I wrote about Habit Rouge EdT two years ago in the position of beginner, a keen fragrance blogger and budding Guerlainophile. I was, to say the least, unfamiliar with the classics, and my perfume vocabulary wasn’t as versed.
I knew of Apres L’Ondee, but the Parfum variant remained a myth. I had yet to experience the brisk rush of take off through Vol de Nuit, the opulent glamour of Shalimar with its vanilla and burnt rubber convergence, or the grandeur of Mitsouko in all of its magnificent stages – like a triptych painting of the orient. I had read of L’Heure Bleue and its magnificence as an aged extrait – akin to an old Bordeaux, and so fourth. It all remained a series of perfume legends.
With newfound experience, and a keen desire for upwards improvement, my categorical knowledge of Guerlain has improved tremendously. Parfums of most of the classics inhabit my wares, with Jicky being worn the most, and a covetable L’Heure Bleue Parfum from the 1940s housed in thick Baccarat glass is safely stored to age perpetually. I have smelled Djedi’s smoky and pure evocations of Egypt, the neon hums of both Chamade and Nahema, the masculine staples that consist of Vetiver, Derby, and Heritage – all masculine Guerlains that represent contiguous zeitgeists of masculine assurance, have gotten my nose on Habit Rouge Extrait (in fact, I own it), compared the expression of lavender between Jicky and Mouchoir de Monsieur, and own a skerrick of Apres L’Ondee Parfum.
The power to reference back and fourth between Guerlain artworks enables an individual to locate the coherent thread that is the Guerlinade, and the slight (and sometimes not-so-slight) differences and disparities between Eau de Toilette, Eau de Parfum, and Parfum concentrations.
And so, with appreciation of this knowledge, it is only appropriate that a comparison can be performed. Habit Rouge is a Guerlain I cannot fathom ever not possessing – its balance, its quality of nonchalant elegance, its sly references to Guerlain feminine works – Habit Rouge takes the Guerlinade and tickles it pleasingly in favourable directions.
Habit Rouge Eau de Toilette (1965)
© 2014 Liam Sardea
As a scent that kickstarted my continuing Guerlain journey, the Eau de Toilette is my point of reference.
The EdT pulls into an immediately classical direction, with its effervescent pink-hued fizz redolent of Eau de Cologne Imperiale. With a strong neroli and lemon tinge, the effervescence fades into a texturally thin dosage of vanilla, leather, rose, patchouli, carnation, sandalwood, and musk. Each note stacks like thin panes of glass to create substance – with a chewy textural quality often and aptly described as the marshmallow accord of benzoin, orange blossom, and a touch of amber. In comparison with the other variants of Habit Rouge, this quality is best demonstrated in the EdT, and has always been the most attractive feature of Habit Rouge that is the second tone of this two-toned impression. This is where Habit Rouge EdT is linked inextricably to L’Heure Bleue, for its soft floral treatment and resistant softness like plush leather gloves. The vanilla, constant and nostalgic, imparts a warmth and avoids the dosage of incense which made Shalimar, Shalimar.
Habit Rouge EdT is a flamboyant work – oozing of the Guerlain signature yet pulls back in its own respective category. Like fresh talc spiced to perfection, Habit Rouge EdT is soft and reminiscent of an old era. A semi-abstract oriental. To modern consumers, probably dated, but to aficionados, fragrant perfection.
“Beauty, immediately understood, never quite elucidated.”
Subjective rating : 5/5
Objective rating: 5/5
Habit Rouge Eau de Parfum (2003)
© 2016 Liam Sardea
As a borrowing from the staple Eau de Toilette, the Eau de Parfum takes the classic formula and amps up the woods. Despite this quasi-benefit, the EdP misses the flamboyant boyishness of being a cheeky flirt of a fragrance, like wearing fluorescent pink socks with an otherwise totally black suit and lace-ups.
The Guerlinade is present, with its sticky in-between the teeth textural feauture, and this is then moved with a cedar-sandal wooded creaminess instead of the bracing rush of citrus and neroli. The luxurious ooziness of the benzoin and orange blossom accord is firmer than a marshmallow, and definitely less sweet, and instead feels like velvety suede rather than a pillowy softness. With the further addition of what is claimed to be an oud note (I am not incredulous, but I would rather it was marketed as something else) a certain raw vegetation vibe is achieved, alongside deep fruity echoes. This melds well with the patchouli, and with its natural affinity for woods and sweetness (a la Borneo 1834 and Coromandel) Habit Rouge becomes more of a patchouli woods scent than an abstract fragrance with a cologne-like top and an exhilarating drydown of immense balance of texture, smell, and orientalism.
I cannot deny that the wood notes of the EdP are well integrated into the classical structure, adding a certain overlaid feature whereas in the EdT everything fell perfectly into place. I am left with colours of deep yellows, browns, and purples – and am left craving a little pink.
