A sad truth in the fragrance world is that the public, by and large, has awful taste. Mainstream garbage like Acqua di Gio is regurgitated endlessly by the media, the marketing teams, and the public itself. A fellow Basenoter once commented on the fact that he was once locked in a meeting with 10 Indian men; 6 of the 10 were wearing AdG. Nothing against Indians either way, I do find the demographics to be very interesting on this stuff (maybe the subject of a future post). What I’m getting at, eventually, is while AdG will probably be selling well into my twilight years, you can not find Aramis Havana in any retail store. Not in North America anyway, if you want it you’ll have to do a bit of traveling, to South Africa or one of the other handful of countries that still receive it. Or, you can pay a premium on eBay or one of the fragrance retail websites, upwards of $80 an ounce on average, which is higher than many niche label fragrances.
So when I was posed the offer to buy about 1.5 oz of the stuff for $55, I couldn’t really pass it up. Thank God I didn’t. Part of the reason I was initially interested in the stuff is it had a lot of notes I liked by themselves. Then again, it has a ton of notes, the most I’ve encountered in a fragrance. Havana features top notes of Coriander Seed, Anise, Birch Tar, Juniper Berry, Tangerine, Grapefruit, and Orange, middle notes of Bay Rum, Cumin, Jamaican Pimento Berry, Pepper, Jasmine, and Hyacinth, and all of that is sitting on a prominent woody base of Tobacco, Patchouli, Cedarwood, Myrhh, Labdanum, Oilbanum, Tonka bean, Vanilla, and some other assorted exotic ouds. So there’ll be pretty much something in there you’ll like.
If you’re spraying from an existing bottle, the sprayer has a sort of spicy, even pungent aroma, which should give you a fair indication as you prepare to wear it that this is going to be something well off the beaten path. The initial blast is almost entirely drowned out by a pronounced cumin note that evaporates in about 30 seconds to a minute, or at least takes a back seat to one of the most unique, riotous, magnificent dry-downs you’ll ever find in a fragrance. Notes jostle for supremacy, and if you have the chance to wear this without distractions you’ll find yourself engrossed in the play of the different elements; Havana doesn’t actually settle down for 2 or 3 hours, and during that time you’ll encounter the full spectrum of what Havana has to offer. What you’re left with at that settling point is a scent led by the tobacco and patchouli notes, with plenty of woods behind it (I don’t detect the cedar so much as I detect medium to heavier woods in general; I think the spices mask it a bit as I rather like cedar-based fragrances). Behind all that is a sparkling boozy accord which I’m pegging as the rum and pepper notes working together. In my initial review of Havana I compared it to a cross between Quorum and Chanel Platinum Egoiste, minus the jasmine and carnation notes. At this point I don’t believe that anymore, it’s a composition unique in it’s own right. It’s honestly a lot of stuff going on, and words don’t do this one justice.
Let me put it this way. On the wardrobe list to the right of this post you see all the crap I’ve got (for Facebookers, I’m currently sitting at 19 different bottles). If I’m completely honest with myself, if I’m narrowing my wardrobe down to 3, it’s in there. If I’m narrowing it down to 2, it’s in there. If I’m narrowing 19 down to 1…Havana’s going to be the one I keep. I may rage and curse over the decision (who? me?) and thankfully I don’t see myself having to actually be forced to just have one fragrance, but the more I thought about it, the more I realize there’s really no contest. So many people are wearing the same thing, even stuff like Terre d’Hermes and (egads) A*Men is becoming popular in the mainstream. It’s a pretty safe bet, though, that I will be the only one in Paducah wearing Havana on any given day.
Unfortunately, finding it, as I indicated, is a pain in the butt. Even the usual suspects like The Perfumed Court don’t have it, instead carrying the slightly more common, slightly different Havana Reserva. Even that’s gonna run you $8 for 1mL, which is by my math $240 an ounce. Buying it in a half-ounce bottle on there will still run you $119. Don’t despair though, it is fairly common on eBay, and not one that’s subject to counterfeiting. You can also find it for sale on Basenotes at the rate of about 2 bottles a month. Maybe you’ll luck into one like I did.
If you see fragrance as anything more than a casual fling, you owe it to yourself to try this stuff.