I figure I could be the only one out there who is familiar with Ramu perfume. This is a long-forgotten scent from the late 1960s, but there was a time when Ramu by Kenneth was sold at fancy department stores right alongside power-players like L’Air du Temps & Rochas Femme. It’s now long forgotten by seemingly everyone…except yours truly. The story of Ramu is an interesting one, and the scent itself is distinctive and beautiful.
In the 1960s, hairstylist Kenneth Battelle was gaining national acclaim through his associations with women like Marilyn Monroe & Jacqueline Kennedy. He famously repaired & redefined Marilyn’s over-processed hairstyle by creating for her a softly sweeping, child-like doo. And she considered him a close friend. He was Jackie O’s hairstylist of choice, designing her signature bouffant, and he styled her hair just moments before the motorcade that would see her husband, President John F. Kennedy, fatally shot in 1963. In the early to mid-1960s, Mr. Kenneth was a famous figure whose increasingly high profile led people to seek his autograph at airports. He had the It Factor during this time, and his lavish NYC salon was THE place to be for pampering, relaxation, lunch, and gossip.
It was against this wave of high success laced with tragedy (the deaths of Marilyn & JFK) that Kenneth released Ramu perfume. It came out in 1966, the same year Star Trek debuted on television, and apparently was originally intended for clients & customers of the Kenneth salon. In some old articles promoting the new perfume, it’s mentioned that the name Ramu means “to love” in Sumerian, the ancient Mesopotamian language of the people who built the first cities circa 4,000 BC. The Ramu logo on boxes & full-size bottles even come with the name spelled out in the ancient cuneiform figures of the Sumerian language. Kenneth may have misjudged the depth of the ‘60s trend toward far-out cultures & mysticism: while many people at the time were becoming fascinated with the esoteric, the arcane, and the occult, this ancient Sumerian angle may have been too “high concept” and baffling to potential customers, because the perfume seems not to have sold very well. It’s high price tag and lack of advertising also likely left customers un-enthused. There were many micro-mini sample bottles of Ramu perfume given out, and these tiny bottles can still be found for sale online once in a blue moon, usually in vintage perfume lots, scattered amid tiny vintage bottles of Ma Griffe, Fidji, and the like. By 1968, Kenneth had released a cosmetics line as well and secured a distribution for his products at select department stores all across the country. I have found only two store ads featuring Ramu perfume, and both date from 1968.
I love how in this Lamson’s ad, Mr. Kenneth is pointing with two fingers like a priest performing a benediction…(And the Ramu perfume is his holy water.)
So what does it smell like? A sumptuous and beautiful chypre, with a narcotic & honeyed rose/jasmine heart binding with a high quality orris, set upon a woody vetiver, patchouli, oakmoss base accord. The fragrance is very unique and beautiful. It smells like the love child of Bat-Sheba perfume (Judith Muller) and La Rose by Rochas (a stunning chypre created in 1949 by Edmond Roudnitska). It’s pretty breathtaking stuff, tenacious and deep, honeyed and slightly aromatic: an exalted chypre with perfect proportions and balance. I think this was a very high quality fragrance, I don’t think Mr. Kenneth skimped on this formula at all. Indeed, in interviews he talks constantly about pampering women with luxury in his salon, and this perfume attests to that. The little box to my sample says “Made in France” and I would love to know who the perfumer was. One of the vintage articles mentioning Ramu describes it thusly: “a jasmin-rose floral complex complimented by patchouli, woody vetivert, and mousse de chene.”
I don’t know when Ramu was discontinued. I was introduced to the scent by acquiring a micro-mini in a perfume lot. I applied some and was completely smitten. But when I googled, there was nothing to be found: no pictures of bottles, no reviews, only one or two mentions online, literally. Ramu was a fragrance that never gained a foothold and was lost to time. It has completely slipped through the cracks of vintage-perfumedom. I write this post in hopes that people who do remember Ramu or who find a bottle of it will google and find this post – not be met with the lonely sound of crickets like I was when I searched for online Ramu info.
I now own several tiny mini bottles and one partial half-ounce bottle that I feel so lucky to have acquired. If you have memories of Ramu to share or could provide pictures of your bottle or packaging, that would be fantastic. (And if you have any Ramu to sell, please comment here, I’m definitely interested in buying it!)