A woody oriental take on the textbook male oriental.
Subjective rating : 3/5
Objective rating: 3.5/5
Habit Rouge Parfum / L’Extrait (2008)
© 2016 Liam Sardea
The Eau de Toilette version of Habit Rouge oscillates so closely between the heady, undeniable freshness of citronella and its counterpart overdosing of bug repellant. The smell of supple leather in luxurious cars, the brisk sweet freshness sweeping one with its trailing sillage, and the dark undertones of leather and vanilla spiced with a breath of carnation – together in the scent like lemonade, marshmallows, and an easygoing, yet present and persistent aroma.
The extrait variation changes this accordingly. As an extrait, naturally, it is tighter, less ephemeral and clearly less aldehydic than my beloved eau de toilette. It takes a detour; a plunge into a territory that instead of calling to mind a minimalistic dandy from the EdT, we get a more sombre gentleman in a dark charcoal suit with cinnamon red socks – refined, smooth, and no fluffing around – just an escape into the territory of the substantial, the immediately rich, similar (very nostalgic and redolent) and verging gluttonous and luxurious to the extreme.
In a previous review, I said luxury never screamed or shouted. It should never be crass. It thrills me to report that the extrait version is not crass or luxurious in a pompous way, it is a game of undertones; a hushed and low hum that works well with the wearer’s own confidence. I find that the extrait has immediate depth and pairs nicely as a layering with the EdT – it gives it restraint and longevity, a hint of brevity, and creates new details at its depths.
Interestingly, Habit Rouge done in the oozingly luxurious Parfum format to a close degree calls to mind the modern and base note heavy works of Tom Ford or similar. There is almost immediate emphasis on the deep and luxuriously sensual base notes.
This may sound like heresy, but Habit Rouge done in this concentration isn’t too far away from the base stylings of Tobacco Vanille or Tuscan Leather – they all feature different and unique formats of sweetness, but equally spread themselves towards magisterial tones of ochre and mahogany hues of austere balsamics and moreish leathery qualities.
The speckled, tonic-like notes of citronella and the cologne effects are reduced majorly in the Parfum, however are still present, covered and warmed with these deeper notes presented at the get-go. If Habit Rouge EdT was pure white and refined confectionary sugar, then the extrait is a raw muscovado sugar rich in molasses and with a more rounded and enveloping sweetness, complimenting this ‘orientalness’ further when compared to the duotoned contrast saturated in, and found in the eau de toilette.
Instead of sparkle, we have pleasing muted effects – not pastel, but restraint demonstrated excellently, in a very Guerlain way. Citrus still makes an appearance, forming a brief exposition into a more profound field of patchouli and leather rounded with vanilla, which are already faceted richly. On one hand I want to say that this isn’t Habit Rouge, and if this was marketed differently as a new perfume in 2008, it would have been easily distinguished from the EdT (or even the EdP). But, then I remember that I love plurality and the ability to do comparisons as such. So, I am inclined to give this a great rating, but am torn between whether or not I rate this on its similarity to the EdT, or the genius tenacity on Wasser’s part for its departure into an alternative field of classical leathers touched with a hint of flirt, florals, and fruits (Knize Ten, Tabac Blonde, Cuir de Russie, or heck, even Daim Blond). I choose the latter.
Subjective rating : 4/5
Objective rating: 4.5/5
Habit Rouge Dress Code (2015)
© 2016 Liam Sardea
Dress Code is a trendy variation of Habit Rouge. Retaining the gentleman in pink qualities of the EdT, capturing the less flirty stoutness of the wooded EdP, and the intense shadows of the Parfum, Dress Code plays on these facets by making the discrete gourmand undertones of marshmallow, lemonade, and vanilla plainly overt – with lashings of chocolate, caramel, and praline that blends well within the original framework. The patchouli is truly in its element with the simple addition of chocolate to recreate the popular accord of natural pairings. There is no hint of citrus or Cologne Imperiale for that matter, but instead a leather of immense tightness without the accentuated counterpoint of acidulous citrus or overly delicate flowers. Instead, jasmine’s etherealness is used as a buffer, and a surprising addition of ginger adds freshness, bite, and is a sturdy compliment to the moreish chocolate notes.
I can’t help but compare the EdT and Dress Code on two separate blotters, and notice how the EdT seems to ring like a well-balanced symphony, and Dress Code being a respectful solo act with its own tricks and charm. It is (and was) only natural to push the gourmand nature of Habit Rouge [eventually], especially adding a venerable note of warm tonka bean and bitter almond – which is indeed popular at the moment. But, I will confess openly that I don’t like the post-modern take on gourmands; Habit Rouge EdT being an example of a classical gourmand.
…And if one hankers for the Parfum, Dress Code is almost as good!
If Habit Rouge was teleported to the twenty-first century…
Subjective rating : 3.5/5
Objective rating: 4/5