Balenciaga Rumba: Mood Music

Today, the heavens over Britain are laden with volcanic ash, and The Scentimentalist is in a somewhat contentious emotional state. It is a truism that, on dark days like these, only a judiciously chosen scent can lift or transform one’s mood.

Thus, after a couple of hours of grizzling (and hanging back in case the postman decided to drop me off something fragrant), I resolved this morning to confront my antagonists and raise my morale in one fell swoop.
I needed an unexpected scent; I needed to prove my indomitability. I wanted a scent that was ardent and fiery, pugnacious – endangering, even. With unerring instinct, I knew exactly which vial to pluck from my samples box: possibly the most unrepentant of the loudest of the most heavy-hitting scents of the ’80s.
‘Damn the world!’ I declared, belligerent. ‘Today, I am going to wear … Rumba!’
Balenciaga’s fervent, ferocious, untameable, terrible Rumba! A torrid monster confection of flowers, fruit, honey, woods and incense. A sweltering party night in Havana that yields, astonishingly, to the cool of an Eastern Orthodox church.
… And how it worked its rhythmic magic, and how my moods evolved in its wake, as the following scented schema sets out to demonstrate:
Mood One: In its first movement (if you will, for Rumba is nothing less than ‘symphonic’), its colossal floral topnotes propel one instantly into an exercised, dynamic, euphoric mindset. This is the ‘Bring it on!’ (or, in The Scentimentalist’s case, ‘Back off, world!’) stage of the scent’s evolution.
Mood Two: Rumba continues to stimulate via the slow seeping of its ripe, oozing-in-the-punnet soft fruit accords. Note that it intoxicates but avoids veering towards the intemperate; there are no indiscriminate pelvic thrusts here, rather, the assured grace of a sensually executed bolero. This is the confidently sustained, gently dramatic developmental stage.
Mood Three: Rumba has now bloomed and warmed, as has the heart of its wearer, which is cradled in golden honey, tonka, vanilla, tobacco, leather and amber. It is at this stage that wearers begin to feels soothed, and increasingly unburdened.
Mood Four: We are now left with the consoling remnants of Rumba’s aromatic incense notes, which cling to the skin as tenaciously as bukhour clings to an Arab thawb. Here, wearers find themselves contemplative and peacefully reflective, their passions balanced and quelled, their peace of mind restored.
Back in The Scentimentalist’s office, day has now turned to night and the blanket of ash remains suspended above. And, after eight hours’ wear (and counting), it is time to slip the vial of Rumba back into the samples box. Perhaps it will be picked out on some other dark, distant day, when life once more seems bleak and beleaguering and one’s soul calls for recalibration.
It should be noted here that Rumba is a fiendishly anti-social scent.* Yet, for The Scentimentalist, its therapeutic properties are beyond dispute. Latterly dropped by Balenciaga and now distributed by Ted Lapidus, this irrepressible ’80s one-off can be purchased on-line for a song.

*The author took care to wear hers in the home, and with no third parties present.


  1. Audrey von Stickleback17 April 2010 at 14:16

    Dear Scentimentalist, this is another triumph. Thank you. One thing though.. please stay in doors until you've scrubbed yourself clean. Your intrepid dedication to scenti research is admirable.

  2. Great review! Perhaps the beautiful Rumba needs to be re-marketed as "the office scent for people who work at home." Surely, if you wore even a dot of it to any public area, you'd be arrested!;>)

  3. Dear Scentimentalist, surely it's not a coincidence that 'rumble' (as volcanoes do) is like 'Rumba'. Or am I being merely fanciful? I'm shocked to hear you speak with even mild approval of tonka bean and vanilla! Thank you for another wonderful eruption of lava-hot words...

  4. The bottle i was wearing for the past 3 years took a terrible turn..the new one in reserve just didnt smell the same...LOVED..this..i remember free drinks all night thanks to this stinker but alas that too has passed!

  5. What a fabulous record of your one-day stand with this rumbling monster. I look forward to seeing what other emotions are brought to the surface by that volcano!

  6. Thanks, friends! Frances, it's funny, but the tonka-and-vanilla phase of this scent is my favourite, possibly because it is overlaid with a good dose of leathery, tobacco-y stuff, which I always enjoy.

    For me, Rumba will always evoke the Middle East, rather than Latin parts. I lived there in the late '80s and '90s and this perfume was truly MASSIVE. It's understandable why; the incense base is well representative of a great many bukhour-based scents out there. Also, the first person I ever knew to wear it was a very beautiful and elegant Jordanian girl, who was an Arab Christian. Hence the Eastern Orthodox church associations. Rumba Arabica!

    Incidentally, there is still a smudge of it on my computer somewhere and, today, it is knocking me sick!

  7. Fabulous post - and I learnt some new words, notably "thawb", which I confidently expect to feature in a future episode of Doctor Who.

    I must confess to having trouble with this scent already at the "slow seeping of fruit" stage, and I didn't much care for the honey/tobacco/leather/tonka phase if I am honest. I am sure I got rum in there too, possible as a result of its "trompe nez" name.

    Did you want any Que Sais-Je, by the way, or do you have it in your collection? I must try Adieu Sagesse and Colony shortly, thanks to you!

  8. Flit, did you ever see how, in Saudi and Oman and such countries, they stand over the censer and waft the scented smoke up under their thawbs? The incense lingers in the fibres of the fabric for days. I was once given a thawb by a minor princess from one of the Emirates ... it came wrapped in tissue paper, and had been pre-wafted with the finest frankincense. Wow! Anyway, Rumba is like a rather fabulously tawdry variant on that ...

    Have Que Sais-Je, by the way, and am actually wearing it today! Big poofs of peachy chypre emanating from twixt my bosoms!

    And something boozy in Rumba? -- definitely.

  9. Love this review: bought it: love it (in public too!