When I started reading blogs and investigate fragrances beyond the mainstream selection, the first thing I was drawn to explore was the beginnings of the oriental genre.
I ordered a decant of Habanita from The Perfumed Court of the 1988 EdT version. The 1988 version truly is a 1980s perfume, it has atomic power sillage and a cloud of patchouli and clovey cigarette smoke seems to grow by the minute. At least that was my first impression, and the few millilitres used of this rather aged decant, can verify that this beast only comes out of its hiding once a year to check whether my first impression was all down to ‘beginner’s nose’. I can tolerate it much better now, but I can’t say that it’s something I wear. So you will understand: my beginning with Habanita was not a love-affair, but a case of due respect and polite distance keeping, lots of smoke, but little fire.**
I am not sure quite how, perhaps as a double lot, but at some point I got quite a vintage bottle of Habanita pure parfum, which because of my previous history with the Lady in question, was approached with great tentativeness. Vintage Habanita is a different thing completely to the 1988 version. Probably due to age, ingredients and/ or the parfum strength, vintage Habanita wears rather close to the skin. You’re not enveloped in a mushroom cloud, and rolled in a mountain of stale ash-tray; this is quite a ‘personal-space’-perfume.
Vintage Habanita smells like sweet honeyed tobacco, warm and rich. There is smoke too, but it is more campfire than French bar before the smoking ban. Perhaps it’s a bit of incense, and galbanum which gives that feel of nice smoke full of memories, rather than ash-tray. There’s an ambery dusty feel, surely helped by a measured dose of heliotrope, and it’s followed by a dry down of incredible warmth and embrace. Aged patchouli, perhaps a little leather and some musky animals make me fantasize that it would be the scent of leaning in on this handsome fellow. In deed it would be gorgeous on men as well as women. My feel for vintage Habanita is that this is a perfume which hasn’t yet become an icon. She’s not glamming it up, like an aging celebrity, trying to remind everybody how amazingly sexy she was is, she just ‘is’, without even trying.
I sniffed the new 2012 Habanita shortly after its release, but I sort of forgot about it again. I still had my 1988 picture of Habanita, and a quick sniff of the new thing was not enough to banish it. However, I recently received a sample of the EdP and decided to give it a go.
It has the honeyed tobacco, which is just great as a sweetener as it never feels gourmand in any way but grounded and a bit tough. The smoke comes in the shape of leather and tar, which later mingles with a bit of powdery amber, so here too we are spared the smoke cabin feel; no one will mistake you for a smoker wearing this. There’s a bit of rubber to Habanita too. She’s a tough cookie, a Marlene Dietrich, compared to the Gregory Peck of the vintage version, but not a caricature. Even if scent wise it differs from the vintage version, I feel the soul of this 2012 version is much truer to its earliest predecessor than to its immediate one (1988) in that it doesn’t try too hard but is comfortable and at ease with what it is. Habanita 2012 still wears her name and notoriety with pride, her fire still burns but she’s in no need for a smokescreen.
Have you tried Habanita in any versions?
*I didn’t start out thinking I would compare the versions I have but just write about the vintage, well, I guess I couldn’t help it.
**please note that I probably feel about cigarettes and tobacco the way tea drinkers do about coffee; they tend to love the smell of the freshly grounded beans but hate the drink, and while I love the tobacco scent, I’ll rather cross the road than have to walk behind a smoker.