Tobacco fragrances usually feature the same tobacco accord. It's the fresh, slightly bitter smell of the tobacco flower mixed with vanilla and other spices. Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford is a prime example of this popular take on tobacco.
T. Habanero by Rania J is nothing like this. It features a dark, handsome tobacco note intertwined with dusty oud, sandalwood and resins. The result is a truly unique take on tobacco that reminds me of a rich, sugar-free dark chocolate brownie.
T. Habanero is a celebration of the rich dark tobacco of the Cuban cigars from Havana (hence, Tobacco Habanero). The kind of tobacco you find in the private cigar clubs frequented by gentlemen of certain distinction.
What's interesting about Rania J's creation is that despite it being a tobacco fragrance, the oud note is the one defining the fragrance. Regardless, T. Habanero is a fragrance with dark richness that entices the senses. Here's how:
What T. Habanero Smells Like
In the first seconds I get a note of oily oud. It's so dense and rich, it's almost edible. This initial oud note dissipates and an accord of cocoa dusted dark chocolate emerges. There is no sweetness to it, just rich, creamy, dense chocolate accord. It reminds me of those dark chocolate vegan brownies they sell at Whole Foods. They are not sweet but very rich.
The opening is a product of the masterful blend of three ingredients: cardamom, tobacco and oud. The creaminess of the composition in these first minutes comes from the cardamom.
I suspect the dusted dark chocolate accord is in part due to the tobacco note. Unlike in other popular fragrances, the tobacco here is very dark and rich. It feels like a cigar tobacco, the kind you'd smell in an old cigar club.
As I move around with T. Habanero on my chest and hand I catch whiffs of oily, chewy oud. It appears only as if in passing; it reminds me that it's there without drawing attention to it.
When I smell T. Habanero on my skin, the oud note is not as pronounced. I attribute the dusty, rich quality of the fragrance at this stage in part to the oud note. It's similar to the oud in Tom Ford's Oud Wood but in a smaller quantity and less spicy.
As T. Habanero dries down a soft sandalwood note emerges. Kafka from Kafkaesque suspects it is Javanol. it is a synthetic aroma-chemical that imitates the smell of sandalwood. It's not a perfect copy but it works, at least in some compositions.
To the question why don't Rania J and other perfumers just use sandalwood, the answer is simple. There isn't much of it and what you can get is very expensive. The sandalwood tree has been overharvested for years and almost no sandalwood fragrances have any of the real thing in them. Generally, perfumers rely on good aroma-chemicals reproducing the smell of sandalwood of certain parts of it.
Another reason for Rania J to use a synthetic sandalwood is because this is the exact note she needs for her composition. The beauty of aroma-chemicals is that they can recreate certain aspects of the natural oil. For example, if you want a jasmine note without the indolic note, then you can use an aroma-chemical for that.
Back to T. Habanero, once the sandalwood note becomes more pronounced, the fragrance develops a woody character. Certain aspects of it remind me of Wonderwood by Comme des Garçons. The dark wood accord, creamy sandalwood bear similarities.
T. Habanero, unlike Wonderwood, maintains some of its dusty dark chocolate character. After the 7-hour mark what remains of it is just a dusty-spicy oud accord. Considering the intensity I get from the fragrance after 7 hours, I can see it going strong for at least 10 hours.
T. Habanero doesn't project very strongly. In the first hour or so the projection is moderate. When the top notes quiet down, the projection is nothing but a tenacious whisper on my skin.
Where to Rock It
T. Habanero would be a great choice for autumn day or a summer evening. It's too dry to get cloying in the heat but it packs some warmth that makes it more suitable for a cooler weather.
I find T. Habanero to be a casual fragrance. It will work great with a light sweater or a dressy-casual shirt.
If you frequent establishments with dark leather couches where you can get a snifter of good whiskey and even better cigar, then T. Habanero is a must.
No matter how versatile, a fragrance featuring tobacco and oud requires certain maturity. At the risk of being called narrow-minded, I'd say 35 is as young as you'd want to go with T. Habanero. I don't see many guys (it is definitely masculine) younger than that age wearing it. It's not that they can't pull it off (many can't), it's that they won't opt for it.
