It is said that the birth of perfume dates back to the Stone Age when aromatic wood and resins were burned to honor deities. Surviving Sumerian texts (3500 BC) mention the uses of aromatic ointments, oils and perfumes.
Perfumes arrived in the port of Havana in the 17th Century. Some time later the famous French houses of Molinard and Guerlain opened branches, followed by several others since Cuban women of the time were great consumers of perfume, especially eau de cologne after bathing. They also used sachets of mint leaves and petals of violets, roses and other aromatic plants on the shelves where they kept their undergarments.
Although today we can choose among a great variety of available industrial perfumes, there is one store distinguished for offering customized colonial fragrances for a variety of tastes.
Crossing the threshold of the Habana 1791 facility, in its 18th Century house on Mercaderes Street between Obrapia and Lamparilla Streets in Old Havana, we are immediately surrounded with the delightful fragrances of jasmine, violet, orange blossom, lilac, vetiver, sandalwood, and lavender.
Here, you can choose the flower for your cologne and you can also choose an elegant period flask made by Cuban ceramists and smiths to contain it.
Chief perfumer Yanelda Mendoza of Habana 1791 explains that the house was opened in 2000 to "recall the smells of colonial Havana".
"We researched history for the fragrances of the time and how were they used and bottled. In colonial times there were sachets besides eau de cologne."
The exquisite perfumes prepared by Mendoza deserve fine containers. The bottle should also be a jewel, and several artists take care of it, creating truly magnificent works of art.
Among the flask creators are Evelio Mendoza, Ernesto Gener and Marcel Ramirez. Mendoza, the eldest, showed us a beautiful flask and a cameo on a chain, both made of gold. Ernesto Gener, with 16 years experience, makes stylized and personal flasks.
Marcel, the youngest, competes with original and daring designs like the flask made out of a horn and silver. The three have shown collectively in national exhibitions and some of their work is part of private collections in Latin America and Europe.
The exclusive offer of the store is completed with services including floral therapy and aromatherapy, apart from the sale of jewelry by the San Eloy Silversmith Congregation.
Atomizers and candles together with exquisite silver jewelry complement the essence of Habana 1791.
Rose: Sensual and aromatic, it neutralizes violent and aggressive feelings. It is associated with love and advised for the treatment of liver diseases.
Tobacco: Intense and rhythmic scent, it was used in the past to clear the mind, lift the spirit and invite to pleasure. It is an aroma related to masculinity.
Jasmine: Exotic, sensual, relaxing and aphrodisiac, it is capable of awakening sexual appetites and, at the same time, is relaxing to ensure good sleep. Cuban grandmothers used it as a calming tea.
Orange Blossom: It is a greatly appreciated essence for its incomparable aroma. It works on the digestive system and aids better sleep. It is greatly used in brides' bouquets to work in the areas of aphrodisiac, emotion, delicacy and sensuality.
Sandalwood: Perfumed wood used during religious ceremonies, it lifts the spirit. Its soft, wood-like and intense aroma works on the nervous system favoring relaxation. It is said to be ruled by Jupiter and the Sun, symbols of good fortune.
Citrus: Its relaxing and invigorating properties are excellent for eau de cologne. Its smell is fresh and contagious, inviting to life.
Vetivert: From the roots of this plant is extraded an oil having an intense aroma with sedative properties and sometimes tonic ones. Its woody smell ranges from sweet to dry.
Lilac: A persistent and sticky aroma, it helps concentration and clears the mind. It is very feminine and is sometimes able to recall a person or moment.
Ang-lIang: Its name means flower among flowers. Its most precious essence is the one from yellow flowers. It calms the heart and is useful when decreasing libido.
Patchouli: Its dense and persistent odor reminds you of environments laden with species, mysteries and emotions. It is strongly aphrodisiac. It invigorates and stimulates.
Lavender: Its name comes from Latin lavare. It helps in overcoming fears. Strengthens women's ego and stabilizes emotions. It is a fragrance for emotional and psychic balance. It is also a stimulant and tonic.
Violets: They are the symbol of love. This flower is associated with modesty and shyness. Its color is a meeting between passion (red) and intelligence (blue). Its perfume comforts and strengthens the heart. It is very feminine.