Profumum Sorriso

Source: Profumum website.

Source: Profumum website.

Everyone has a few perfume houses that they have a soft spot for, and generally like. Profumum (or Profumum Roma) is one of those for me, a brand whose focus on doing one thing in the richest way possible appeals to me very much. I like their aesthetic, even when some of their fragrances don’t suit my personal tastes or style. In fact, there has only been one Profumum scent that I found to be a massive disappointment. Well, now there are two.

Source: Profumum Roma website.

Source: Profumum Roma website.

Sorriso (the Italian word for “smile”) is the newest fragrance from the Italian niche perfume house, an eau de parfum that was released in late 2013. Profumum‘s website describes the perfume very simply:

The taste of life and the enthusiasm of
an embrace will donate her marvalous smile.

[Notes:] Bitter chocolate, bitter orange, vanilla, tropical woods

Sorriso opens on my skin with a concentrated, somewhat boozy, intensely sweetened vanilla note which is overtaken seconds later by dusty cocoa powder, a hint of musky oil, and a subtle woodiness. As the dry cocoa asserts its supremacy, the vanilla melts into it, losing its boozy undertone at the same time and turning slightly drier.

Source: Saveur.com

Source: Saveur.com

The bouquet in the first five minutes is nothing more than that of a swirled chocolate and vanilla milkshake. It’s deep, smooth, rich, and decadent. The chocolate is lovely, feeling simultaneously like the powdered, dusty, semi-sweet kind and a milk-based hot chocolate. There is absolutely no orange that appears on my skin, but there is a faint whisper of something a bit like dried roses wafting about for three or four minutes. The less pleasant aspect is the hint of a musky oiliness.It smells a lot like a sweetened, but very generic, inexpensive oil before eventually turning into the smell of a common, drugstore Shea butter.

Sorriso barely changes, except for the growing prominence of the sweetened, musky oil. Twenty minutes in, Sorriso is a simple chocolate milkshake scent whose every molecule is infused with vanilla, all enveloped in a musky, wholly artificial-smelling, common oiliness. Sorriso is sweet, yes, but it is also a relatively dry sweetness. This is not a syrupy or diabetically gooey gourmand on my skin. It is also a very soft scent that is surprisingly thin in feel for a Profumum. It lacks the heft, viscosity and potency of the other fragrances in the line, particularly Ambra AureaDulcis in Fundo, Patchouly, and Arso. It is also much thinner in feel than Fiore d’Ambre, though it is richer than the unpleasant, wholly synthetic Santalum. Sorriso’s projection is as soft as its weight, wafting out 2 inches at best from my skin with 3 massive smears. 

Source: Bath & Body Works.

Source: Bath & Body Works.

There is a woody note underlying Sorriso that is hard to place. It doesn’t smell like Australian Sandalwood or any of its generic, beige, synthetic substitutes. If I had to take a guess, I’d say it smells more like Cashmeran. I own a hand cream from Bath & Body Work‘s True Blue Spa Line called “Shea Cashmere,” and it smells a lot like Sorriso, minus the cocoa powder. None of these comparison to common products — whether drugstore Shea butter or a B&BW cream — is meant as a particular compliment, by the way. Not at Profumum’s prices.

Sorriso stays on its uninspired trajectory for eons, taking Profumum’s general singularity to a new level. I always say that there is nothing wrong with linearity if you like the notes, but the issue here is that they are so unimpressive and mediocre. The other problem is that, even by Profumum’s soliflore standards, its scents usually have more variegated layers or nuances than Sorriso. There are changes in such Profumum scents as Arso, Ambra Aurea, Acqua di Sale, Olibanum, or the like, even if they can occasionally be subtle or a question of degree. Sorriso makes Ambra Aurea look like one of Serge Lutens’ morphing, complex, twisting, bell jar masterpieces. Hell, it makes the entire rest of the Profumum line look like something out of an Amouage catalog, particularly in terms of quality.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

Sorrio’s scent is a fatally boring flat-line, with the most noticeable changes being to the weight, body, and sillage. It takes a mere hour for Sorriso’s notes to fold onto themselves, and for the fragrance to turn into a relatively thin choco-musk bouquet with vanilla, a hint of woodiness, and musky, Shea-like butter. By the end of the second hour, it’s soft and not particularly deep, though it’s not exactly gauzy either. At the end of the 4th hour, Sorriso is a skin scent, though you can still easily detect the unchanging, mediocre bouquet if you sniff it up close.

