When the notes of a perfume and a musical composition blend together and you can’t tell what belongs to each of them anymore – the perfumery turns into emotion and poetry and therefore expands our range of perceptions. Moreover, we often talk about music in the same way we talk about perfumes. In fact, we say that fragrances are well-toned, quiet, graceful, smooth, that they develop expressively, gently, or there’s an outsider note which wasn’t supposed to be there. Some fragrances are angelic and remind of running water like harps, some think outside the box like a modern jazz improvisation. Some again – especially the chypres – are energetic and hard symphonies. Always scrupulous, always structured, always euphoric.
Then there are wistful and yearning string instruments. There are low voice cellos. And then there is Molinard Habanita.
Habanita, which was created in 1921, already sounds like an opera. It was released in The Roaring Twenties right in the middle of the strong oriental perfume boom and wasn’t supposed to be a fragrance for people, but a liquid to flavour the cigarettes. Only three years later it was re-launched as a perfume we know it now.
The first notes reveal amazing juicy fruits, could it be plums or peaches mixed with vetiver. It immediately reminds me of Mitsouko. Just a minute and they fade away, and one can feel vanilla powderness, in a way similar to L’Heure Bleue yet without the almondy bitterness. Habanita‘s vanilla isn’t simply innocent baby powder vanilla, even if there’s a hint of a good quality pressed French powder. It’s rather a thick cloud of vanilla and sweet tobacco smoke with a lady behind it observing the bar through her heavy eyelids. There’s also some smooth leather giving the perfume a vibrating animalic feeling. It’s similar to Shalimar, to Chanel No 5, to Serges Lutens Chergui and to none of them. A warming composition of nutmeg, sandalwood, ylang-ylang and musk make the fragrance sleek, creamy and deep and make you close your eyes and screw the world for a moment. It’s like being slightly drunk in a way.
On one hand, Molinard Habanita is extremely complex and intense. On the other hand, it’s pretty simple, only its notes are low. They’re purring, moaning and velvety, a little painful yet very proud. They blend perfectly into a freezing winter evening with steam coming out from mouth, condensation on windows and passing hours trying to play the same bar with already black fingers.