Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cuba by Czech & Speake : Perfume Review

Cuba is the first fragrance of British luxury brand Czech & Speake I’ve had the pleasure of sampling. Smelling the beautiful composition for the first time, I realized that it is not just the company’s fittings that have bespoke appeal: this eau is every bit as artisanal and exclusive in feel. Part of their Aromatics line, Cuba was directly inspired by company owner and designer, Frank Sawkin’s trips to the island. The scent was meant to capture his own ‘rich and emotive memories’ of Cuba, and in particular, the rich smell of tobacco that was a constant during his cigar tour trip all over the island. Further inspiration came from a case of 50-year-old rum, bought from Annabel’s nightclub in London. The result is a scent that rejoices in beautiful contradictions: old world charm combined with the cheerfulness of a Cuban street party as well as velvety darkness combined with blinding sun. Considering that the island itself is a world of contradictions, this is a most successful translation.

The opening is joyful and citrusy, bringing to mind a bittersweet Mojito cocktail with its notes of rum, peppermint and lime. I am particularly impressed by the lifelike lime note which instantly evokes images of the fruit being squeezed with gusto by hand over a glass, the citrus oils making the fingers fragrant for hours thereafter. Too, there is a mustiness underlying the citrus fruit scent, lending intelligence and depth to the opening. It is a most gladsome, zesty and energizing opening, causing the heart to beat a little faster to keep up with its rhythm. My nose also identifies traces of jasmine, which help make the top notes rounder and longer lasting. The heart notes take our joyful Cuban fiesta from blindingly bright noon to sundown, with skies of gold and red. Intensely spicy, the clove emerges dark and seducing. Even though it is always a strong, long-lasting note, it is used in perfect proportion in Cuba, making the result sheer and natural. It is combined with highly fragrant bay leaf, which I absolutely adore. Closing my eyes, it takes me back to a time when well-dressed gentlemen still used to place a couple of these most redolent leaves in their wallet to keep it lightly perfumed. The two notes –clove and bay- compliment each other so well, the result is seamless and hazy: It is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. I am left with deep admiration. And the genius of Cuba further becomes evident as the beautiful, rich tobacco note starts rising to the top: Tonka, clove and peppermint were all traditionally used to flavor tobacco and it is revealing of vision and understanding to smell a composition in which all these notes enhance and showcase each other exactly as they were meant to. Aside from augmenting the beauty of the tobacco leaf, the sweet, caramel scent of tonka also pays homage to that old case of rum, whose sumptuous, candied flavor served as direct inspiration for this fragrance. Marvelous! The drydown in turn is soft and warm. Sweet and balsamic, as well as a tad smoky, the result is both cuddly and sensual. The starring note is absolutely gorgeous opoponax: Velvety, dark and comforting.

Cuba is available in 100ml Cologne Spray, as well as 100ml Aftershave. What’s wonderful though, is that it also comes in Bath Oil format. Isn’t that just fabulous? Men need pampering too! Lastly, something which has more to do with the quality of Czech & Speake products in general, rather than Cuba in particular: The spray pump is the best one I’ve ever encountered. It offers complete control – you can spray as lightly or as heavily as you wish. My preferred way is a light mist, which is absolute sensory delight on the skin.

Images: www.czechandspeake.com, www.sxc.hu, commons.wikimedia.org and www.czechandspeake.com


7 comments:

Jenavira13 said...

Oooh, Divina this sounds wonderful and intriguing. I'll have to keep my out on czech and speake. So out of curiosity which season do you think this is best for?

Divina said...

It is indeed beautiful! I've been wearing it all day and I simply can't stop sniffing myself :)

In my opinion it's a scent that's good in every season but summer. I think the balsamic, rich in opoponax, resinous base will not work as well in summer heat.

edwardian said...

I'm so glad you like C&S Cuba, I really love it too.
The tobacco note here is wonderful and the clove, which I find too much elsewhere, is just perfect.
I also love their n. 88 and Neroli cologne, that are more in the tradition of english perfumery (but in the same excellent quality), while Cuba feels more contemporary.

chayaruchama said...

Sounds delicious.....

Divina said...

Edwardian: exactly! The clove is really sheer, while losing none of its character. It is absolutely perfect. I do also love thick, rich clove and carnation, such as found in Caron extraits, but this deviation was unique and exceptional. I haven't smelled no. 88 although it seems to be a must, but in all honesty what I am mostly curious about and wish to sample next is their Frankincense and Myrrh cologne!

Divina said...

Chaya my sweet, it absolutely is!

edwardian said...

I like carnation scents too, and tough I've never smelled any of the Caron extraits I'm quite sure I'd love them.
Floris used to make a very nice EDT
and bath/body line called Malmaison Carnation, but it was discontinued a few years ago to be replaced by the Malmaison EDT in their collection of classic fregrances, which, to my nose, smells different: a little heavier on the spice, while the former was closer to the smell of the wild carnation flower.