A*Men Pure Havane Eau de Toilette by Mugler Review

Collage of A*Men Pure Havane by Mugler and its notes including tobacco, patchouli, honey, vanilla, cacao, and labdanum.

Mugler’s Pure Havane was a fragrance I loved and never fully understood. It was one of my very first favorite perfumes. I fell in love with it before I had the vocabulary to write about perfume the way I do now. I scoured my sample drawer the other day for even a drop of it, and it seems I used it all up with love and without overthinking even a jot.

And so I’m left with what I remember:

I remember honey and tobacco. I remember sunshine and summer and sweetness, golden and honeyed but not cloying. I remember a pyramid of sweet notes balancing out the semi-fresh plantiness of tobacco exquisitely.

I remember thinking this fragrance would be even better in winter and then using my whole decant up before the end of fall.

I remember having Beginner Fragrance Wearer Thoughts about wearing a “for men” scent as a woman. I remembered feeling a little swaggering rebellious, utterly cool and carefree with a saccharine-sweet streak.

A rolled paper message in a glass bottle in the ocean, with a seagull flying overhead.

I remember wearing Pure Havane on a gorgeous sunny day in July, wearing a long white dress and walking along Lake Erie. Or, rather, walking a sizeable distance from Lake Erie so as to avoid getting dirty muddy water all over my white dress.

(While we’re at it, anyone who says they love long walks on the beach has obviously never been to the Great Lakes. Your options for walking surfaces are sticks, rocks, ambiguous spiky objects, scorching hot dry sand, actual quicksand, and freezing cold water. Literally the most uncomfortable long walk experience. 0/10. Anyway.)

I remember honey and tobacco, all-encompassing honey and tobacco.

I remember trying to sniff out the supporting notes. The sweet vanilla, labdanum, and styrax propping up the honey at the base. The cacao and patchouli hiding within the tobacco accord. I remember not even pretending to get it. I remember loving that honey and tobacco and I remember that was enough.

I remember delightful unisex sweetness and the comfort of the tobacco texture I could only describe as “planty.”

And then…

Oh my God.

And then I actually find my sample vial of Pure Havane somewhere in the depths of my overly complicated one-milliliter vial organizer.

I made that paperboard grid myself out of a cut-up envelope box!

And now, here’s what I think:

Rich, ripe tobacco. Surprisingly fruity and fresh around the edges. People always say cherry when it comes to fruity notes in tobacco, but somehow this is reminding me more of apples — real fresh apples and apple pie, not some sort of heavy smoggy cinnamon apple candle. Okay, there’s a bit of cinnamon. But mostly this is fresh apples with a sour edge and honey drizzled on the side. Juicy and gloriously tart. Almost boozy.

Something very clever is happening to produce that effect, and I can’t quite figure out what it is. There’s almost something a little… stinky to the edge of the apple note, sour in a way that turns down into bitter, emphasizing the honey sweetness on the other side. Something in me thinks patchouli is at play here.

A stalk of light green, leafy patchouli with tiny white flowers.

Those sour green apples dusted with cinnamon and drizzled with honey lie on a rich bed of tobacco. The result is pure comfort that’s a little sweet, a little juicy, a little dusty. There’s a dustiness that reminds me of old books the same way Serge Lutens’ Santal Majuscule does: cacao powder, dry and quietly vanillic, almost woody, almost papery.

And yet, the overall texture of the scent is rich and, well, planty. It balances juiciness with dry papery texture in the swirled living heart of the tobacco plant. This is a gorgeous tobacco note that’s simply beyond words, surrounded by juicy, creamy, bitter, sweet and sour notes.

What does tobacco smell like?

Pure Havane had been my first tobacco fragrance. I’d been half-expecting some sort of nasty cigarette smoke scent. But no. It’s dusty, almost powdery, like rich, dark, smooth plant powder. It’s comforting and classy, mellow and a little warm, dignified and romantic without being sweet. It’s almost more woody in timbre than herbal or green, rich and cozy, enveloping you in its aroma and making you feel incredibly safe.

Pure Havane is far fruitier than I’d remembered. It’s juicier and brighter. And yet, the sweetness isn’t at all nauseating. This is how you use a light hint of sweetness in a fragrance. It’s justified here. It’s balanced. It isn’t a gratuitous pile of sugar, but a balancing act with just a little honey drizzled on top. This is how it’s done.

A light-brown apple pie decorated ornately with red apple slices on a green, white, and brown round dish.

Whose idea was it to discontinue Pure Havane? It’s gorgeous.

I have half a milliliter left, but I’m almost scared to use it up now that it’s been discontinued. It’ll join the ranks of scents like Sarah Jessica Parker’s Stash: recently discontinued perfumes and colognes I am too heartbroken to keep wearing.

But if you’re determined to break your own heart, Pure Havane is a worthwhile cause, and there are still bottles and samples floating around. I can’t wholeheartedly urge people to stay away from the gorgeous thing I know is going to hurt them.