The one, solitary change is the sudden appearance of the orange towards the middle of the 7th hour. Its unexpected arrival was almost shocking in the novelty of having something different finally happen! Unfortunately, the orange was both minor, hazy, and muted, doing nothing more than to underscore the continuing impression of Sorriso as a scent whose main characteristic from afar is dry-sweetness. Up close, if you sniff really hard with your nose on your skin, the perfume’s primary essence remains unchanged: a nebulous, sweetened, choco-musk bouquet, though even the cocoa is massively faded by now. In any event, the orange only lasted 20 minutes on my skin, so it doesn’t really matter anyway.

All too soon, Sorriso devolves into nothing more than an abstract, amorphous smear of musky, woody sweetness. There it remains until its very end, 9.75 hours from the start. I was thoroughly unimpressed with almost all of it, except for the opening two minutes which were relatively pleasant but still nothing to write home about. (Plus, the longevity was a big disappointment as compared to the rest of the Profumum line.)

1980s Bain de Soleil ad via Pinterest.

1980s Bain de Soleil ad via Pinterest.

I actually tested Sorriso twice, and my first experience was extremely different. These next words may not mean anything to anyone who didn’t live through the early 1980s, but I think it will definitely ring a bell for those who did: Bain de Soleil! At the time, my family and I were living in New York during the school year, and the big thing in America at the time were the commercials and print adverts for the suntan oil. The television commercials were especially catchy with their refrain, “Bain de Sole-ay/ For the St. Trop-ay/Tan.” It always amused me, because I never saw anyone IN St. Tropez or the South of France actually using the stuff. But I loved the commercials and how they mentally took me away from a place (and school) that I did not enjoy. So, I bought the damn thing, and rather liked the smell, primarily because it was nothing like the greasy, heavy, coconut aroma of the Hawaiian Tropic oils. Instead, the Bain de Soleil of my memory smelled of musky, sweetened Shea oil, with a touch of vanilla, some indistinct dryness, and a vague sense of a dried, abstract brown…. something. Dried fruits? Who knows? It was all so nebulous, except for the sweetened oil.

Bain de Soleil ad, 1983. Source: Pinterest.

Bain de Soleil ad, 1983. Source: Pinterest.

When I applied only a small quantity of Profumum’s Sorriso, the aroma on my skin smelled exactly like my memory of Bain de Soleil: sweetened, musky oil with a Shea oil-like aroma that was dry and infused with some intangible dried fruitiness. Bain de Soleil wasn’t at all tropical like usual suntan oils, and neither is Sorriso. But the similarities left me rather astounded for hours on end, transporting me back in time. With the small dosage, the cocoa was virtually nonexistent on my skin except as some sort of dusky, dusty…. something. The main aroma was… well, Bain de Soleil. There is no other way I can describe its nebulous, amorphous oddness. I couldn’t get over it. So, I was quite relieved when I tested Sorriso a second time around using the 3 massive smears, and detected chocolate from the start. Unfortunately, as I’ve already explained, it all went downhill from there.

My overall reaction to Sorriso isn’t boredom. It is more along the lines of, “Seriously??! This is it?!” My main problem is that Sorriso really lacked the luxuriousness that is Profumum’s signature, as well as the brand’s concentrated, hefty, rich elegance. Sorriso felt generic, cheap, and wholly pedestrian. I couldn’t help comparing it to Profumum’s gourmand take on vanilla, Dulcis in Fundo, which is one of the richest, most over-the-top vanillas that I’ve encountered, even if it is too much for my personal tastes. Sorriso does not do the same for chocolate.

Choco Musk perfume oil. Source: Al-Rashad and Amazon.

Choco Musk perfume oil. Source: Al-Rashad and Amazon.

