Friday, 6 November 2015

Persolaise Review: Habit Rouge Dress Code from Guerlain (Thierry Wasser; 2015)

Thierry Wasser has had the thankless task of creating flankers for classics such as Shalimar, L'Heure Bleue and Habit Rouge (could any other perfumery endeavour be more worthy of the term 'putting your neck on the chopping block'?) and now he turns to the latter again with the creation of Habit Rouge Dress Code, released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jean-Paul Guerlain's towering masculine. As a flag-waving HR acolyte, I confess I was wary of this new iteration, and whilst I can't say that it has it persuaded me to ditch my bottles of the eau de toilette - which probably wasn't Wasser's intention anyway - I'm pleased to report that I've enjoyed exploring the new chapter it adds to one of my favourite scented stories.

The current formulation of Habit Rouge edt doesn't smell dated - Guerlain have tweaked it over the years to ensure it remains abreast of the times - but even so, this Dress Code incarnation feels like a marginally more modern re-appraisal of the original's merits. Or maybe, instead of 're-appraisal', I ought to say 'deconstruction', as there's a sense here of Wasser picking apart his predecessor's work and presenting it with the curtain pulled aside to reveal backstage secrets. To use a different analogy, if the edt is like a seamless fabric, layering various hues to achieve a distinctive overall effect, Dress Code unravels the threads and attaches them to separate hooks, allowing the onlooker to admire the schematics (dare I say: the 'code'?) of the composition. Consequently, each element is more pronounced. The citrus note takes on a fleshier heft. The dryness moves closer to the Sahara. The leathery dustiness kicks up a bigger cloud. The floral note reveals rosier curves. And the vanilla clings to the skin with greater fervour. In other words, it's all more legible, in keeping with current tastes and fashions.

Does it work? I'd say, absolutely, yes it does. The chief purpose of deconstruction is to provoke a fresh-eyed re-viewing of the object or text being deconstructed, and in that sense, Dress Code is a success. By splitting the Habit Rouge atom, it allows fans to develop a new appreciation of its genius. But it also cuts a dashing figure in its own right. In order to prevent his effort from being seen as a mere clone, Wasser has infused it with a praline element. Although it's subtle, its sweetness is noticeable - which will no doubt anger those bemoaning the sugariness of several recent Guerlain creations - but personally, I hope it will mark the scent as sufficiently different from the original to unlatch it from too heavy a connection with the past and allow it to be enjoyed by a new audience. If that happens, it would certainly mark a commendable achievement on Wasser's part. But even if it doesn't, the appearance of this bright-eyed younger brother is a happy event for those of us whose 'Must Rescue In The Event Of A House Fire' list includes the words Habit Rouge.

[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum obtained in 2015.]

PS For my reviews of all the other currently-available versions of Habit Rouge, please click here.

PPS Please head over to my Instagram page for a chance to win one of 5 VIP subscriptions to The Perfume Society (competition open only to UK-based readers).


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