For decades, Cuba has held a special place in the hearts of many artists and creators. Hemingway famously made his home outside of Havana for more than 20 years, returning there from assignments in Europe and Africa, and using the country as a muse for one of his most critically acclaimed works: The Old Man and the Sea. In the years since, countless writers have visited – partly in pilgrimage to their literary hero, but equally for a glimpse at the still largely mysterious country which, under Castro’s leadership, was closed to the world for so many years.
Photographers also love to document the splendour of Cuba’s architecture; crumbling now, but no less magnificent, with its Spanish and Arab styles mixed with curvilinear art deco and art nouveau influences. And is there a more quintessentially Cuban image than one showing a vintage American car in front of a row of buildings painted in every electrifying tropical hue?
Indeed to the outside world, Cuba seems a riot of colour, music, and the laughter of its people. If it’s a little faded around the edges, that only adds to its charm. This was also the starting point for LUMIRA’s Almira Armstrong when she came to create Cuban Tobacco, the scent based on the country she visited in 2005.
“This scent was drawn from inspiration from the streets and old world of Havana, from the people, food and interiors,” Armstrong recalls. “My favourite memory is of simply walking the streets – I loved seeing the people and their happy faces. They seemed so content with their life surrounded by this old-world beauty.”
A year in creation, Cuban Tobacco was also born from a desire to create a truly unisex scent. Since its launch in 2014, it’s become a bestseller and a firm favourite with both men and women, including model and LUMIRA collaborator Nicole Trunfio. It opens with warm notes of cardamom, clove and tangerine, before the namesake tobacco kicks in. Patchouli, vanilla and musk round it out with an earthy sweetness. An ideal winter scent, it brings warmth to any room and is equally sumptuous when worn on the body, via the perfumed oil.
Julia Sawalha, the actress best known for playing Saffron in Absolutely Fabulous, once said that, “Cuba is such a beautiful country, and everywhere you go, there’s music and people dancing – especially in Havana.” Cuban Tobacco is the olfactory equivalent of this earthy and very authentic joy.
Streets of Havana, Photography via NY Times (Tomas Munita for The New York Times)
El Capitolio, the National Capitol Building in Havana, Photography via NY TImes (Robert Rausch for The New York Times)
The Hall of Mirrors in the Presidential Palace, Photography via W Magazine (Photo from "The Splendor of Cuba: 450 Years of Architecture and Interiors," Rizzoli New York, 2011)
Written by Michelle Bateman