Habit Rouge by Guerlain

If for one month I was forced to wear only one fragrance, this would be it.

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© 2014 Liam Sardea

Genre: (très) masculin.

Red whip. Rawr! Photo by Guerlain.


When I become king of the world, I am going to instantaneously rename Habit Rouge to happiness or euphoria… or something along those lines. It’s effervescent and masculine without heaviness and effortlessly embodies all the things you love in fragrance. It’s universally appealing.

This fragrance embodies a cold morning at a country club. The red jacketed horse riders in the distance with a background of vast evergreen trees. A cool breeze sweeps the brown and red leaves tumbling into the horse stable; with the high-class crowd of dandies and ravishing consorts only doors down wearing their Jickys, L’Heure Bleues, Vol de Nuits and Shalimars. Habit combines all of these smells into something proudly red, with masculinity (in the form of leather) thrown in for good measure.

The opening has this divine lemon soda appeal that’s incredibly crisp. A citrus accord moulded with opopanax with sweet and sticky tree resins. It opens very sweetly, the citrus accord being lemon, bergamot, orange blossom and tender mandarin. It’s a bit cologne-esque, but better, because it lasts.

Habit Rouge then envelops itself in very subdued modulations of leather. The primal; inherent masculinity of leather notes in this instance is not lost, but merely altered with accessibility in mind. Instead of the usual, a smooth polished leather is delivered in contrast to the usual rough and tough, charred and smokey leather in many masculine fragrances. In turn you are enveloped in a round, gentle and buttery note that is very refined.

Being a staunch hell-bent traditionalist, I do like my Chanel No 5 & Shalimar by Guerlain and classics along those lines, and I do certainly get a Shalimar feel to this. There’s an underlying oriental spiciness to Habit Rouge that makes it blush a dark and exotic velvety red. Perhaps it’s a sprinkle of the vanilla in the drydown or an aromatic cinnamon all-spice vibe – or possibly just the warm opopanax being reiterated in the dry drydown as an unceasing heart note, but who knows? It’s the secret of Guerlain.

On that note, Habit Rouge allows men to explore both the famous guerlinade accord of bergamot, patchouli, Bulgarian rose and vanilla and the marshmallow accord of benzoin and orange blossom. It is also important to note that according to Guerlain this is the first heavy use of vanilla in male fragrance; and also a novel oriental.

What I receive is tinges of a little bit of everything. It’s incredibly impressive. 

Without a doubt, I will continue attribute the effervescent ‘lemonade’ sweetness to the guerlinade (which if you think about it, is probably the reason for the bound suffix -inade in guerlinade); A slight green and leafy herbal-ness at the back of the nose with a crisp mintyness; The comforting oriental spice notes (deriving from Shalimar’s influence) from tantalising vanilla and cinammon-esque vibes with the masculine interplay of woods and leather; and of course the moreish, texturally pleasing marshmallow accord with the benzoin. It’s the whole package!

This time men get the complexity and bone-chilling pleasingness of intricate fragrances. However, Habit Rouge is never too brazen, nor never too befuddling for anyone to be put off by it. It has, on a simple level, a very simple note breakdown of lemon, rose, vanilla and orange blossom; but concurrently, a tried and true set of Guerlain accords blended together without roughness and a little bit of subtlety to be equally and unequivocally a male masterpiece with a delightful profusion of notes, both floral and a little bit more masculine.

Beauty – Immediately understood, never quite elucidated. -Luca Turin on Habit Rouge.

Finally, the drydown presents an unmistakable dusty, light orange sherbet talcum powder feel that is actually sweet and friendly, yummy. Not bad at all. 

Alternatives: Don’t bother, get this… But Shamilar by Guerlain is the inspiration for Habit Rouge.

“Non, Habit Rouge c’est comme les petits pains,” — [Habit Rouge is] a French institution as constant as croissants. Secretly complex.

Subjective rating : 5/5

Objective rating: 5/5

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3 thoughts on “Habit Rouge by Guerlain

  1. Very interesting review – I’m only briefly acquainted with Habit Rouge and certainly get that dusty orange blossom from it, but you make it sound so much more intriguing. I will definitely have to get my sample out again and give it another go – I love how you relate it to Shalimar. I’ll be interested to see if I can sniff that connection too! Guerlain is a brilliant house, isn’t it?

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