold contrasting colours of black and red.
The iconic Lalique frieze of the original has been kept and is more prominent on both box and bottle.
This modernisation of Habanita’s wardrobe is definitely a positive thing in my book, the Eau de Toilette bottle always looked cheap and tacky to me but the new one looks sleek, chick and beautifully modern. I would happily have it on my perfume shelf.
Habanita is available in 30ml and 75ml Eau de Parfum with prices ranging from €45-€91.
Image 1 and 3 fragrantica.com. Image 2 ronmwangaguhunga.blogspot.com. Notes via osmoz.com.  nstperfume.com