Coral Negro: Head notes include citrus and spice, heart notes are mainly tropical florals, and the soul of the scent is sandalwood, amber, with touches of musk and patchouli. Suchel perfumes are award winning scents and the history of perfumery in Cuba is a very old and respected one. The French house of Molinard was at one time a huge favorite in Cuba. Habanita by Molinard is still a popular perfume.
I have a thing for Coral Negro which keeps it in my top five, and here is a quote from from a good friend of mine regarding Coral Negro. I couldn't describe it any better than he does.
"The saleswoman brought out a bottle, she said it was The Black Coral of Suchel for me to try. Instantly I found it to be on par with the best French perfume. It had a warmth, and was seductive. I decided to buy a bottle for my wife. In the days I spent in Cuba, while sampling the handcrafted fragrances offered in the boutiques and visiting the impressive Perfume Museum, it was as if I was in a place like Grasse, but more mysterious ~ with a very, very spirited nightlife. " ~J.C.
Long ago I imagine, in Habana Vieja the old men sat companionably, in well-worn linen suits and savored their espresso. Perfumed women in lovely handmade dresses brought them a light meal and another espresso ( which they had made from the freshest beans, spring water, raw sugar and boiled milk.) The women heated the water, stirred in the coffee, and boiled it for just a second in tiny pots over a fire. They carefully strained it through cloth. The strong scent of the espresso mingled with that of the cigar smoke and perfume on the breeze. When the Italian espresso machine came to Cuba it was met with great enthusiasm, as you can imagine. Since I've been reading the Coffee Messiah's blog I've been wanting an espresso machine. I doubt if I'll ever get one, and so I'll continue to make primative espresso.
Fun Factoid: French Colonists who settled in Cuba in the 1700s set the standards for coffee cultivation, standards that are still maintained today.A friend told me that François-René de Chateaubriand wrote that the Island of Cuba presents itself by the scent of vanillas and the perfume of tropical flowers. I wasn't able to find the exact quote anywhere, but Chateaubriand did spend time in Louisiana and no doubt sailed to Cuba at some point during his tour of The Americas. I've never read any of his books, but while searching for information on his travels, his novels and memoirs looked very interesting.
Perfume bottles are found on old Cuban postage stamps (I tried to find a clearer stamp image, but no luck.)
~ Yesterday's book review made me add a post script to this post.
The flashy cover review caught my eye ~ Rachel Kushner's novel Telex from Cuba set in the 1950's.
"Kushner has fashioned a story that will linger like a whiff of the decadent Colony perfume." ~ Susann Cokal for The New York Times
The Colony perfume she's referring to is Jean Patou's 1938 creation. (A strong tropical rum punch of a chypre with tobacco, leather, woods, and floral notes.)
Other quality perfumes inspired by Cuba include:
Cuba by Czech & Speake of Jermyn Street, London
perfumer: Robert Stephen
Head notes: a nice blend of rum, lime, and mint
Heart notes: rose, spices and bay
Soul notes: spices, tobacco, cedarwood, and tonka bean.
Cuba Express by perfumer Dominique Dubrana
for Abdes Salam Attar Dubrana chose 4 scents that reminded her of Cuba: coffee, tobacco, rum and cacao.
She blended them with tropical fruits and Caribbean spice.