Molinard Habanita L'Esprit (2013) {Perfume Review & Musings}

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Habanita L'Esprit by Molinard is an unusual powdery perfume for its intent on playing with the beloved texture, while adding renewed nuances, which make the composition leave the shores of baby powder dream land...

There is here a high quotient of animality, which evolves into high-strung musk. The latter smells high-pitched like perspiration on a hot Southern day comingling with all the scents of decay which permeate the air: over-ripe fruits, over-filled latrines, over-powdered ladies, over-bleached bathrooms.

It smells of over-cured oakmoss, of patchouli which tastes like old, stale chocolate, of violent perfumes of yore at the time that Coty made them cool, whose remnants are preserved at the bottom of antique perfume flacons - and you found dregs a century later.

The second olfactive intrusion is that of the sweetness of powdery mimosa coupled with chalkier-yet-still-particle-filled heliotrope. These two facets create a powdery fragrance which smells far from regressive in the technical sense it has in perfumery of evoking the olfactory universe of childhood.

What role does powder play in this opus, if it isn't there like soul food? We think it should be interpreted as "natural powder" and "floral powder," which means that if you are a denizen of the South of France, like the Molinards are, you are bound to live with the scents of mimosa and heliotrope in bloom - mimosa especially, which is so appreciated in the region, it has its own festivals. This is not about talcum powder and Johnson's & Johnston's nostalgia. It is about a slice of life in the Mediterranean basin. It is also about a chapter of history.

The composition betrays a vintage feel, which is the link you are looking for with the original Habanita from 1921, which was officially reformulated, or rather tweaked in 2012. In the depths of the perfume, you can see the form of Habanita emerge, smoky, heavy-lidded - almost petroleum-like in the older versions. That tarry aspect is there as in filigree, much lighter, yet serving as a fundamental signature of the new scent. It smells of the de Laire base, Mousse de Saxe, the scent of 1940s bombshells in furs.

There is a resinous component to Habanita L'Esprit which you can feel from the start and which is the part that stays on. The brand mentions Cistus Ladanifer and benzoin, but it also smells of Oppoponax.

Additonal applications only help you isolate better the time-capsule aspect of Habanita, reinterpreted as the spirit of Habanita. This spirit is well and alive. It has traversed nearly a 100 years of vagaries. The world order might have changed and shifted a few times, you can still turn to Habanita and its new spirit form for a sense of roots. The famed conservatism of the perfume industry is nothing more than this ability to draw in the air a permanent geography of desire, in which there is no experience of exile.

Fragrance notes: lemon, nutmeg, cistus / jasmine, rose, mimosa, heliotrope / vetiver, patchouli, benzoin.

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