Summer Fragrance Round-up Part 1: Habibi New York

When my immune system fell victim to Miss Rona’s spike protein earlier this summer, the worst symptom lingered for over a month – olfactory loss. I couldn’t smell anything, not the mounds of sweet, pungent Thai basil at the Farmers Market, not the briny, grilled seafood platters at Greek restos in Astoria, nor the lingering scent of my fave mint-infused deep conditioner. Then, boom, it returned in August when NYC is a flambéed cauldron of garbage, BO, and what a friend likes to call ‘city juice’ – random pools of murky, indeterminate liquid from the sidewalk to the subway. My nostrils needed a respite. Calgon, take me away…

Calgon has long been passé, similar to an appetite for its synthetic scents. We now have naturally-sourced fragrances to transport us from the mayhem of the concrete jungle to far-flung paradisos, like a desert oasis surrounded by night-blooming florientals and exotic woods. Whether you like your top notes floral or citrusy, the middle ones herbaceous and sweet, the base ones redolent of leather and tobacco like I do, or whatever combo therein, Habibi New York has curated an extensive collection of luxury blends to match these limitless preferences.

Habibi, which means “beloved” in Arabic,” was founded by native New Yorkers, a married couple looking to reconnect amidst over-scheduled lives and demanding careers, on a mission to foster love, unity, and diversity. I’ve heard that in Middle East folklore, there is a tradition of equating perfume with the experience of the sacred. (Remember the tale of the Magi, three wise men bearing gifts of frankincense and myrrh?) Habibi New York was clearly born from that fragrance-exalting tradition because its fragrances are simply divine.

I recommend exploring Habibi New York with one of their Discovery Sets. There are 6 to choose from, even a set of roll-ons. The gender normative gal that I am, I chose the Women’s Discovery Set, complete with six sumptuous mélanges of florals, spices, fruit, woods, and oud. A major bonus, especially for a packaging and ingredient fiend like me, is the description of each blend, meticulously organized according to top, middle and base notes. It’s like a bespoke mixology chart for amateur perfumiers.

The first in the set, the Jasmine Oud Absolute, had me at first whiff. The intoxicating night-blossoming desert flower can be bit too heavy for day in some blends, but this one is balanced on the top with fruit and fresh greens, and grounded with leather and musk. It succeeds at being light and clean enough for day, yet edgy enough to feel special and prep you for night life.

Another jasmine-based varietal, the Iris Bloom , takes a sweeter approach to the heady night floral with mandarin oil top notes and sandalwood in the finish. It’s a safe bet for work or an afternoon summer wedding. It smells romantic and dreamy, like the end of a ’90s rom-com.

The two wood-forward samples in the collection, Velvet Royale and Oasis Oud, offer wildly different interpretations of the grounded scent profile, the later being the stand-out to my olfactory palette, probably due to the leather and jasmine middle notes. It’s ultra flirty and downright mysterious, perfect for a night of watching “Eyes Wide Shut” or attending a similarly-inspired masquerade ball.

Two fragrances in the collection feature the other most popular flower in fragrance, the rose, in vastly unique expressions. The Rose Amour balances out the floral with citrus and sandalwood in a familiar olfactory profile – it has just enough bite to elevate it above your nanna’s fave perfume, but within traditional confines – it gives “Bridgerton” vibes.

I can’t help but rave about the second rose blend in the collection, Sahara Rose. If a rose by any other name would smell as sweet is true, in this case, it’s in part because one doesn’t usually associate the dainty flower with such tricky terroir. And it doesn’t smell at all like anything I’ve encountered on my nanna’s vanity. It’s citrusy, sexy, and playful, unlike any fragrance I’ve smelled and would associate with roses, perhaps due to the signature cocktail of pineapple leaves, blue chamomile, and patchouli (yes, patchouli, but not your college roommate’s version) and saffron. Truly the work of a master perfumier, a CognoScenti extraordinaire. It’s also listed as a unisex fragrance, the first one this gender-normative beauty junkie has ever worn.

It’s incredible that I managed to eke out so much variety, fantasy, and wear from the samples in a single Discovery Set. There are six on offer, and like an in-depth meet-and-greet with the brand’s many offerings, it retails for $30, which per a current promotion provides a $20 credit towards the purchase of a full-sized bottle of the fragrance you prefer. That is if you can choose just one of these complex, luxury perfumes. With the holiday season not too far off, these discovery sets would make great stocking suffers or Secret Santa purchases. Or just treats for your beloved, even if it’s just yourself. These perfumes are worth it, and so are you. After a morning mixology session, a spritz or two of Jasmine Oud here, a bit of Sahara Rose there, I know I don’t just smell divine, I feel like an impeccably-dressed French New Wave starlet up to a bit of fun and mischief, floating high above Gotham’s funk and flotsam, making Habibi New York one of my top three beauty discoveries this summer.


Gesha-Marie Bland

Staff Writer

Not bland at all. Gesha-Marie Bland is an essayist, Vanity Fair-published film and television writer, and unrepentant beauty junkie who jumpstarted her career at NYU’s Master’s Program in Cinema Studies. In homage to her beauty icons Jeanne Moreau, Dolly Parton, and Grace Jones, she is forever in search of the perfect cat-eye liner, a killer pair of heels, and unforgettable statement accessories. Currently NYC-based, this dual American-French citizen still wears all-black and has a soft spot for clean beauty, pharmaceutical-grade actives, and most ingredients sourced from vineyards in the south of France. She loves New Wave cinema, Mary Gaitskill’s fiction, Spain, and matcha double-shots. After selling "The Ripper," her Alexander McQueen-Issie Blow biopic to the Cannes-winning production company Maven Pictures, she remains convinced fashion and couture are the next frontiers for edgy cinematic stories.