Avid readers of my scribblings (both of you) will know that this perfume thing kind of hit me at a young age. When other teens were spending their hard-earned (or pilfered) cash on fripperies like pot or Boones Farm, I was dropping my allowance at Steigers or Filenes (or on one heady occasion, Bloomingdales) on stink. I had both men’s Halston, Dior Eau Sauvage, Chanel Pour Monsieur, Caron Royal Bain du Champagne (before those tedious French people sued and they had to change the name) and Guerlain Habit Rouge.
Habit Rouge was perhaps the dressiest of those: The Dior and Chanel were nice every day, the Halstons and the Caron were the Yin and Yang of party animals: the former two dapper disco dollies with their overtones of Studio 54 while the Caron was just the thing to wear to the Carlysle to listen to Bobby Short. My real, actual life may have been spent in a small college town in Western Massachusetts, but my olfactory one was equal parts posh and Page Six.
And then there was Habit Rouge. The name refers to the hunting coats worn in fox hunts, and all that that sort of implies: breeding and fine manners, if not the vicious cruelty aspect. I am fond of horses, but like them best grouped in hundreds and constrained by a multi-cylinder engine and coachwork with a retractable roof. Not that I had never been on a horse- I had, but my sister was the horse-obsessed one in the family.
As an aside- the last time I was on a horse was over 20 years ago in the hills above Santa Barbara while on a weekend vacation. I drew the ire of the leader of the group because I wasn’t “controlling” the horse enough on the trail. I told him that the horse had been here before and I had not, and it’s my policy never to tell a professional how to do his or her job when I don’t know how. Well the upon first meeting the group the first thing out of his mouth was to insult Los Angeles, so fugghem. I guess pointing out that he didn’t know the difference between a canter and a gallop didn’t endear me to him either. Oh well..
Sooooo, with all the talk on here about Habit Rouge (both Portia and Musette wrote about versions recently, of which there are apparently several) I thought I’d go back and explore. I got a notice from FragranceX of Habit Rouge being on sale super cheap and ordered only to find upon delivery that it was L’Instinct (who names these things? The Instinct to do what? Hunt? Wear a coat?) Needless to type I turned to good old Surrender to Chance to the actual juice and the vintage stuff, to contrast and compare.
Habit Rouge “Vrai” is the one I remember. The newer one seems to have more carnation in the opening while the vintage starts more along the lines of Imperiale with a stronget neroli and lemon. Both are quite formal, in a very good, very Guerlain kind of way. Just the thing you would spritz on your bare throat before putting on that Turnball & Asser shirt. Or on the same neck when you’re in old Gap jeans and a t-shirt but have to run errands where you might have to talk to someone. That rock-ribbed Guerlain glaze of uppercrustitude is better armor than a Birkin Bag, costs less, and won’t get you carjacked. The vintage seems to have less initial lasting power, which may be a factor of age: I remember that HR Vrai Vintage was one that needed a steady hand in application: deceptively light in the citrus but the warm vanilla and ambery drydown could be just a little much if overdone. The new one is less so, and frankly less interesting, but I think you would only know that in a side-by-side comparison. It is in the side-by-side comparison that the new one really falls down. Even aged enough that I am sure some of the accords have died off, Vrai Vintage’s Guerlinade heart is sadly missing from Vrai Nouveaux, which seems rather thin by comparison (which is weird becuase the VN is EDT and the VV is EDC) and has a touch of the screech that Musette mentions in her piece. She reviewed the extrait, and I have no idea if that’s closer to the original than the newer EDT is of if the EDP is, and to be honest I am sort of over finding out.
As for Habit Rouge L’Instinct, I am not sure that they did this one a service linking it to the original. Does it have some of the same notes? Sure, but what men’s scent doesn’t have bergamot? You may as well say it’s in the same family since it’s liquid. Portia pointed out that it has wonderful aspects of Maté and Ambergris that have zippety-dooh-dah to do with the original, so why not just call it L’Instinct and leave it at that?
As for me, I will enjoy my bottle of L’Instinct and the fact that I got it cheap. I am not going to pop for a bottle of Vrai, at least not until I have used up and forgotten the sample of Vrai Vintage. Just as I am probably a shadow physically of the teenager who spritzed the vintage, the new one just isn’t Habit Rouge. Or it is, just not mine.
Habit Rouge (Vrai) is available from various e-tailers from Guerlain itself to discounters, 100ML EDP for $145. L’Instinct can be had for as little as $40 for 50ML at places like Fragrancenet. My samples of the two Vrai came from Surrender to Chance.
Images: my iPhone, Pexels, and Wikimedia Commons