The Dark Heart of Old Havana is a vanilla fragrance from 4160 Tuesdays, which I fully expected to love, judging by its description as a “tobacco, fruity oriental” with notes which include: vanilla, sugar, tobacco, orange, bergamot, coffee, tonka, and geranium. I was sorely mistaken.
The Dark Heart of Old Havana starts out as a complete, absolute copy of Profumum Roma‘s much loved Dulcis in Fundo, from the bright, fleeting citric start and hint of booziness, right down to the waffle cone, dark vanilla. Then, it turns into a virtual copy of Serge Lutens‘ Un Bois Vanille, the reformulated version. Unfortunately, it’s a terrible interpretation of both scents. [UPDATE 7/5/14 — Since 4160 Tuesdays owner believes that my comparisons and statements are libelous, let me be clear about what I’m saying: the perfume’s aroma opens on my skin with the same bouquet of notes as that in the Profumum scent before turning into the same bouquet as that of the Serge Lutens. That is my opinion of what is appearing on my skin, and the way I am describing how The Dark Heart of Old Havana’s opening smells like to me.]
There are differences, but only of degree, balance, and quality. For example, The Dark Heart of Old Havana is nowhere as rich, luxurious, opulent, or dense as the Profumum scent. More importantly, it isn’t as well-balanced in its sweetness which is wholly cloying in Old Havana, and verges on really bad burnt sugar, mixed with a dash of dirty, dark tobacco lurking in the base. For the same reason, it is also substantially sweeter than even the reformulated version of Un Bois Vanille, though it shares a similar sort of acrid darkness.
And where Old Havana differs most from both scents is in having such a massive amount of synthetics that I quickly ended up with the most walloping migraine, one which not even 4 Tylenols could fix. In addition, the back of my throat seized up, something which almost never happens to me, despite my occasional sensitivity to the heavy use of synthetics. Yet, it occurred both times that I wore The Dark Heart of Old Havana, and regardless of the quantity that I applied. In contrast, I didn’t have any reaction to “The Sexiest Scent On the Planet. Ever (IMHO),” even with all its ISO E Super and white musk, so that should tell you something.
I think the problem in Old Havana is something vaguely soapy, clean, but also distinctly bitter that lurks at the edges. Perhaps it’s the geranium note that is listed. Or, it might be the very abrasive, sharp, clean musk. Then again, who knows? It might well be the diabetes-inducing, dripping sugariness and cheap vanilla. Those of you who think Un Bois Vanille is too sugary after its reformulation, pay heed; the amount in The Dark Heart of Old Havana is at galactic levels in comparison.
The bottom line is that The Dark Heart of Old Havana is synthetic to high heaven, with a gross imbalance in the sweetness, and some distinctly unpleasant, acrid, or sharp bits. It does improve at the end of 4 hours, but it’s too little, too late. Plus, all that really happens is that The Dark Heart of Old Havana returns to its Dulcis in Fundo clone state as a waffle-cone vanilla that lies on the skin as a sheer, translucent smear of sweetness. It isn’t terrible at this point and the sweetness is finally balanced, but, frankly, I wasn’t in a good mood after the earlier hours. It had taken a lot of effort to persists and not to scrub the damn thing off.
As a blogger, I find it difficult to know how I’m supposed to review the scent. After all, what is there that I could really say about it that would warrant a full, individual analysis, other than to say that 4160 Tuesdays has taken two very famous vanilla fragrances, combined them, and treated both of them badly? Ms. McCartney is a self-taught perfumer and one wants to support a one-woman show, so I’ll censor the words which I would have if I were reviewing a fragrance from a large perfume house. I do want to note something, however. On a Facebook perfume group, I saw a post by a her a few days ago — but now deleted — which said something to the effect of how she’d gotten the Guerlain Meteorites and could now copy the scent. I remember vividly both the comment and the attached photo, so I looked for it last night to screen-cap it as proof but, as I said, it’s now been deleted. My advice would be not to copy other perfumes.
[UPDATE 7/4/14 — Ms. McCartney has responded in the comments below, stating that she has never intentionally copied anything, and clarifying as well the situation with the Guerlain Meteorites and the missing post. She did not delete it, but it seems to have mysteriously vanished as she cannot find it, either. Since its disappearance led to a incorrect conclusion on my part, let me apologise here and again to Ms. McCartney as I did down below. You can read Ms. McCartney’s response in full, but it is only fair to highlight right here her explanation of the Guerlain Meteorites situation and what she meant by her comment:
I haven’t taken down a post about Les Meteorites, but I can’t find it either. The point i was making was that I love it, I was delighted to have got a bottle off eBay, and it’s discontinued, so if I want something like it – for myself – I would have to make my own. I think it said that I was relieved to realise that I might be able to recreate it.
But in perfume this is normal. At perfume school – like art school where people used to spend years copying other people’s works to develop their skills – students learn to make copies of all the classics. As you say, I didn’t go to perfume school, but I still did the coursework. What I didn’t post or imply was that this is my usual method for the scents I make to market as my own. The one post I did find was a tweet @Guerlain to ask M Wasser to remake it. Perhaps that helps to explain the spirit in which I wrote the mysteriously missing message.
I stand by my opinion about how The Dark Heart of Old Havana smells on me, but I do apologise for misinterpreting her comment about recreating the scent of the Guerlain Meteorites.]
On Fragrantica, there are some people who love The Dark Heart of Old Havana, but the majority of the reviews are negative, and talk about its burnt, plastic, bitter, “dirty ashtray,” or rotting garbage aromas, as well as its “sickening” sweetness. To be fair and to counter my own take on the perfume, here are a few of the positive comments about The Dark Heart of Old Havana:
- I can see why this would get mixed reviews. This is not a ‘safe’ frag. This is dark, dirty, sweaty, sweet and nasty – in the sexiest possible way. This fragrance is fighting and fucking and laughing and fighting again, without showering. The sugar here is almost black. It’s crude, unrefined, boiled until it’s a black, smoky syrup. The tobacco is smoky and hot. The fruits, those glorious fruits!, are overripe to the point of rot. Sitting in the hot sun, beginning to ferment in the heavy, still miasma. [¶] I agree there is an undercurrent of rotting sweet flesh here, but to my nose it makes it all the sexier. The rotten thread adds a beautiful counterpoint to the unrelenting, burnt-honey sweetness that pervades this.
- Wearing this perfume feel like doing something wrong, something dirty, something forbidden but yet oh so enjoyable. The overwhelming sweetness was a bit too much in the beginning, but I soon developed a kind of stockholm syndrome to it and kept sniffing all day and reapplying when it began to fade after 5-6 hours. All day at the office it kept giving me flashbacks from good one night stands I had forgotten. In a good way. This is a dirty scent, like “watching True Blood and getting surprisingly turned on by vampire sex”-dirty. I love it.
I’m glad it works for someone.
Disclosure: My sample was kindly provided by Luckyscent. That did not influence this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.