But don’t look now………: HABIT ROUGE by GUERLAIN (1965)




Habit Rouge, in my humble view, is one of the most unique and troubling scents of all time. It is one I own but find essentially unwearable   – I use it instead to scent red velvet curtains and the like, once basing a whole party in Tokyo on this theme: all the scarlet velours banquettes sprayed copiously with this decadent and headily enigmatic smell, the guests all clad in dress code red…






A curiously ghostly creation, despite its supposedly manly credentials, this perfume, for me, is rather more like a melancholy, powdered octogenarian traipsing confusedly and crimsonly about his old mansion, down whispering, cobwebbed corridors; in long silk dressing gown and softly pressing pantouffles; in the cold, and spine -tingling, dead of night.



This house is probably haunted. A headspinning, olfactive evocation of long, wintery passages;  old, stuffed, armoires; and crisp, freshly laundered sheets. But still: : : the shadows; over there…….in the corner……




Later, once this astounding and inimitable mirage (a brilliantly creative synergy formed of anti-intuitively oppositional forces of opoponax and benzoin, of orange blossom, carnation, cinnamon, versus a deliciously fresh accord of bergamot, lavender, pimento and lemon) has begun to slowly dissipate, there is then, finally,  the musky, leathery, patchouli/vanilla heart finally more in keeping with the image the name of the scent was originally supposed to evoke: a confident, and elegantly attired  monsieur and his red riding habit, galloping across the French countryside, off down the avenue of trees of lime, over fields and meadows and into the distance…..




It is all strangely beautiful. But as I say, I have always found this perfume very difficult to wear. On me, for whatever reason, it smells far too feminine; too ‘old queen in powdered wig‘ somehow: sad, plumped up and poudré (let there be no doubt that certain perfumes are slimming, while others are quite definitely fattening), even though Vol De Nuit and Shalimar are, conversely and ironically, quite the contrary: warm and enveloping, replete…..



Having said this, there will always be something about Habit Rouge that fascinates me. In my view, Jean Paul Guerlain has always been criminally underrated as a perfumer, seen as being inferior to his illustrious, Parisian forbearers. But though different in the style to the great Grand Dames perfumes of Jacques Guerlain :Mitsouko, L’Heure Bleue, Apres L’Ondee  and all the rest of those museum-ready masterpieces, the brilliantly innovative and always perfectly executed perfumes of the sixties and seventies, such as Vetiver, Habit Rouge, Parure, Chamade, Chant d’Aromes and Nahema are, in my view, quite their equals: complex, full of stories: inspired and inspiring, ambiguously intricate webs of (candle) light; of love, and darkness, and the sensuous, invisible lines of sweet, untraceable mysteries.










Filed under Flowers, Spice Orientals

29 responses to “But don’t look now………: HABIT ROUGE by GUERLAIN (1965)

  1. I love this, beautiful writing.

  2. Lilybelle

    I love this post. I’ve sampled Habit Rouge – and loved it – but it’s never been a fixture in my life. Nobody I know or knew well ever wore it. I totally get what you mean about its haunted quality, though. I get that intensely in Mitsouko and to a lesser extent in L’Heure Bleue, though not in Chamade, which I wear. Maybe that’s because I’m too close to Chamade.

    • You are like me. You just want something that smell GORGEOUS, and Chamade smells more gorgeous than virtually every other perfume ever made. Habit Rouge is just too ‘out there’ somehow, but that is why I love it.

  3. MrsDalloway

    I tried it on card once and hated it but your review makes me want to give it another go. Have you tried the Dress Code flanker? It gets some love on Basenotes.

    • They don’t really release that kind of thing in Japan, so no – I don’t think I know any of the flankers actually. But the perfume is fascinating and could be amazing on female skin.

  4. MrsDalloway

    I think I mostly don’t love orange blossom. My favourite Guerlains are Jicky and Chamade. I have and rather like Apres L’Ondée, but I don’t find it melancholy like you’re supposed to. More sweet, powdery and cosseting – it’s a nice consolation when you’re ill in bed.

  5. Love the way you describe HR, as an elderly gentleman in his haunted mansion. I really enjoy that quality of HR, I find it to be almost a sister scent to Shalimar, or at least cousins. I do see how it could become a bit much on you and a wee bit too feminine, but on my it just works so well. I think I will go apply some now.
    I do hope you are feeling better, I have been thinking of you and worrying over your ear.

  6. Gregorio

    I love it and wear it often during colder months. I think it has The most gorgeous dry down. So sensual. I definately get the haunted vibe. Such a beautiful unique perfume.

  7. Tara C

    I have smelled Habit Rouge on a card but not on my skin. I don’t recall anything about it so clearly it didn’t appeal. I do love Chamade, Parure and Après l’Ondée, but the current modern L’Art et la Matière line is more my style at the moment.

  8. Robin

    I could have kept on reading forever if you’d kept on writing along these lines. Didn’t want it to stop. Quintessential N. Chapman. My favourite contemporary writer. Nobody else close in the running.

    “A curiously ghostly creation, despite its supposedly manly credentials, this perfume, for me, is rather more like a melancholy, powdered octogenarian traipsing confusedly and crimsonly about his old mansion, down whispering, cobwebbed corridors; in long silk dressing gown and softly pressing pantouffles; in the cold, and spine -tingling, dead of night.” Absolutely it can feel just like this.

    On me it can be akin to Shalimar, but softer, warmer, more tender, rosy. On Ric the powder is closer to cream, the citruses in the forefront. More youthful than expected. He seems to take the feminine qualities in a masculine and turn them ruggedly handsome. His physiology, his golden skin. He has all of them, although none vintage — edt, edp, l’eau — and each is good, depending on the weather. Overall, the l’eau, a Wasser invention, might be best on him, the least dated (naturally) even if the performance leaves something to be desired. The freshness and greenery give it some much-needed fresh air and space to move around, become less claustrophobic.

  9. Robin

    Also, just now wearing the contemporary Chamade in edp, out of the blue I pick up on echoes of Habit Rouge. Hmm. Interesting; perhaps some undercurrent J-P was riffing on those several years. Something about the benzoin and the rose, the balsamics.

    • The balsamics and benzoin in the original Chamade blow my mind. I haven’t smelled the current version on skin.

      After putting up this review again, I went to a recycle shop in Yokohama where I knew there was a bottle, desperate to wear it again this weekend. Turned out it was just the EMPTY BOX

  10. This is still a fabulous read. I think I will put on a bit after bathing, the day calls for it.

  11. Eureka

    I received a 4ml 1970s sample of “Habit Rouge” as part of a vintage “Chamade” set I acquired and absolutely loved its scent on both paper and in the bottle, but I found it didn’t sit well on my skin at all. I wanted so much for it to embrace me with its resplendent androgyny, but it rejected me, leaving me heartbroken when it settled into the smell of cold, rusty metal on my first skin test. I have since stowed it away, in hopes that, maybe one day, the perfume gods will find me worthy of this special gem.

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