Skip to main content

So what do you buy for your mother when you're in Cuba? Rum? Cigars? Perfume, of course!

While visiting Cuba, my daughter's Cuban friend took her to Old Havana where she came across a very special shop named Habana 1791, and old-style perfumerie in  an eighteenth-century mansion at the corner of Mercaderes and Obrapía. Restored to its Colonial splendour, this beautiful shop sells twelve traditional soliflore colognes that are distilled in the shop  - Rose, Jasmine, Violet, Orange Blossom, Lilac, Ylang-Ylang, Patchouli, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Tobacco, Citric and Lavender - and the ladies behind the counter also create bespoke or hand-mixed personalized fragrances. Bingo! Gift for Mum. Her very own perfume.

So my daughter set to work with the perfume lady, and told her notes that I love, and some of the more traditional perfumes I love, as best she could remember, and they created my perfume. She named it “With Love”. It came in a small clear glass apothecary bottle etched with dragonflies, with a waxed cork stopper, in a small canvas drawstring bag which included a hand-written note list, indecipherable with the exception of the word “patchuly”, and the verbal instruction from my daughter not to open it for four months until it has aged properly.

With Love opens with an orange-lemony citrus accord which deepens quickly into the natural spiced floral notes of two of my favourites, rose and carnation. They smell divine together, and are soon joined by sweet jasmine or orange-blossom -  there are definitely some indoles in the heart, which make it a little soapy, in a good way. This soon disappears as the dry-down reveals green patchouli and grassy vetiver, and maybe a touch of sweet dried tobacco, all of which add some herbal weight and ground the rich spiced floral accord, which continues right to the end. With Love is a cologne but has a depth and richness that is surprising.

With Love smells real and very natural, like the aromatic waft from a rose bush as you walk by, or from a summer bouquet brought into the house, which isn’t surprising given that it’s mixed from distilled essences of real blooms. The genius comes from Nature but the perfume lady who mixed this fragrance just for me also had a touch of genius.  Not too sweet, just enough spice, and an herbal richness in the dry-down.

With Love is the scent of rose, the traditional symbol of love. Given to me with love, this bespoke perfume is a precious gift, and will always be special to me.


Notes: As far as I can tell - citrus, rose, carnation, jasmine or orange blossom, patchouly, vetiver

Type: Cologne

Parfumeurs: My daughter and the Habana 1791 perfume lady

Price: $4.00