Essence Rare was created in 1928. Story goes that Houbigant wanted a big time aldehyde perfume to compete with Chanel’s no. 5. So Roure-Bertrand chemist Paul Schving created Essence Rare.
So what does it smell like? It is classified as an aldehydic floral fragrance for women.
- Top notes: aldehydes, bergamot, lily-of-the-valley
- Middle notes: geranium, rose, iris
- Base notes: sandalwood, ambergris, vanilla, oakmoss, musk, tonka bean, vetiver, civet
Houbigant wanted to make an impression, one of luxury and elegance, so they commissioned Baccarat to create a faceted gem like crystal flacon to house the sophisticated perfume.
"ESSENCE RARE!... The essence of an essence, like a many-faceted jewel in a lovely setting. Price, $10 and up."
The Delineator, 1935:
"For those who like de luxe scents but cannot afford them there is a special package of Houbigant's "Essence Rare" in a diamond-shaped flacon."
The New Yorker, 1939:
"Houbigant: Demi Jour, the latest, is such a warm, subtle perfume that people might even think it was a part of your personality. Old favorites are done up in a new way: Essence Rare, for instance, appears in a cut-glass bottle (from $10)"
Drug Topics Redbook, 1941:
" Essence Rare Modele Reduit $10.00 to $80.00, Modele Original $27.50."
Fate of the Fragrance:
It was discontinued for years, probably around 1949.
In 1976, it was reformulated with modern ingredients and relaunched under the Houbigant name but in association with Mem. This version's bottle looked more like tree bark instead of a faceted jewel.
This version was available in:
- fragrance spray
- body fragrance spray (lotion like)
- dusting powder
- Top notes: aldehydes, chamomile, bergamot oil, green note, orange
- Middle notes: Bulgarian rose, geranium, lily, lily of the valley, orris, rose de mai
- Base notes: fig leaf, sandalwood, ambergris, bourbon, civet, musk, oakmoss, tonka bean, vetiver
It has been discontinued again since 1990.
"Also at Altman's is Houbigant's spectacular new fragrance, Essence Rare — a heady treat for both eye and nose in its exquisite flacon sculpted like a rippled waterfall, undulating with dancing lights and twinkly reflections"
Soap, Cosmetics, Chemical Specialties - Volume 52 - Page 55, 1976:
"Essence Rare" is Houbigant, Inc., New York's first major introduction since "Chantilly" in the 40's."
"WE SEARCHED UNTIL WE FOUND THE ESSENCE RARE We searched. Until we found a fragrance that starts softly, develops beautifully and never seems to end. And then we made it in perfume. In cologne spray. And in powdering.Essence Rare by Houbigant."
Photos used in this guide were from the following:
- Perfume Bottles Auction
- Beach Packaging Design