What has excited my interest is the fact that this year Molinard has re-released Habanita as an EDP. The disappearance of the EDT from Molinard’s website suggests that it has been discontinued, and indeed a reviewer on Fragrantica speculates that the new EDP is an IFRA-compliant re-formulation. That is just speculation, but if you love Habanita and the word ‘IFRA’ sends shivers down your spine, go grab some of the old EDT while there is still plenty going cheap. (Beauty Encounter is showing they have some)
I have a decant of the EDT and a full bottle of the new EDP and have been comparing them over the last few weeks since my EDP arrived from Grasse. (Once upon a time such a package would be a thrill to received but postage stamps having been replaced by barcodes, it is just not the same. Sad.) My verdict: I can hardly tell the difference, in the notes, the character, the sillage or the longevity. However, my scent-brain is very far from being a note-discerning machine, so if you have had a chance to compare the new EDP with the old EDT, please jump in. And do comment if you are familiar with the older EDP (there was one) or any other version.
What I love about Habanita is the elusiveness created by the powdery notes (orris and heliotrope). For me, powder suffuses the whole thing, but it shifts constantly. Suddenly I get a sharp bite of sticky fruit. The powder takes over again, but in the next whiff it clears and I get … oh yes, vanilla! … and so on through all the major effects: flowers, vetiver, woods, leather, and so on. For me there is no real top-middle-base structure in Habanita, just a series of fascinating and deeply alluring fragrant moments, all glimpsed through that whispy veil of powder. The contrast of sweet/soft with bitter/acrid (almost Bandit-like) notes has me utterly enthralled.
Many people get tobacco and smoke, but I don’t. I do get a smoke-like effect created by vetiver and leather. Or okay, perhaps that would be a leather-like effect created by smoke and vetiver? I can’t tell. But look, if Habanita was produced firstly as a fragrance to add to cigarettes, why would it smell of cigarettes itself? Put like that, it doesn’t make sense, does it?
What may have happened is that once Habanita became a skin perfume in 1924, the formula was tweaked to introduce the idea of smoke as a means of referencing its origins. (And who knows what other tinkering has been done since then?) Certainly the vintage ads for Habanita (the one above is from 1938) reference smoke: the figure of a woman is defined in silhouette by the aroma wafting from a bottle of Habanita. That clarity glimpsed through darkness is for me a vivid evocation of the fragrance itself.
Depending on your tastes and sensory experience, Habanita will seem absurdly old-fashioned or intriguingly niche-like and modern to you. With the release of the new EDP, Molinard is keeping Habanita very much in the eye of today’s consumer. The bottle retains the famous frieze of naked women designed by Lalique, but other than that is almost brutally simple. Habanita bottles once came with a bulb atomiser, but those days are most definitely gone.
Also available at:
Still, black is still the theme colour and, judging by this teaser for an ad for the new EDP, the Habanita woman is as sassy and mysterious as ever she was. Check it out: