A perfumer from Cuba creates a locally crafted fragrance with an unexpected ingredient.

Tobacco Perfume
Tobacco Fields

A perfumer from Cuba creates a locally crafted fragrance with an unexpected ingredient.

A Cuban entrepreneur has developed what she believes to be a distinctive homegrown perfume, aiming to eventually introduce it to global markets. Her unique ingredient? The prized tobacco leaf of Cuba. This leaf, a top export and well-known product of the country, flourishes primarily in Pinar del Rio province, renowned worldwide for its superior tobacco and cigars.

In her modest laboratory adjacent to her family residence, Clara Camalleri, 53, revealed to Reuters her process of crushing the green, veiny cigar leaves and blending their fragrant essence with alcohol and other extracts. She asserts that this incorporation lends her perfume, dubbed "Vitola Cubana," a unique and well-rounded aroma.

Camalleri describes the scent of her tobacco-infused perfume as "exotic," featuring notes of "acid and wood" that contribute to its alluring and distinctive character. She commenced crafting perfumes domestically in 2018 but established her business more recently, following the Cuban government's decision to lift a long-standing ban on private enterprises, a policy in effect since Fidel Castro's revolution in 1959.

Navigating Cuba's current severe economic crisis presents significant challenges for entrepreneurs, Camalleri emphasizes, recalling a recent morning spent working during a blackout. She elaborates on the complexities of perfume production, citing hurdles related to sourcing raw materials, managing imports, and securing essential resources like electricity and packaging. Despite these obstacles, Camalleri remains determined to overcome the difficulties and bring her unique fragrance to fruition.

Despite facing obstacles, Camalleri extends her production to include a variety of other fragrances, such as antibacterial gels and colognes crafted from essences extracted from sunflower, chocolate, coffee, and cinnamon. Collaborating with her mother, father, and two daughters, she expresses her aspiration to eventually export her products. However, in the interim, she has discovered a robust market within Cuba itself.

"In Cuba, there's a scarcity of perfumes... and thus, we're striving to address this demand," Camalleri remarked.


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