Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Golden caramelized plum on an animalic base is the best way to describe Rumba, a fragrance created for Balenciaga by Ron Winnegrad and Jean-Claude Ellena in 1988. Unlike some of Jean-Claude Ellena’s recent creations, such as his fragrances for The Different Company and Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums, Rumba is miles away from minimalist. It is vibrant and exuberant, expanding into waves of warmth interspersed by beguiling darkness.
A golden plum note appears once the fragrance unfolds on the skin. The honeyed juiciness embraces a sweet note of orange blossom, which gives radiance and softness. Rumba’s fruit notes are much more impressionistic than photorealistic, revealing just a teasing luscious hint. However, neither like the dance from which it derives its name, can Rumba be called subtle.
It sheds the sweetness of its top notes, presenting a heady and opulent floral bouquet, dominated by creamy tuberose, powdery heliotrope and leather tinged magnolia. A hot mélange of floral notes hides an animalic undercurrent, which at first resurfaces as a whisper of warm skin. Juxtaposed with the smell of church incense and beeswax candles, the result is odd and unexpectedly sensual. The composition unfolds into vivid hot layers, shedding them one by one before revealing the base notes layered in amber and musk. The golden plum that first appeared in the top notes slowly caramelizes and seeps its sticky hot juices into the leather imbued with balsamic vanilla. The animalic element of the main accord prevents the composition from turning sweet, softening the heady opulence with its velvety darkness.
While it seems to have fallen into an undeserved oblivion, Rumba is easily obtainable from a variety of online discount sites, as the following google search demonstrates. Notes are mirabelle plum, peach, orange blossom, raspberry; magnolia, tuberose, orchid, gardenia, jasmine, carnation, heliotrope, honey, lily of the valley; amber, oakmoss, vanilla, sandalwood, cedarwood, tonka bean, musk, styrax.
1991 advertisement from psine.net