OK, I admit I got stuck. It seems that every year there comes this time for me where I have nothing new to say. And then it is a little difficult to get back on track again. I have been meaning to write a post about Myrrhe Ardente, the perfume that I wore the most all this time but it’s not coming out. Thankfully my friend Suzanne gave me a push to the right direction by writing about Habit Rouge eau de parfum. Her perception of this one almost mirrors my impression of it.
First of all let me point out that I cannot stand Habit Rouge in the eau de toilette version. Its uniqueness is indisputable but for me it is bombastic and headache inducing. It is big, thick citrus, sweet vanilla and even sweeter powder in the drydown. The combination of piercing citrus and sticky sweet vanilla combined with a monstrous sillage make this an unforgettable scent. Smell it once and you will be able to recognize it from a myriad of scents and this is a quality I deeply admire in a perfume. However I could never stand the eau de toilette on me. Reading Suzanne’s piece and its red associations I started to understand why Habit Rouge EdT always rubbed me the wrong way: I remembered a classic photo of Diana Vreeland photographed in her house
As much as I love the aura of this room I cannot imagine myself living in that room, not even sitting down relaxed for a cup of tea! The exuberance of style and superlative detailing creates a claustrophobic atmosphere which seems to have the ability to devour everyone entering the room. This room is Diana Vreeland and there is only room for her in there. This is how wearing Habit Rouge EdT has always felt to me.
So where does that leave any room for the eau de parfum? It is supposed to be stronger as it is in higher concentration, isn’t it? Well not quite. It opens with the familiar sweet, sharp citrus Lifesavers candy accord that seems to include every citrus flavour in the catalogue: lemons, bergamot, oranges, grapefruit, you name it, it is there by the handful.This is what Lifesavers factories must smell like. But right there from the start the differences start to appear. The sweet, artificial citrus is contained in a box made of precious woods. I can smell oud and I can tell you that this is the most beautifully incorporated oud note in western perfumery. And guess what, it has been there since 2003, long before the oud madness. No band-aid here, no cherry cola. This is just a pale woody note with a vibe of freshly cut tree, slightly acidic and and very dry. Vanilla comes next but it is not as sweet as in the EdT version. The woodiness persists and cuts down the sweet drama while it slowly gets a turn towards smokiness. It is not literally smoke, but rather the smell of a bonfire diluted and carried over in the air from a distance. Or at least this is my perception of this. It could just be a combination of leather elements everybody reports and the overall oily olfactory texture of this composition that I translate as a bonfire vibe. I also get a bit of hay that no one else seems to pin down. As Habit Rouge EdP progresses a rather familiar patchouli-benzoin combination dominates the composition, warm, sweet and powdery. Traces of the bombastic citrus opening remain during the drydown but the dry woodiness that laces the composition seems to be setting the tone.
What makes the EdP so different from the EdT is not one particular element I think. Most of the notes are exactly the same and there is no doubt that both share the eccentricity and flamboyance. But where the EdT seems to be without a focal point, trying to create a masculine sweet, citrusy, vanillic potion, the EdP uses a mysterious woody aura with a light smoke element to create the much needed backdrop for the plot to unfold. It fills the gaps and tones down excesses while it allows all the elements to shine more beautiful. Every time I read someone characterize Habit Rouge as a masculine scent I really wonder how differently each person perceives scents or more accurately, how irrelevant gender assignment is for perfumes . To my nose it is a completely unisex scent if not bordering feminine and this is coming from someone who wears Feminité du Bois. I can describe it as Shalimar winning the female body building championship but this is as far as I will go. The EdP manages to swim over this dangerous reef and smooth all the edges. It has taught me the lesson that one must always reed the fine print: EdP. It doesn’t only mean “concentrated”. Sometimes a perfumer really takes the time to fine tune a composition and actually improve something that is already considered a classic.
If you are interested on the ultimate synopsis on Habit Rouge please read the marvellous article by Monsieur Guerlain. He elucidates that the main difference of the EdP is toning down neroli and adding agarwood, which makes perfect sense to me as I always find it difficult to tolerate neroli.
Notes from Parfumo: bergamot, orange, lemon, neroli, cedarwood, cinnamon, ambergris, leather, oud, patchouli, vanilla
Notes from my nose: citrus Lifesavers, oud, bonfire, benzoin, patchouli
MemoryOfScent by Christos Karageorgos is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License