In fact, I consistently found myself pondering whether the massively inexpensive Choco Musk oil from Al Rehab would be deeper and heavier. I haven’t tried it, but I’ve heard talk of Choco Musk, and I bet it is the same as (if not better than) Sorriso, especially for the price. It only costs $3.75 for 6ml on Amazon. Sorriso, in contrast, costs $265 which is either a rare exception to the usual Profumum price, or part of the company’s new, anticipated price hike for the line which was supposed to occur either sometime this month or in March. I’m going to order the Choco Musk just to compare, because Sorriso? Bah.

The blog reviews for Sorriso thus far are either ambivalent or negative. For Jessica on Now Smell This, the main problem seemed to be the longevity, though it doesn’t scream enthusiasm to me as a whole. Her short review states:

Just as Vanitas feels like a smoother, better constructed version of Confetto (minus the almond), Sorriso is an improvement on Battito d’Ali’s theme. It doesn’t have Battito d’Ali’s strange sharp after-taste; the vanilla helps to encourage the chocolate’s sweetness, without turning it into cake frosting, and the “bitter orange” note is meshed with a subtle anise and some mysterious additional aromatic-herbal note. The main problem with this fragrance, for me, is its lack of longevity — if Sorriso is a smile, it’s a fleeting one. And, as for much of the line, the price seems high for compositions that aren’t particularly innovative or complex. I like a guilty-pleasure gourmand as much as anyone, but to me, it shouldn’t cost more than a perfume from Editions de Parfums or Serge Lutens.

The Non-Blonde couldn’t stand Sorriso, though she had no longevity problems at all. She wrote, in part:

I was very excited about Sorriso, the new fragrance from Profumum. […] It sounds like a gourmand heaven for my chocolate-loving heart. The problem started right away: Sorriso greeted me with a harsh and loud saccharine confection that reminded me of dairy-free whipped desserts. It’s frothy, sweet, vanillic, and utterly artificial. The worst part? On my skin this perfume smells cheap.

No matter how much I tried, the chocolate Profumum had promised never arrived for me (neither did the bitter orange). I tested Sorriso in the cold air and while working out. No chocolate, but … I kept getting this piercing not-really vanilla foam. I did not enjoy the process. The husband’s skin was not much help, either. Sorriso on him was a bit fatty with a hint of a coconut-like suntan lotion. Not real coconut, just that manufactured oiliness. No chocolate either.

As is often the case with overly sweet perfumes that trigger my Do.Not.Want reflex, Sorriso has the tenacity and  determination of Her Majesty The Queen. […] I enjoy several Profumum creations, mostly the masculine woody ones. I guess Sorriso will join Dulcis in Fundo and Acqua e Zucchero, two other hugely popular Profumum gourmands that I simply can’t stand.

I smirked when I read about her husband’s experience and the fatty suntain oil. (I wonder if he’s ever smelled Bain de Soleil?) It does seem as though the Non-Blonde herself doesn’t like serious, heavy gourmands, though her issue here was clearly more with the total domination of a synthetic-smelling vanilla than with anything else. I don’t like hardcore gourmands, either, but Sorriso wasn’t one on my skin. It wasn’t anything, frankly, except wishy-washy and utterly mediocre, at best. If it had at least tried to be like Dulcis in Fundo, I would respect it for meeting the Profumum standard, but it doesn’t. In fact, Sorriso falls far short of it, in my opinion. And we won’t even start on how over-priced it is for what you’re getting!

On Fragrantica, there are only two reviews for Sorriso thus far, and they are widely divergent. The first is positive:

If Dulcis in Fundo can be called a magnificent orange dreamsicle, then Sorriso can sit beside it in the freezer as a magnificent Fudgesicle. [¶] It’s a prominent, yet soft, cocoa on a creamy vanilla base, tempered by a touch of popsicle stick. I get no orange here (certainly nothing like Dulcis in Fundo).

I find it gentle and appealing, something I would be happy to wear. I would be tempted to go for a full bottle if I had not already invested in Gourmand Coquin. Gourmand Coquin is *in your face* divine, while Sorriso is more reserved. They don’t serve quite the same purpose, but it would take a budget bigger than mine to justify owning both.

