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

The Black Narcissus


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: : :…

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

  1. Stephen

    Look what the mean man said about my lovely red coat! No, I actually love what you’ve written, but I also love the tinkle-coloured stink juice that my daughter swears smells just like mushed up lipstick (and she should know, as a younger child she made many devastating sorties into her mother’s make up clutter!) For me, Habit Rouge is the smell of tallow on the last wax crayons (invariably dark green, coated with black through the endless act of transference) in the classroom box, circa 1978. It is fat, waxy lemons scrambled and cast away by the rotary mower. And, indeed, it is the lipstick and make up of elderly aunts, smeared across a damp, summer cheek, during the act of “awwww, come ‘ere, and lemme me take a look at you!” Wondrous stuff.

    • Oh my god this description is wondrous; YES; it really is like wax and everything you say here. Presumably you have a perfume book in the works or have already published one.

      • Stephen

        You are exceedingly kind, Mr Chapman! But please let me be the millionth reader to congratulate you on your truly wonderful book, and on your inspired (and continually inspiring!) syncresis of memory, apprehension, and analysis. You genuinely make scent from symbols, a small miracle in itself.

      • You see: I don’t even entirely know what you are talking about here, and I genuinely want to know more. I don’t even know what you mean about what I do : seriously. That is what is fascinating about this whole experience for me – the ‘putting myself out there’ – which is kind of traumatic – and then the reactions, when there are some.

  2. Habit Rouge always put me in mind of an elderly Hân or Turkish noble nibbling loukhoum in velvet robes whilst reclining on a silk divan. An antique portrait of a powdered, scented, and immaculately groomed Islamic gentleman of a bygone Byzantine age luxuriating in his kâşane or mansion.
    Mitsouko leaves a bit of an “ancient dowager empress in rustling kimono and tinkling kanzashi” impression on me too.

  3. Stephen

    I gave your reply some serious old-man’s consideration while in the garden this morning (not much of a garden, I’m the first to admit, but the Cape weed is out on the lawn, and the ripening lemons look pleasantly bright against the green and powdered silver of the feijoa leaves – and that indeed is a scent that might be a revelation, if treated sympathetically and intelligently – the granular, syrup-astringent, berry-guava perfume of ripe feijoa pulp…) and I fear your reaction has much more to do with my failure to convey meaning, than with some sort of anosmia on your part in terms of the effects of your own writing! Describing fragrance itself appears to be a fearsome enough task, without the further layers of interpretation of the reader!!! If there are (and, of course, there are!) as many different imaginings of the simple shelf of limestone on which Fleming Bloodworth waits, watching the red chert road for the mailman’s car, as there are sets of eyes that scan Gay’s luminously spare description of just that scene, think of how many more myriad associations of the scents you so wonderfully describe live and thrive in your reader’s minds! Anyway, what I should have said, from the start, is that you write so very, very well.

  4. JulienFromDijon

    The EDT is the best, here, with Habit rouge.

    It’s counter-intuitive, because brands usually reserve better ingredients for the EDP. But Habit rouge EDP is a late creation, more oudy, with much less equilibrium, and its evolution is no match to the EDT.

    I love the current version. With all the nit-picking from us, perfume nerds, it’s funny that one of the best orange flower perfume is one of the most available, and cheapest.

    Sparkling rosy bergamot, orange flower, opponax, vanilla, and a wonderful biscuit-y transition halfway. I think it works better on fabric, to keep the equilibrium of the different accords.

    One who wants a more hefty and oriental Habit rouge should try Jaïpur (men) EDP from Boucheron.

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