It’s not unusual for a fragrance house to redress a classic fragrance for modern times but it’s difficult for them to get the balance right – the balance between maintaining all that makes the fragrance do distinct and special, and providing a fresh twist that makes it attractive to new, younger consumers. CHANEL did it with Nº5, using modern florals to make an entry level interoperation in the form of Nº5 EAU PREMIERE, and switching aldehydes for citrus and musk in Nº5 L’EAU. GUERLAIN did it beautifully with the ill-fated but stunning Shalimar Parfum Initial (amping up the iris, dialling back the leather smoke), but nobody has really done it with a masculine classic, well, until Habit Rouge Dress Code, that is.
Habit Rouge Dress Code is not a new fragrance. It actually launched a few years back (2015 if we are being specific) as a limited edition – a reworked version of Jean-Paul Guerlain’s 1965 original created by Guerlain Perfumer Thierry Wasser. Playing on the dandy character or Habit Rouge, Wasser gives us what Guerlain calls “the neo-dandy’s dress code” in a fragrance more suited to a fashionable lad about town on his vespa than an artistocrat in his sporting reds on a country lane. It’s a fragrance that takes the key elements of Habit Rouge to more vibrant extremes – it’s iconic citrus is fizzier, more electric, whilst its gourmand facets are richer, more textured. Dress Code is cooler, more modern and more audacious.
Dress Code was never previously available in the UK, but this autumn it is making its way across the channel, dressed in handsome camo livery, to take residence exclusively in Harrods, and I for one, am very glad to welcome it to Blighty!
Top: Bergamot, Neroli and Rose
Base: Wood, Leather, Praline, Tonka and Vanilla
How Does it Smell?
I have a complicated history with Habit Rouge. Always having been a big fan of Shalimar, to which Habit Rouge has often been seen as the masculine counterpart, I always found the brighter, more effervescent and leather-centric red jacket of HR to be almost superfluous in my collection. It wasn’t until I hit 30 that it clicked for me – perhaps one does just need to be a little bit wiser and more sophisticated (OK, I am far from sophisticated and wise, I’ll admit) and suddenly Habit Rouge felt like the most comfortable thing I owned. So how does Dress Code fare in comparison?
Well, firstly, Dress Code is instantly recognisable as Habit Rouge, which is good news because the best flankers always have a strong family resemblance. But Habit Rouge and Dress Code are far from identical, where the original opened with a mouthwatering, almost sherbet-like cloud of citrus, Dress Code boasts fizziness, but it’s much warmer with rich spices creating a crackling, hot effect that allows the citrus impression to blend in more seamlessly.
The core of Habit Rouge Dress Code is a supple, plush leather note accented by a gourmand accord. The star of this accord is a crunchy, delicious praline note that has a fresh, nutty feel to it, but also a deep, chocolate-like base. It blends perfectly with the softness of vanilla and the ever-so-subtle hint of marzipan brought into play by the tonka bean. All of this is wrapped in a powdery, dusty veil of leather that is evocative of Habit Rouge, but also richer, darker, and more modern. It smells seriously good, I am not going to lie to you!
Habit Rouge Dress Code is an excellent piece of work. First and foremost, it’s an incredibly affable fragrance, with richness, depth and effervesence – contrasts a plenty! Secondly, it feels like a Habit Rouge flanker, and smelling the two together is like greeting two generations of the same family – the elegance of the grandfather clearly passed down to his enigmatic and roguish grandson. Thirdly, it smells bloody good – so good I can even forgive the questionable camouflage bottle…
Exclusive to Harrods, Habit Rouge Dress Code is available in 100ml Eau de Parfum for £79.
Sample, notes and quotes via GUERLAIN. Images are my own.