The second review is from “Alfarom,” a poster with whom I often seem to share the same opinion of things. In fact, his second sentence is verbatim what I wrote in my notes a few times:

What? Are they serious? Considering the name of the fragrance, I don’t think so. Italian word *Sorriso* stands for english word *Smile* but I think at Profumum they understimated the hilarious power of this stuff. It would have probably better be labelled as *Laugh* or, considering how juvenile this stuff smells, even *LOL*.

A cheap and vile concoction of cacao and hyper-sweet vanilla with a tad of the sweetest sandalwood thrown in. It would suck even in the I Tesori d’Oriente’s range. Meh!…with a laugh.

Rating: 3/10.

I quite agree. “Are they serious?” sums it up perfectly. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Sorriso is an Eau de Parfum that only comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $265 (or €190, I think). Profumum unfortunately doesn’t have an e-shop from which you can buy their fragrances directly. In the U.S.: Sorriso is available at Luckyscent. While most of the Profumum Roma line is carried by OsswaldNYC, Sorriso is not included for some odd reason. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, Profumum perfumes are sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. My problem in trying to give you European retail links this time around is that I can’t find a single seller who carries Sorriso online! All the traditional Profumum vendors do not show Sorriso on their website, even though it was released several months ago. I have no explanation, but if you’re reading this post much later from its original date of publication, you can generally find Profumum sold at: Osswald in Zurich, Paris’ Printemps store, Premiere Avenue in France (which also ships worldwide, I believe), France’s Soleil d’Or, the Netherlands’ Celeste, Hungary’s Neroli, and Russia’s Lenoma boutiques. According to the Profumum website, their fragrances are carried in a large number of small stores from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy. You can use the Profumum Store Locator located on the left of the page linked to above. Samples: Surrender to Chance carries samples of Sorriso starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. You can also order from Luckyscent.
Advertisements

Profumum Olibanum

Concentrated simplicity is the hallmark of Profumum Roma, an Italian perfume house that takes a few olfactory notes, and then ramps them up with the richest amount of perfume oils on the market. In the case of Olibanum, the focus is incense, infused with citruses and piney resins in a play between light and dark.

Source: Luckyscent.

Source: Luckyscent.

Olibanum is an eau de parfum that was released in 2006. The name may refer to myrrh, a cool, white, dusty sort of incense used in church rituals, but the fragrance also celebrates the black smokiness of frankincense, while simultaneously playing a little shell-game with citruses. Profumum‘s website describes the perfume very simply:

Sacred and profane, mistery and shade
Wax guttering, someone praying
Steps, echoing through the gothic and ancient archways
to the cathedral of Saint Michel.

[Notes:] Incense, Myrrh, Orange flowers, Sandalwood

"Abstract Pines" by Chris Shepherd at Shepherdpics.com

“Abstract Pines” by Chris Shepherd at Shepherdpics.com

I’ve noticed that Profumum tends to brush over the details or specifics in their perfume lists, and Olibanum is no exception. I’d bet that there are a number of ingredients missing from that cursory summary. Olibanum opens on my skin with lemon and herbs, then a powerful blast of a resinous, aged, green pine note. On its heels is myrrh and something distinctly medicinal, infused with a breath of orange sweetness. There is also a soapy element, along with dry woods, and they both feel very oily in nature. Something about the overall effect reminds me of face cream or a tonic with herbal elements, countered by that lemoned oil.

I really disliked Olibanum upon my first wearing some months ago, but it’s easier the second time around, even if it my description thus far may lead you to think otherwise. It’s still hard, however, to summon up wild enthusiasm for an opening that really starts off as lemon oil with green, resinous, herbal notes, along with amorphous woods and cold, soapy incense. It’s not Nivea or lemon furniture polish, nor green, piney medicine either, but it is some combination of things in all three of those genres, put together. And, yes, I repeat, this is a much kinder take on Olibanum’s start than I had initially when it seemed merely like extremely acrid, dusty soapiness. (I think applying a larger quantity helps.) Bottom line: Olibanum’s opening moments are not a joy, though the bouquet is thankfully light and sheer in weight.

Abstract Green Fantasy by Bruno Paolo Benedetti. Source: imagesinactions.photoshelter.com (Website link embedded within.)

Abstract Green Fantasy by Bruno Paolo Benedetti. Source: imagesinactions.photoshelter.com (Website link embedded within.)

