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: