I met Marisol several times in Little Havana. She was still a girl always wearing a colorful dress, although it looked like a grown woman, a true "habanita" who used to go round and round on Calle Ocho. She passed in front of me several times on a sweet swing on the way to Taqueria El Santo where she worked. As a taco lover, I could not help chatting a few times with Marisol in that restaurant, while getting myself ready for a "Taco al Pastor" or a "Taco de Camaron".
Life in Little Havana revolves around Calle Ocho. One of its most charming attractions is the nearby Parque Máximo Gómez - also called Parque Domino - a place where elderly Cubans gather to play dominoes, cards, or chess while trying to fix the world by discussing issues of Cuba's past and future endeavors. I used to stroll and see the old Cuban atmosphere in the eyes of the retired Cubans sitting around the garden tables. The ambiance of steaming coffee mixed with cigar smoke and rum (with bottles hidden in paper bags) was dense and intoxicating. In this neighborhood, one could also find artisans making cigars, dozens of highly flavored Cuban restaurants, lively bars, and colorful shops with vibrant music. In this same street, we can walk on the stars that pave the Walk of Fame with reference to the most well-known Cuban singers and actors. Marisol loved to jump on the starry sidewalk, shouting the names of the recorded artists thus immortalized.
Nostalgie and the strong aroma of very sweet coffee dominated most of the Calle Ocho. You cannot visit Little Havana without tasting an authentic Cuban coffee, a very potent and extremely sweet espresso that is served in tiny cups. But if you want to cool off, there is nothing better than sipping an icy Guarapo - a kind of sugar cane juice on the rocks - sitting in an esplanade. If you're lucky enough, you may even catch a glimpse of Marisol passing by. Twenty years have gone by but I never forgot the charm of my precious "habanita".
My other cherished Habanita is this perfume by Molinard. Its first launch took place exactly one hundred years ago, although currently, it is only easy to access the 2012 redesign.
Like Little Havana's habanita, this fragrance is beautiful, simple and complex, elegantly decadent, passionate, dominant, and self-confident; but it is also powdery, spicy, floral, amber, balsamic, woody, and earthy.
This landmark of perfumery has had an interesting journey over the past hundred years. It is said that the 1921 original version was not born as a perfume. It seems that it was created as a masker of the strong smell of cigar tobacco. It was used by ladies of French high society who appreciate a tasty and fragrant cigarillo but could not smell like beard men. Its intense aroma quickly conquered the noses of the elegant socialites and became one of the perfumes of fashion in the crazy post-war 1920s. As a regular perfume, the first Habanita appeared in 1924.
Although some other very fines and well-known perfumes were created in this decade, Habanita was very original. It was the first female oriental perfume to use vetiver as an ingredient. Until then, vetiver was an essential oil used exclusively in men's perfumes and beard products.
Jewellers and glassmakers like Baccarat and Lalique designed and produced some of the flasks ordered by Molinard to house the early Habanita. The current beautiful black bottle is based on a 1930 original design by René Lalique.
Habanita is quite a complex perfume and some not listed notes and accords may be perceived. Molinard claims that the current version has more than 680 ingredients, the very same number and type of ingredients used in the vintage version, but blended in different proportions.
At the opening, we are flooded by a resinous, slightly salty, and astringent balm due to a strong mastic note. This balsamic tonic quickly blends with various florals - mainly centifolia rose and heliotrope - and the earthy smell of nutmeg. The base becomes predominant perhaps two hours after application, with vanilla and amber standing out on a woody and leathery background.
On my shelf, this Habanita lives with other pseudo-feminine perfumes like Shalimar and Mitsouko by Guerlain. For me, they are all naturally unisex.
Longevity is enormous, and 10 to 12 hours are ensured with 3 sprays. The sillage is sufficient to attract the attention of people between 8 to 10 feet away. The projection is reasonable for almost three hours.
Let me propose my passionate assessments for Habanita:
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- Opening: 10.0 (breathtaking: spicy, floral, and balsamic)
- Drydown: 10.0 (fantastic dryness of vanilla and amber; Sandalwood and leather are perceived as well. Outdated? Are you kidding?)
- Longevity: 9.0 (up to 10 ~ 12 hours with 3 sprays)
- Silage: 8.5 (up to 6 ~ 8 feet with 3 sprays; projection close to 3.0 hours)
- Exclusivity: 9.0 (It reminds me of some Guerlain perfumes without being similar really similar to any of them, namely Shalimar, Mitsouko, and L'Heure Bleue; I can't help comparing the Habanita drydown to L'Heure Bleue without iris, or to Shalimar without civet; I could also mention the very similar Enslaved by Roja Perfumes that was launched 5 years prior to the current formulation of Habanita)
- Usability: 7.5 (winter and autumn preferably during the night)
- Versatility: 7.5 (It's a chic perfume. It reveals itself better on formal occasions; Beach and Gym? No way!)
- Praise: 9.0 (Provided you are a man, I can only assure you this is not a manly scent, and no one will mistake you with Brad Pitt or Harrison Ford. But it will grab you a ton of compliments anyway. If you are a woman you will destroy all your elegant competitors)
- Quality: 10.0 (very high-quality ingredients)
- Presentation: 10.0 (just very beautiful)
- Price: 8.0 (75 ml/46 Euros but I purchased mine on sale; The 75 ml bottle sells usually for 70~80 Euros)
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Overall rating: 8.95 / 10.00
- between 7 and 8 = above average;
- between 8 and 9 = recommended;
- greater than 9 = don't hesitate;
Recommendation: Sometimes it's hard to give a straight and honest opinion on a perfume that I love and consider a masterpiece, but it's really hard to spot any defects in Habanita. Ok... If you are a man, it's not a manly scent, and, at the most, can only be considered a unisex fragrance leaning to the feminine side. But if you are like me, perfumes have no gender. So go ahead and enjoy it! Your wife will certainly steal it from you.
Blind shopping? No, because of its complexity. Also, forget any family ties with any blue or fresh fragrance so in fashion today. But if you happen to smell it, you will surely love it. This perfume is ageless!
Music: from Bizet's Carmen - "Habanera" sung by Angela Gheorghiu.
Note: "Habanita" means literally "a young woman from Havana"