Things soon change, however, and for the better. About 5 minutes later, a fruity element arrives on the scene, though it’s abstract and indistinct at first. At best, it conjures up the image of a green, unripened orange. Lurking in the base is something very leathered, like a dark resin from a juniper tree. Slowly, the medicinal overtones start to fade, and the frankincense rises to the top. Olibanum turns into a fresh, but deep, lemon, pine, incense fragrance with unsweetened fruitiness. It smells nothing like Pine-Sol, if that is your fear, and it is thanks to the sharp bite of the smoke. If anything, the forest, green notes make Olibanum feel more like a herbal take on a traditional myrrh fragrance. There is hardly any of the cold, ancient dustiness that such scents usually carry. Instead, Olibanum feels increasingly rich and warm. The initial gauzy thinness changes, the perfume solidifies with some heft, and the notes grow in strength.

Photo: David Gunter Source: Flickr (website link embedded within photo.)

Photo: David Gunter Source: Flickr (website link embedded within photo.)

Olibanum continues to morph by small degrees. 15 minutes in, a black and somewhat peppered sort of smokiness weaves its way through the top notes, while a surprising creaminess grow in the base. The primary bouquet is now of frankincense as much as the myrrh, both infused with lemons, a slightly leathered pine resin, amorphous woodiness, and some creaminess in texture. The tiniest whisper of oranges flits about, growing more distinct and sweetened with time. The thing that strikes me more, however, is that peppered woodiness. I really wouldn’t be surprised if Olibanum contained a good dose of cedar to go along with the juniper-pine elements.

Olibanum has an unexpected trajectory in its development for a few reasons. The most noticeable is how Olibanum seems to grow in concentration at the end of the first hour. It is very far in terms of both feel and smell from how it was in the opening minutes. It suddenly has the signature Profumum heft and body, and it is growing smokier by the minute as well. The piney resin becomes stronger too, evoking the scent of freshly crushed needles and woody cones on a forest floor. Olibanum doesn’t have a super-complex bouquet, but it stands out for its richness, as well as for the lemony creaminess underlying it all.

Pine tree sap. Source: howtocleanstuff.net

Pine tree sap. Source: howtocleanstuff.net

The second really strange thing is the interplay of the secondary notes. Profumum fragrances are really well-blended, but Olibanum has an unusual peekaboo situation going on with the lemon and pine. Every single time over the next four hours that I think the pine has replaced the lemons, that the lemons have superseded the resins, or that the oranges have disappeared, the situation somehow reverses itself.

About 90 minutes in, the pine seemed to retreat, but then 40 minutes later, Olibanum suddenly took on a Pine Sap Absolute sort of aroma. It actually felt like a less-sweetened, drier version of Profumum‘s Arso, only with a very different sort of smokiness centered on frankincense instead of campfire aromas. By the same token, just when I was certain that the lemon was a mere hint and fading away, it suddenly returned and seemed to overtake the pine. Back and forth we go, for at least four more hours. The sillage continues to drop, but the perfume’s smokiness seems to grow.

Source: hdwallpapers.lt

Source: hdwallpapers.lt

At the end of 5 hours, Olibanum changes again. It now hovers right on the skin, though it is still extremely potent and powerful when smelled up close. The more interesting thing, though, is the undercurrent of darkness. There are definite traces of something both leathered and burnt underlying Olibanum’s interplay on frankincense and myrrh. At times, it smells almost like raw tobacco juice, along with a burnt sweetness. At other times, it smells like singed leather, singed woods, or tarry resins. Either way, the darkness takes over, the creaminess fades away, and Olibanum turns very dry.

What I don’t detect — now or ever — are orange blossoms in the floral, sweet way to which we are all accustomed. There is, however, a definite touch of mentholated rubberiness in the base that I suspect comes from the flowers.

Art by: LordmOth on Deviant Art. (Click on photo for website link embedded within.)

Art by: LordmOth on Deviant Art. (Click on photo for website link embedded within.)

