Hiding in Plain Sight: Acqua di Parma Profumo
Does anyone else think of light floral scents and not much else from Acqua di Parma? Violet of course, as well as magnolia and iris soliflores, and the Colonia unisex eau de cologne, but not what some people would call “serious perfume.” For some reason I never knew that there was a chypre in the line, but when a friend sent me a sample of their Profumo I did a double take. This gorgeous thing was from a house known for its sweet little violets and light cologne? Tell me more!
Acqua di Parma Profumo has the easy, understated grace so often found in better Italian fragrances. It's one of those rare scents that seems to be perfect for just about any occasion you can think of, the one you reach for when nothing else seems right, yet it has a very distinctive character of its own too; it's no “wallpaper” fragrance. My first encounter with Profumo was the current version; the scent was originally launched in 1930, relaunched in 2000, but was reformulated in 2008 presumably due to the new IFRA restrictions on natural materials. This means no actual oakmoss, but it's a delight anyway. Silky smooth soft woody modern chypre character, and immediately likeable even for someone like me who is suspicious of fragrances with the chypre label that don't have the classic base. At first it reminded me of Balmain's Ambre Gris and other similar types with a clean musk base, but it never went “laundry” or sharp on my skin like so many of these will do. In fact it actually has a rather creamy character once it warms up and the citrus opening of bergamot and a particularly delightful orange subsides. The floral heart of jasmine, rose, ylang ylang and a very generous dose of iris is just gorgeous. Warm and ambery base notes create an enveloping embrace for this elegant composition, and it's one of the rare recent reformulations that I can recommend wholeheartedly.
I can say this because I have also tried the previous version; after sampling the 2008 release, I became curious about the older one and I bought a mini of it online. When I tried it out I knew immediately that it was indeed the pre-reformulation one, because it had the real oakmoss and patchouli notes right from the start. What is does share with the new one is a soft and gentle quality that's uncommon in chypres, and its restrained and elegant character is truly outstanding. To me it smells rather like a misty, romantic Miss Dior as if experienced through a gauzy filter. Now I love Miss Dior as much as anyone, but she is a powerful presence, so if you love her too and you are unhappy with what an unfortunate reformulation has done to that great icon, it's worth it to seek out the older formula of Profumo as a possible alternative, especially when you know how much the vintage Miss Dior is commanding at auction sites.
The bottles of both iterations look very much the same if not identical, but the boxes are different. The old one is a deep brick red and the new one is a creamy off-white. If you are buying online, be sure to verify which one you are getting if there is a stock photo, or if only the bottle is shown. This one will set you back a significant amount (about $200 USD for 50 ml) per bottle so be sure you are getting the one you want, or try a mini first. The bottles are striking works of modern art themselves, and all the better for what's inside. You can also read Marina’s take on this one from several years ago. Apparently I should have paid more attention back then too!
Image credit: Acqua di Parma Profumo bottle from polyvore.com