What The Other Frag Heads Say About T. Habanero
The Scented Hound finds the opening of T. Habanero one of the strangest he has come across. He compares it to a "shoe leather that's covered in dung". I suspect what he refers to is a certain aspect of the oud.
The Scented Hound reports that 20 minutes after the first spray, T. Habanero "hits its sweet spot when it gets to its dry, woody, smoky and slightly nutty conclusion that seems to rise off of the skin like the smoke at the end of a lit cigar".
T. Habanero gets three out of five bones from The Scented Hound.
Parfumista from Parfumistans Blogg writes that the style of T. Habanero is dark-resin-oudy, similar to Black by Puredistance, Cuir Garamande by Parfums MDCI, and Black Gemstone by SHL 777. I'm not familiar with the latter but I can testify that T. Habanero is in the same genre with Black by Puredistance. My experience with Cuir Garamande is different and I don't think it has much in common with T. Habanero.
Parfumista concludes that overall, T. Habanero is a nice and comforting fragrance, which works great for cold weather.
Kafka from Kafkaesque has written an extensive review of T. Habanero. She dissects at length the oud accord in the fragrance, as well as the aroma-chemicals Rania might have used to create the sandalwood note.
"The oud smells beefy, meaty and, for 15 minutes, genuinely fungal like some sort of twist on a ripe black truffle. Underlying it are small whiffs of the barnyard, though it’s never actually fecal on my skin", she writes.
I don't get any fecal undertones in T. Habanero but I fully agree with Kafka's description of the oud note here. It, indeed, is "beefy and meaty" with a certain chewy feel to it.
Kafka warns that if you are not familiar with the smell of oud in its true Middle Eastern form, you may not like it. Most Western fragrances, especially the designer ones, use synthetic aroma-chemicals that recreate a very "civil" facet of the real oud. I don't find the oud note in T. Habanero particularly offensive but I can see why some people may find it challenging.
Kafka doesn't have an issue with the oud accord. What she dislikes about T. Habanero is the presence of cypriol in the composition. She writes:
" 'sandalwood' never shows up in a concrete, clearly delineated way on my skin, and never once smells like the actual wood to me — not Mysore, not the generically beige or green Australian variety, and not even the synthetic sort like Ebanol or Javanol. Instead, what shows up on my skin smells identical to cypriol or nagarmotha, a woody, smoky, leather, tobacco-nuanced material that is so often the base oil for alleged “ouds” in Western perfumery. I loathe cypriol, and its overly desiccated, woody smokiness that rasps away like Brillo pads."
Kafka also makes another observation about how other reviewers experience T. Habanero. In the reviews she read online she noticed that tobacco was rarely mentioned.
I attribute this to the nature of the tobacco here. It is not the typical note you find in Tobacco Vanille or other tobacco-centered scents. Retrospectively, I notice the tobacco note is not the one that grabs my attention. It is the oud and the resins. I'd go as far as not to consider T. Habanero a tobacco fragrance.
Overall, Kafka finds T. Habanero "abrasively scratchy" and "synthetic". Therefore, for her it's a pass.
The Bottom Line
T. Habanero is a well done oud-resin fragrance. It's deep, complex and challenging, for which I am thankful. I love the dusty dark chocolate accord, which is my favourite part of the composition.
Would you buy T. Habanero?
Definitely. It's a good choice for a cold autumn day when you want to kick up your feet and relax with a good glass of scotch in your hand.
Would I get compliments wearing T. Habanero?
Probably not and that's not a fault of the fragrance. T. Habanero is a scent you wear for yourself. It's unusual and high satisfying, especially if you are in the right mood.
What rating would you give T. Habanero?
It's a borderline 5 but I don't see it quite as a masterpiece. I think T. Habanero is a very good fragrance and fully deserving of 4 out of 5.
Pink Pepper, Black Pepper, Cardamom
Sandalwood, Oud, Incense, Myrrh, Leather