As a whole, Olibanum is now just various forms of smokiness, infused with abstract, dry woodiness, a subtle sweetness, and teasing, fluctuating levels of pine and lemons. Speaking of lemons, the note suddenly makes a big comeback in the 9th hour (literally), and Olibanum becomes a lemon-incense-smoke fragrance all of a sudden. (I told you those notes played peekaboo!) It fades after 40 minutes, leaving Olibanum as an abstract blur of dry smokiness and frankincense, which is how the perfume remains until its very end. All in all, Olibanum lasted a hair over 13.75 hours on my perfume-consuming skin with 3 small dabs.

I’m not the only one who noticed the odd relay race involving the citrus notes, as someone made a very similar comment on Luckyscent:

Opens with a strong, sharp, clean green citrus. Drys down to a smokey refined incense. But on the way the citrus and incense seem to trade places a few times creating a very non linear and interesting dry down.

The other comments on the side are generally positive, though there are a number who are distinctly unenthused, whether by Olibanum’s difficult opening or the intensity of the incense. A random sampling of responses:

  • I didn’t care for the first sniff. But when I put it on. Magic. Lemongrass, Incense, and Oud accented perfectly. An unusual combination that keeps surprising me.
  • it took me a little while to warm up to this strange perfume, but now it’s my go-to citrus! I get frankincense and nonspecific citrus-rind. it’s not one of those seductive niche scents on first application… but it grows on you as one of those scents that is just right for skin!
  • Frankincense, frankincense, frankincense…no thanks
  • It’s the hint of orange blossom that makes the scent a year-round one for me. Plus, it has none of the cumin or curry notes that ruin many other incense scents. It feels perfect on me – it smells like nothing else I’ve tried (and I’ve tried MANY scents!). While LuckyScent rates this as a masculine scent I think it’s strongly a unisex scent. The Olibanum is prominent but not powdery like some other scents. How I wish I could afford a full bottle. Thankfully a little goes a long way with this scent as I have been living off decants and samples for several years. I’ll wear it at work and I find patients and coworkers are not bothered by it as it tends to meld with my skin if I keep the amount to a small spray. Large sprays = a large silliage monster. It is much better to keep this to one or two sprays at a time. It lasts a long while (at least 6 hours or more). It’s my favorite incense ever[.]

An interesting point is how Olibanum stacks up to some other incense fragrances, as there are a few posters who mention Olivier Durbano‘s Rock Crystal and Avignon. I haven’t tried either fragrance to be able to compare, so perhaps you’ll find the comments to be useful:

  • A lovely, dry, woody incense with none of the (cloying, in my opinion) sweetness of scents like Avignon and Red Palisander. A little too strong and bitter on first application, but it quickly mellows into long-lasting goodness.
  • Too strong for my taste. It gave off this rich incense-resinous scent which nauseated me. I’ll stick to Comme de Garcone’s: Avignon.
  • Dry, dry, dry. After two hours on my wrist, I am still waiting for those white flowers to bloom. I was hoping that the orange blossom would round out Olibanum’s edges, much like the lily does to L’Artisan Passage d’Enfer, but it just isn’t happening for me. It’s a nice enough scent, but not for everyday. And it smells almost exactly like Olivier Durbano Rock Crystal… though Rock Crystal is a little more complex with its coriander and cumin. Given that Olibanum is twice the price, buy Rock Crystal instead and spend that extra $100 in your wallet on another bottle of perfume.
  • This is a fantastic scent! Similar to Rock Crystal, but without the (for me) unpleasant “sticky”, musty notes from cumin and coriander in the drydown after a few hours. Olibanum is “cleaner”. The incense note appeared not instantly, but only after half an hour. [Emphasis and bolding to other perfume names added by me.]

On Basenotes, the perfume is generally very well-liked with 8 positive reviews, 2 neutrals, and 1 negative one. The latter merely says, “Incense shouldn’t smell like sandy tobacco.” Everyone else seems to love Olibanum, with one calling it a “masterpiece.” The poster, “Dollar & Scents,” provides a wonderfully detailed description of Olibanum’s many, unusual nuances:

Upon application, one is treated to a medicinally resinous myrrh, at once cooling and green, but sharply sour, with a slightly moist, mushroom-like mustiness. And, a somewhat dark, orange blossom infuses its sweet fruity, earthy and indolic aspects. This dank, green melange meanders to the middle, where a pure olibanum, reminiscent of an infusing frankincense during the celebration of a High Mass, envelops the bitter greenness with its alluring splendor. A faint, rustic tabacco undercurrent, like a freshly-opened pack of cigarettes, drifts in and out. Transitioning to the comforting base, a smooth and creamy sandalwood lifts the frankincense, while a slightly terpene, conifer nuance presents. A sublime drydown ensues. An exalted scent to be sure, this masculine composition is an all-season fragrance, with average projection and good longevity.

