Habana 1791: The perfume shop
Located in an 18th-century mansion at the corner of Mercaderes and Obrapía, this beautiful shop and laboratory sells 12 varieties of scents or colognes. The bottles are made by Cuban ceramists while others are imported, like the ones from India. Customers are welcome to try out the ready-made colognes. A personal mixture can be made up by the helpful shop assistants. This beautiful building with its neoclassical façade was never used for living purposes. It opened as a perfumery shop and drugstore and throughout its life it was also a hardware store, café and tenement building. It was reopened as the Habana 1791 perfumery shop after extensive restoration.
A city can recover and restore not only its architecture, but also its everyday basic essences. And Habana 1791 did just that. Habana 1791 is more than a place to buy perfume (you can make those last minute guilty assuaging purchases at the airport Duty Free). The beautiful perfume shop-cum-laboratory is a house full of fragrances. The shop has 12 different scents that have been rescued from colonial times: Rose, Jasmine, Violet, Orange Blossom, Lilac, Ylang-Ylang, Patchouli, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Tobacco, Citric and Lavender. Each possesses powerful secrets that exalt the senses. You can also find other, more intriguing scents, such as gardenia or the very unconventional chocolate and even tobacco.
The perfume is handcrafted, as are the bottles (which come in many sizes and styles) into which the perfume or cologne is decanted. Some are made and decorated by Cuban ceramists and others are imported, like the ones from India. They are fitted with a cork and sealed in wax, and placed inside a small linen bag.
Custom-made scents are also created according to a customer’s desires. Before bottling up one or several scents in the form of a perfume, the alchemist-perfumer chats with the customers to discover their state of mind, character, mood and nature. The finished product is therefore unique–no two fragrances are alike.
For the aroma experts at La Habana 1791, the scents of different plants have characteristics that go beyond taste and cleanliness. This is why they are staunch defenders of aromatherapy, not only to treat skin disorders but emotional disorders as well.
Rose oil is aromatic and intense. It is always linked to love and sensuality. It counteracts states of violence and aggressiveness.
Orange blossom causes a feeling of peace and relaxation. It is revitalizing and gives joy to the body and mind.
Sandalwood is intense and spiritual. It is linked to good fortune.
Ylang-Ylang works on the heart and is considered an aphrodisiac.
Lavender is an aid against shyness. It boosts self-esteem. It balances and stimulates.
Patchouli frees the user from anxiety and balances emotions. It is also believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac.
Citric oils are refreshing and invigorating.
Jasmine is relaxing and encourages passion and eroticism.
Vetiver is a sedative and a tonic. In olden days it was placed in sachets to scent clothes and linen.
Lilac helps to enhance the power of concentration.
Tobacco is a masculine scent. It is intense yet pleasant and spiritual. It is very much identified with our origins.
Violet represents modesty and discretion. It is a very feminine scent of love.
A perfume may evoke an era, feelings, memories and this one-off shop brings back to our noisy, populous and busy city the scents and fragrances of Colonial Havana.