When summer turns to fall, I wait as long as I can to turn on the furnace. Usually the afternoons will warm up enough that I can wear a sweater in the morning and be fine. But finally the time comes when I dig out the fleece-lined slippers, pad my way to the thermostat, and hold my breath as my ancient furnace kicks in. Within a few minutes the living room fills with warm air and the smell of the first heater run of the year: dust and hot metal. Add a slice of toast with jam, imagine yourself in an ancient church, and presto! you have Balenciaga Rumba perfume.
Rumba is big and deep, and is a strange but compelling combination of a hot electric burner, fruit, and beeswax. Even as an Eau de Toilette, Rumba has maximum sillage. I’m tempted to say that it’s juicy, but its fruit — and there’s lots of it — quickly turns to something richer, like Madeira. Rumba’s flowers appear then disappear then gently reappear amidst the churchy wood, as if they’re blowing in from a night garden. I’ve read reviews of Rumba that compare it to a nightclub, and I imagine a Cuban bar with an outdoor seating area and a palm reader in the corner ready to tell you your fate while you sip your second El Floridita. Meanwhile, the music inside is loud, and a deadly handsome man is watching you (here insert Sean Connery circa 1964). Rumba was introduced in 1988, and the fragrance notes include mirabelle plum, peach, orange blossom, and raspberry up top; magnolia, tuberose, orchid, gardenia, jasmine, carnation, heliotrope, and honey in the middle; and amber, oakmoss, vanilla, sandalwood, tonka bean, musk, and styrax in the base. It was created by perfumers Jean Claude Ellena and Ron Winnegrad.
If Rumba is Ava Gardner, then Talisman is Keira Knightly. Dominique Preyssas created Talisman in 1994. Talisman shares Rumba’s fruit and beeswax, but after a juicy few minutes, it holds to the skin more tightly and simply and finishes with a clean, not animalic, fragrance. Its lasting power is great. Talisman is Rumba’s younger sister, but when she grows up she’ll probably have fewer marriages. She will spend time drinking fruity cocktails with her friends, discussing shoes, and reading chick lit, but she’ll also keep a terrific sparkling rosé in the fridge just in case and have a cache of maps for eventual road trips. She may be happier than her Rumba sister, but her biography won’t be as interesting. Talisman’s notes are lychee, davana, osmanthus, rum, rose, jasmine, patchouli, sandalwood, beeswax, and vanilla.
Rumba and Talisman are sisters, but best suited for different women. If you identify more with Marlo Thomas than Sophia Loren, give Rumba a pass and try Talisman. (If you remember Marlo Thomas in That Girl, you outgrew Talisman a while ago.) On the other hand, if you like Oysters Rockerfeller and actually can Rumba, Rumba might be right for you. Both Rumba and Talisman are perfect fragrances for upcoming cooler days and are available for a song at internet perfume discount sites.
Note: image via Parfum de Pub.