You know what I love about perfume? Among many things, I love the swappage – in my case, mostly free samples in and out based on a guess that the recipient might find them interesting.
I opened one envelope recently to find samples of Dominique Ropion´s weird/wonderfest WET, Lothantique Ginger, and Tinderbox, which I believe is a dupe of Faberge Woodhue. Let´s pause for a moment and ponder — how a great a selection is that? That´s like when they ask some wack LA hostess, who would be the ideal guests at your dinner party? And she comes up with Proust, Henry VIII and Buckethead. Where to start?
At that moment, though, I had already started, and was struggling with the realization – how had I missed the totally obnoxious opening of David Yurman? I´d quasi-dismissed it as money disguised as taste, and now I´m not even sure I´m willing to go that far. It´s like that customer at the makeup counter whose neutral palette and trying-too-hard casualness are screaming out, I spent three hours and thousands of dollars to look this effortless! What is that opening? It´s part metallic and part soapy and all up in my face. I got so aggravated I took the Dawn to it (begone, taupe harpy!) and searched around for something else.
Which is when I saw the Balenciaga Rumba and realized it was perfect antidote. We have been having the most bizarre weather – quite fall-like in August in the DC area, when it is usually hellish enough here to remind you why everybody leaves for the beach or the
Believe it or not, Rumba was created by Jean Claude Ellena and Ronn Winnegrad, which gives it some cred where some might be inclined to write it off. The notes I find listed vary, but this is as good as any: peach, plum, orchid, magnolia, jasmine, tuberose, amber, vanilla, musk, moss and leather. Online discounters describe it breathlessly along these lines: “Rumba is a passionate dance with notes of exotic trees and a classic, warm trail of musk and vanilla” blah blah blah.
I’ll be honest — Rumba sounds deeply, desperately not my sort of thing. Clearly this is supposed to be some sexxxay perfume, all dance-club ready (or perhaps out for an evening spin on the floor with your ballroom dancing group). But I can´t help it; I can´t move myself away from its snuggliness. It is sweet, more jam than fruit, but not sickeningly sweet. There is a dusty warmth that appears at the opening and never fades away. The musky base tempers the sweetness but still doesn’t remove the fragrance into anything I’d describe as sexy. That’s pretty much the whole story. Rumba has extraordinary lasting power on me; I applied it at noon and it was still very much there the following morning.
To me, Rumba is as exotic as a plush teddy bear, with all the edgy angularity of a fleece bathrobe. I don´t mean that disrespectfully; I think it´s lovely. It is absolutely the fragrance I´d put on following a hot bath after a crappy day in the long, cold depths of winter. Then I´d wrap my wet hair in a towel, make some hot cocoa and read back issues of Allure with my feet propped up. I feel honor-bound to point out that looking at Basenotes, Rumba is a love-it-or-hate it, with the dreaded old-lady insult lobbed around by the less than thrilled. They´re wrong, though. I would advise some restraint with the atomizer, but how can you throw darts at something so cuddly?
I need to credit Angela´s review on Now Smell This for making me seek out Rumba. She talks about comparing it to “dust and hot metal” and that funny smell the first time you turn the heat on in the winter. That´s a characteristic it shares with Fendi Asja, although Rumba is jammier.
Notes for Asja from my earlier post: bergamot, peach, apricot, raspberry, Bulgarian rose, ylang-ylang, Egyptian jasmine, nutmeg, cinnamon, mimosa, lily of the valley, honey, carnation, orchid, vanilla, sandalwood, cedar, musk, benzoin, balsamic styrax and amber, so there are definitely some similarities between the two in the kitchen-sink Oriental department.
It is interesting to compare fragrances that you think smell similar, as Angela did the other day on NST with Tabu and Youth Dew – side by side, they often smell less similar than you´d think. For instance, Angela declared that next to Tabu, Youth Dew smells “cleaner” and “almost prim by comparison.” (Which, if nothing else, means I am really overdue to sniff Tabu, since I find Youth Dew pretty ripe.) Comparing Asja to Rumba, I was struck by Asja´s mannered restraint – if it is a pale pink cashmere sweater, Rumba is a raspberry-colored tracksuit. Asja is sorbet; Rumba is jam. I´d layer them, but Rumba would eat Asja like a goldfish cracker and that would be that. So, as it turns out, I do need both of them this coming winter after all.
images: vivaterra.com; grandcanyonteddybears.com