Queue the Omara Portuondo and read on!
Over the last decade, Santa Maria Novella seems to have less and less of a presence in the U.S. Do you, perfume fanatics, anxiously await a new Santa Maria Novella fragrance? I was not even aware of the latest Santa Maria Novella release: Cinquanta. Out of smell...out of mind?
After wearing a slew of dull new releases, I realized I've forgotten to review some old favorites, like Santa Maria Novella Acqua di Cuba. I first bought Acqua di Cuba in Florence at the old Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella near the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. Want to discover the LUSH of the 17th century? Visit that aromatic shop! When confronted with the huge array of perfumes in front of me (and the overwhelming distractions, olfactory and architectural, in that gorgeous environment) I asked the sales associate to let me smell the top-five sellers. In Italian fashion, she ignored four and went directly for an easy-to-reach bottle of Acqua di Cuba. I sniffed. I fell in love. I purchased.
Over the years I've owned several bottles of Acqua di Cuba. In the mid-2000s, when the reformulation craze began, I was afraid to sniff Acqua di Cuba again; I filed it under Great Memories and left it at that. A few weeks ago, I received samples of current Acqua di Cuba; it made it through IFRA alive.
Acqua di Cuba goes on smelling damp and liquor-y with rich, fumy citrus peel and juice aromas; the perfume has a spicy-herbal bite (clove?), but its ingredients are ghostly to me...I can't pin them down. I smell barbershop elixirs (aftershaves and colognes and powders) mixing with dry, blond tobacco leaf, tropical woods and incense. There is a bright spot in Acqua di Cuba's trajectory — a note or accord that smells like a jungle flower (fleshy, sticky-sweet, temperamental) — Will I give you my perfume at midday or at midnight? Acqua di Cuba is "clean" in the Old Style, when perfumes and toiletries had oomph; it has no contemporary/beige"fresh" attitude. Acqua di Cuba makes me 'think pink'...and canary yellow, turquoise and vermilion. Acqua di Cuba is not afraid of attracting attention (and you shouldn't be either, if you wear it).
When I wear Acqua di Cuba, I think of a swarthy and stylish man in Havana, circa 1950, who just slipped out of a chrome and leather barber chair after a trim and a shave (Don't touch the pencil-thin moustache!)
Acqua di Cuba smells wonderful throughout the day; it has great tenacity and good sillage. A long, hot summer is the perfect time to indulge in Acqua di Cuba. Listen to one of hundreds of great Cuban musicians — Esther Borja, Celia Cruz, Roberto Faz, Beny Moré, Toña la Negra, Albita Rodriguez, Olga Guillot — sip a Cuba Libre...or three, then, when appropriately uninhibited — mambo!
Santa Maria Novella Acqua di Cuba is $125 for 100 ml; for buying information, see the listing for Santa Maria Novella under Perfume Houses.
Note: top images of vintage Cuba travel posters via the Science Museum of Long Island.