If you’re a lover of tobacco fragrances, go and try Pure Havane. If you love that comforting cinnamon apple pie vibe but are looking for a more restrained, classy version of it, go and try Pure Havane. This is like the classy tobacco take on that entire genre of boozy apple pie scents first launched by Hermès’ Ambre Narguile and swiftly ballooned by copycats like Parfums de Marly’s Oajan and By Kilian’s Angel’s Share.

Those compositions are far too over-the-top for me, too decadent and sweet and spicy and boozy and rich. But Pure Havane? Pure Havane is just right. It’s just a hint of that cozy apple pie vibe, done photorealistically and well, blended into the finest tobacco scent known to man.

I’m very sensitive about fragrance sweetness, and this is not overwhelmingly sweet. Not at all. It’s a perfectly balanced glory. I’ll forever feel rather fond of it and quite upset it’s been discontinued.

A glass jar with a metal lid wound with twine labeled caramel. It is full of medium-brown liquid.

If Pure Havane hadn’t been discontinued, I would have lined Mugler’s pockets with my love for this scent. I want to smell it on myself, on my boyfriend, on my brother, on my worst enemy. I want everyone to enjoy it with me.

This is rich and slightly dusty in a way that feels… gentlemanly. It’s distinguished and dignified in a way that would feel incredible on fancy dates, whether solo or with a partner. It might feel a bit out of place day-to-day at the office, a bit too much, a but too precious.

Or maybe not. If you have a better stomach than I do for enjoying the best of life every day, for enjoying the greatest little pleasures and celebrating even when there’s nothing in particular to celebrate, this could make a classy and lovely office scent indeed. Just be warned when everyone in your vicinity starts falling in love with you at the water cooler.

I’ve also heard some people say that older batches of Pure Havane are more fruity and juicy, while newer ones are more caramel-sweet cigar. Many people describe this as a sweetness with a caramel-smooth timbre. It honestly doesn’t feel at all like a caramel note to me. It isn’t burnt sugar or overly saccharine. Nope, just a modest hint of sweetness within the bouquet of tobacco and apple pie.

A glass jar of liquid honey wound with twine.

Honestly, this doesn’t even come off as excessively realistic honey to me, just a modest hint of comforting dusty sweet. This is no Zoologist Bee. It’s not even a sickly-sweet Amouage Journey Woman. The honey note here is modest, quiet, and vague, a gentle hint of something golden rather than a sickly drip of sugar as it is in many perfumes.

What a gorgeous thing A*Men Pure Havane is. Nose Jacques Huclier has created an incredibly subtle, balanced tobacco gourmand. It’s so easy to overdo it on the sugar and spice and everything nice in a gourmand perfume, but this is not that. There’s a comforting apple pie thing going on, but it’s restrained, subdued, held in place by a comforting bouquet of papery cacao powder and tobacco.

I let my boyfriend smell the fingertips on which I’d judiciously applied the faintest hint of Pure Havane.

“Apple pie with a scoop of ice cream,” he said.

A leather-bound book with yellowing pages flipped open to a page near the end, with a pair of glasses sitting on top of it.

This really is, to me, the most muted and classy of the apple pie perfumes. I group it in more with the likes of Ambre Narguile than I do with other tobacco fragrances like Serge Lutens’ Chergui. It’s the most dusty and powdery of them all, the most diffuse, with a texture that makes me think of creaking old wooden shelves in libraries weighed down by books.

It’s positively bookish. The BookTok/PerfumeTok collaborative love for this one would be bonkers if it hadn’t been discontinued. Much like Santal Majuscule, it doesn’t literally smell like photorealistic books, but there’s a powdery, dusty dryness to it along with a classic, gentlemanly, refined aesthetic to the other notes. And, of course, there’s a heaping pile of apples with cinnamon on top.

It’s apple pie and old paper, apple pie for the book lover, apple pie for the person who loves thrifting woolen suit jackets, apple pie for the smoker for the Cuban cherry cigar.

I wandered out into the world of Ambre Narguile and its clones looking for the perfect comforting apple pie sort of scent, but found each of them too sweet, too cloying, too synthetic, too one-dimensional. It turns out what I was looking for was here the whole time, forgotten among my very first beloved perfume samples.

A large brown wooden lit cigar with a puff of white smoke.

What I was looking for is also, tragically, discontinued. But you can still find samples and bottles here and there. If what I’m describing sounds like your cup of tea — your puff of cigar smoke — your slice of pie, don’t hesitate. Get your hands on Mugler’s Pure Havane while you can, if you can, where you can.

Dignified and cozy heartbreak in a bottle. By some miracle, samples and decants are still available at Scent Split. If you like tobacco and cozy apple pie scents, run, don’t walk.

Where to Find A*Men Pure Havane Eau de Toilette by Mugler

You can find samples and decants of A*Men Pure Havane EdT at Scent Split.

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