For “Alfarom,” Olibanum is a worthy and real alternative to Avignon, the leader in the incense category. He writes:

This is a real alternative to seminal scents like Avignon or Incense Extreme. Olibanum is great if you like smoky incense based fragrances but it’s quite different form the well known antagonist scents of the same family. Together with the usual liturgic vibe Profumum introduced a sealing wax effect that make Olibanum irresistible. While the opening is still quite severe and chilling, the drydown turns dry-and-warm, meditative and comfortable. A terrific woody-green option. Highly recommended!

Source: journeytoorthodoxy.com

Source: journeytoorthodoxy.com

Personally, I think Olibanum differs from those liturgical scents that I’ve tried. It never once evoked the dustiness of an old church with stony steps and cold chilliness. There are no dustbeams in the air, no waxy pews or piercing myrrh chilliness. And, thankfully, the soapy touches of the start fade away. For me, Olibanum is about citruses and smoke with darkly leathered, pine resins, not church rituals or the alienating dust of ages. Then again, as I said, I’m not really an aficionado of the High Church, liturgical style of incense fragrances, so I hope the view of experts quoted above helps you a little. 

One thing I can tell you clearly, however, is that Profumum’s fragrances seem to consistently reflect a very Italian signature. Their approach is very similar to that of luxury fashion designers, like Giorgio Armani or Valentino, who intentionally opt for fluid, minimalistic, clean lines, but always put together with great refinement and the most opulent fabrics. Profumum’s perfumes are very much the same: they have just a handful of notes done in a simple, generally linear manner, but with great richness and at the most concentrated levels. 

The downside to that is that the fragrances are easily, and with some justification, accused of being… well, too simple and linear. They are. No question about that at all. None of them are edgy, revolutionary, or complicated. If anything, they really verge on comfort scents, for whatever notes they decide to highlight. All of that makes Profumum’s  prices far too high for some people. Again, I won’t argue, though price can be a very subjective issue.

Right now, Profumum’s fragrances are generally priced at $240 or €179 for 100 ml of what is really a super-concentrated perfume. Given the reported 43%-46% fragrance oils that the company uses in each scent, their fragrances really amount to an Extrait or Pure Parfum. Is it worth it? Well, it depends on whether you love the notes in question. Incense lovers seem to adore Olibanum! While I think the perfume becomes much better after its difficult start, I’m not so enthused simply because I’m not one for this category or type of incense fragrance as a whole. However, I love Profumum’s Ambra Aurea and Patchouly, and think those are very worth it. I also enjoy their Acqua di Sale salty-beach fragrance, and think their gourmand vanilla, Dulcis in Fundo, is nicely done. In short, it’s all subjective and dependent on your personal tastes. The quality is unquestionably and definitely there throughout, which is why Profumum is one of my favorite lines.

I must add that I’ve heard Profumum will be increasing its prices in February or March 2014. I think $260 was the number being bandied about. So, if you’ve longed to buy a Profumum fragrance — whether Olibanum or another one — now might be the time. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Olibanum is an Eau de Parfum that only comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $240 or €179. (There is also an accompanying, concentrated body oil, and a shower gel.) Profumum unfortunately doesn’t have an e-shop from which you can buy their fragrances directly. In the U.S.: Olibanum is available at Luckyscent, but it is back-ordered until March. If you buy it now, you would probably save on the upcoming price increase for the Profumum line. Olibanum is also sold at OsswaldNYC. In addition, they have a special phone deal for samples if you’re in the U.S.: any 10 fragrances in 1 ml vials for $10 with free domestic shipping. You have to call, though, to order the samples, and there may be brand exceptions. Their number is (212) 625-3111. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, Profumum perfumes are sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. Elsewhere, you can find the line at Paris’ Printemps store, Switzerland’s OsswaldPremiere Avenue in France (which also ships worldwide, I believe), France’s Soleil d’Or, the Netherlands’ Celeste (which sells it for €180, along with the shower gel), Hungary’s Neroli, and Russia’s Lenoma boutiques. According to the Profumum website, their fragrances are carried in a large number of small stores from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy. You can use the Profumum Store Locator located on the left of the page linked to above. Samples: Surrender to Chance carries samples of Olibanum starting at $4.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. You can also order from Luckyscent.

