Vintage Houbigant Raffinee Perfume Review

The kids always wondered what cool things Aunt Gladys had in her steamer trunk.

The kids always wondered what cool things Aunt Gladys had in her steamer trunk.

I’m not a huge vintage fragrance fan, probably because they really are much stronger than modern fragrances and Lyme disease gives me migraines when confronted with sillage monsters.  However, I’ve been dipping my toes into those waters lately, partly to further my perfume education and partly so I can learn to recognize high quality sandalwood.  For this reason, when a vintage bottle of anything with sandalwood in it shows up on eBay for a good price, I’ll snatch it up.

The history of Houbigant also tweaked my heartstrings– it was one of the great classic French perfume houses, sold during hard times to a conglomerate who cheapened the formulas and slapped the proud name on junk.  This story feeds right into my delusions of being nobility in exile, which is a lot more palatable than saying the recession hit us hard.

Vintage Houbigant Raffinee is like the eccentric great aunt who you initially thought was odd and dressed funny, but your interest perks up when you find out she used to model for Salvador Dali, and by the end of tea at the Plaza with her you’re shedding actual tears because she’s headed back to Paris on the next flight.

The first time I tried it, I felt it was too old fashioned and too feminine for me (most of my favorites are unisex or masculine). That was with a very light spray because I was afraid it was going to be a sillage bomb. I disliked the top notes and pretty much stopped sniffing it.

Today I sprayed with abandon, which was a good idea because while I still got that first acrid aldehydic burst with a side of carnation and ylang-ylang, within five minutes it warmed up into real beauty. First I got warm velvety peach, which was absolutely delightful, and now it has morphed into lipstick, rose and cinnamon, which reminds me of getting a hug from my mom in the 70’s when she compulsively chewed cinnamon Dentyne gum and always smelled nice and wouldn’t leave the house without lipstick on (great mom, good memory). It made me put lipstick and pearls on (okay, I would have worn the lipstick anyway). The dry down is gorgeous. It does remind me a bit of old Opium except less in your face.

Vintage Houbigant Raffinee EdT is available on eBay.  My bottle was from the late 80’s.  To make sure you’re really getting vintage, don’t buy anything that says Dana and look for the art deco cap:

Avoid bottles with plain caps or those which say Dana on the packaging to ensure you are getting true vintage.

Avoid bottles with plain caps or those which say Dana on the packaging to ensure you are getting true vintage.

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This entry was posted in Houbigant, Oriental fragrances, perfume reviews, vintage perfume and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Vintage Houbigant Raffinee Perfume Review

  1. Undina says:

    I had a bottle of Raffinee ~16 years ago. It was a bottle with a plain cup (but I don’t remember Dana being a part ofthelabel). It was a gift from my father and I tried hard to like it but it was so far from my favorite florals that I couldn’t get over disliking it. So I ended up giving it away to an older friend who thought it was great.
    I suspect today I’d appreciate it better though I don’t think it’s my type of perfume even now (I’m talking about just a perfume; vintage component makes it even less desirable for me).

    • Undina, I think the more we learn about fragrance the more we’re able to appreciate quality even if it’s not our taste. Thank you for the information on the cap! This fragrance went through many different incarnations so I’m trying to pinpoint details on vintages and I will update the review accordingly.

  2. I loved this! I follow two incredible writers who review perfume. You’d really enjoy their writing style. (Scents Memory and The Perfumed Dandy) Both are gifted writers and wonderful people. Check them out if you have time – unless that’s how you found me, in which case, disregard everything I just wrote! 😉
    Thanks for following me! I’m excited to read more.
    Lisa

  3. Hi Nancy, it’s great to read a review of a long gone scent. I remember my Mum wearing this in the early 90s. I wish they’d bring more of these back today! Lovely review

  4. Catherine Perry says:

    Raffinnee…My ex boyfriend’s ex got it for me on my birthday, thinking it would smell repulsive. Perhaps, on her, it did. But on me, it smelled heavenly, sensuous, and 100% as a sophisticated , educated, attractive woman should smell.Everywhere I went, I was asked “What is that wonderful perfume you’re wearing??” I LOVE it, but haven’t been able to find it in years.

  5. Wendy Alden says:

    I wore Raffinée for many years when it was the original Houbigant House. Even had soap and also glittery talc of the same scent. Still have about 4 mls of the original last bottle (must be from about 1994) and the talc. The new Dana knock-off is not the same at all. I could apply Rafinée in the afternoon and not need to reapply in the evening. Had compliments about the scent in the evening. It was truly my perfect scent.
    Love that maybe it is possible to purchase some vintage on Ebay. I’ll have a look.
    Someone in a Discount outlet mall, in a Designer Fragrances store gave me this website.
    Thanks for the information. I’ll always miss my Raffinée.

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