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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hiding in Plain Sight: Acqua di Parma Profumo

By Donna

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

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Blogger Heidi said...

Nice review of a beautiful fragrance, Donna. I love the plushness of Profumo. It makes me feel elegant and pampered!

12:44 AM EDT  
Blogger Katie Puckrik said...

I'm kicking myself for not buying the pre-reformulated one when I smelled it at Barneys years ago. I remember being utterly in thrall to how "serious" it smelled, so "brand new vintage" - like pristine dead stock 40's heels. I hesitated, because I wasn't sure I could carry it off. And now I'm whining to you about missing out on it. Thanks for the post, Donna!

2:14 AM EDT  
Blogger Tama said...

I need to try this - I am finally starting to come around to chypres, but I actually am preferring modern versions. Vintage oakmoss scents do not dry down well on me. I like the new Miss Dior just fine, and recently bought Ineke's Gilded Lily, which is a fruity chypre. This whole line is one I have yet to deeply explore - I know it has a lot of fans. I am particularly fond of that lovely bottle, I must say. Lovely review!

2:20 AM EDT  
Blogger Tania said...

I've got the pre-reformulation one in the brick-red packaging.

Look away now, Katie ;-) - I found it half-price online, because the packaging was 'old' and slightly damaged. I guess the vendor hadn't realised, or didn't care, that the new packaging also meant a new formula, and pre-reformulation scents are sought-after.

Anyway, I love it, and feel lucky to have found it.
But now I am curious about the new version, after this lovely review. I'll give that a spray next time I see it.

6:53 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh dear. People have been raving about it for some time now, and I've been steadfastly avoiding.

But there are minis available for $15.

But I'm iffy about chypres.

But it might be floral enough for me. (cheap!)

But I did not get on with Vert pour Madame. It was, I don't know, unfriendly. I think I'd far rather have had Dawn's Essense Oil recreation of Coty Chypre.


I'd probably better go ahead and snap up a $15 mini (I pay that for unsniffed 5ml decants all the time), and if I don't like it, someone will be sure to take it off my hands...

I'm curious, Donna: are you familiar with Leonard de Leonard? That's a floral chypre I really enjoy.

10:23 AM EDT  
Blogger Nancy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:54 AM EDT  
Blogger Nancy said...

I purchased a 100 ml bottle of Profumo years ago for next to nothing. It was an unsniffed buy and I found I didn't care for it. I pushed that bottle of poison oakmoss to the back of the shelf were it sadly lingered for years. Tastes change and that bottle now proudly sits at the front of the shelf, defiantly waving its chypre middle finger at IFRA.

10:58 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

Donna it is so good huh?
I love it too in both forms but of course the oakmoss is what makes me go gaga. :) I'm glad to have decants of the vtg. and some vtg. Miss Dior parfum that I adore but paid a pretty penny for it. :P Between these two and vtg. Nina Ricci Fille d’Eve I think I'm set for summer chypre wear, don't you agree?


2:11 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

one of my all-time favorites - a fantastic, rich chypre! keep trying to find something else from this line to like, but it's all kinda dull or sharp to me.

love that it's a bit of a hidden gem. need to pull it out and wear it this week.


2:51 PM EDT  
Blogger Tammy said...

Oh gosh, now I want them both!

3:21 PM EDT  
Anonymous allyn said...

thanks now i want to try it

5:52 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Thanks, Heidi, doesn't it though? It's so classy!

12:12 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Katie, I love your description, that's perfect! :-)

12:13 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Tama, I think you would really appreciate the current version if oakmoss is not your thing.

12:14 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Tania, lucky you! I hope I can get lucky with a find like that. I would be happy with a bargain on either one, actually, considering the full price.

12:17 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Muse, do go for that mini in the red box, you will not regret it!

I have not smelled the Leonard de Leonard for ages, do I dare? Am I going to want it? I don't quite recall what it's like. Anything called a floral chypre is something I must explore! I do like two of the other older Leonards, Tamango and Balahe, they are both very elegant and "grown-up" scents.

12:22 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Nancy, isn't that amazing? I was once the same way, and now I am the biggest chypre fan imaginable!

I also used to dislike Shalimar, and now I really appreciate it. My tastes have really evolved a lot.

12:24 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

T, is there such a thing as "enough" chypres? Even for summer? ;-)

Yeah, it's that good!

12:26 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Minette, I hate to think of all the time I missed with this one, but at least I have discovered it now!

12:28 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Tammy, so do I, maybe we will win the lottery! :-)

12:29 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Allyn, I hope you get the chance, it's really worth a try.

12:29 AM EDT  

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