There are a few fragrances in the world, that provoke such a strong response that you go "wow" when you first smell them. For me, Habanita does this straight away.
I find this a fascinating and utterly deep and intoxicating fragrance. It always evokes emotions in me when I try it. The story goes that the formula was discovered by a chemist working at Molinard in Grasse around 1921, and they released it as a fragrance to perfume women's cigarette papers. Three years later, it was released as a women's perfume in it's own right.
What this is, is a dark, earthy, smoky, deep vanilla fragrance. It's like if Shalimar were a heavy smoker almost! The interesting thing is though, is that there is no Tobacco in this at all! Many people get the smell of old dusty perfume and leather mixed with tobacco. But the real effect of tobacco here is a dark, smoky vetiver, a very dry grassy root which smells of earth and dust. This is mixed with a strong leather note, and with resins, orris root, heliotrope and vanilla. There is also a very faint hint of rose, jasmine and even a dried raspberry note.
The immediate impression I get of this is the 1920's jazz clubs. This is almost the smell of the air in those places. Women's perfume (not like today, this is the opulent, dark amber, rose & vanilla type), mixed with the smell of tobacco in the air and makeup etc. It's so evocative for me. Very deep, very dark, very noir. You can imagine slim young 1920's women with short, dark hair and ruby-red lipstick seducing rich men at the bar, the jazz music reaching a high tempo in the background, cocktails and golden lights, the trail of smoke from women with cigarette holders dancing in the limelight. This is such a "bad girl" type fragrance! In my mind I imagine a very elegantly dressed young woman, red lipstick, black dress, perfect hair, talking to a smartly dressed man at a bar... whispering into his ear, slowly seducing him, and him being totally under her spell with every look from her eyes, and every word she says.
To me this has such a very deep, dark, sensual aura about it. It's sweet but it's earthy and slightly dirty. It's from the era where women smoked and drank as a sign of rebellion. But it's still feminine, just in a dark, bold, powerful and confident way.
I have not tried newer formulations, just this vintage extrait. But what a beauty this is! I have never found another fragrance that stirs up so much emotion for me. The closest thing I would compare this to is Tabac Blond by Caron, also an Ambery, Powdery Tobacco-like fragrance, and with hints of something like Shalimar, but more mysterious. This is such an intriguing one, it's like a dancer that is always tempting you, she's so intriguing that you want to come closer, but you can't, she's almost forbidden. There's nothing you can do but sit and watch her do her dance, mesmerised... until the end.
I sometimes struggle to put into words such an intriguing experience. I would encourage anyone to seek this beauty out. Again it is a fragrance which sets a certain mood... and one which commands a certain behaviour from you. Me, I wear it only when dressed in black, and in top style. Leather, Amber, Vanilla, dry, smoky Tobacco-like Vetiver, if this were released today it would be considered a high-end niche fragrance (like Killian's Back to Black). This was so ground-breaking to me that when I smelt it I was instantly transported to another time and place... it's really just something else! I sincerely hope they never discontinue this one, and I want other people to experience this. Like a piece of history in a bottle... and totally wearable even today. Old, and also so powerful it's almost modern. A perfume which is to me so utterly mysterious and complex. Mesmerising!