Profumum Dulcis in Fundo and Arso

Simplicity done in the richest, most concentrated way possible seems to be the signature of Profumum Roma. It is an Italian niche perfume house founded in 1996, and commonly called Profumum by most. The fragrances are often soliflores, or centered around one main note, but Profumum takes that note and concentrates it with 43% to 46% perfume oils to create the height of luxurious richness. Today, I thought I’d look at Dulcis in Fundo and Arso, two pure parfums which focus, respectively, on vanilla and on piney incense.

DULCIS IN FUNDO:

Source: stuffpoint.com

Source: stuffpoint.com

Have you ever gone into an ice cream or frozen yoghurt shop, sniffed the air, and felt almost uplifted at the aroma of freshly baked waffle cones sprinkled with sugar? Have you ever ordered a creme caramel, and thought its aroma of caramelized vanilla was utterly delicious? If you have ever wanted to put those scents into a bottle, then you may want to try Dulcis in Fundo.

Dulcis in Fundo is an eau de parfum that was released in 2001. Profumum‘s website describes the fragrance and its notes very simply:

Sin of gluttony… sin of heart:
In essence, don’t both passion and seduction
evolve through a flare of vanilla?

Sicilian citrus fruits, Vanilla

Source: Profumum

Source: Profumum Roma.

The description from Luckyscent nails the essence of the fragrance, and pretty much negates the need for much more extensive elaboration from me:

This opens with a very fresh, very sweet orange, like a clementine being peeled, complete with the tangy sharpness of citrus oil on your fingers. Then the sweetness intensifies and becomes richer, as if drizzled with Grand Marnier, and a billowy dollop of luscious, creamy, unadulterated vanilla tops it all off. Warm and brazenly sweet, this ambrosial blend is for the woman who wants to smell delicious. This is dessert at its irresistible best: whipped cream being licked off fingers, fits of giggles fueled by liqueur, suggestive whispers over shared spoonfuls. We suspect that more is going on here than citrus and vanilla (some say a saucy little apricot was involved) but perhaps it is just a citrus and a vanilla that get along exceedingly well. Delectable.

Blood Orange. Source: Twitter.

Blood Orange. Source: Twitter.

Dulcis in Fundo opens on my skin with a burst of juicy oranges that is not sweet but more like the tangy aroma of dark, ruby-red blood oranges. The note is concentrated, deep, tart and a little bit bitter. It is quickly infused with warm, rich, heavy vanilla that is quite custardy in its depth. I smell like an orange creamsicle with hints of freshly baked, warm-from-the-oven, waffle cones. There is almost something creamily woody deep, deep down, because there is a subtle impression of gingerbread to the waffle base.

The vanilla soon turns richer, making Dulcis in Fundo smell very much like a creme caramel with a slightly singed top. Less than 15 minutes into the perfume’s development, the orange top note abates, leaving an aroma that is primarily that of waffle cones and creme brulée dusted with tablespoons of sugar. I loved the tart citric element, so it’s a bit of a shame that it vanished so quickly and that it contents itself with popping up from the sidelines only once in a blue moon in the first two hours. Dulcis in Fundo is sweet and intensely strong, but without massive sillage and with surprising airiness. In its opening ten minutes, it hovers perhaps 1-2 inches, at best, above my skin, but is profoundly concentrated when smelled up close. 

Crème Brûlée. Source: eugeniekitchen.com. For an easy recipe, go to: http://eugeniekitchen.com/creme-brulee-recipe-burnt-cream-french-custard/

Crème Brûlée. Source: eugeniekitchen.com. For an easy recipe, go to: http://eugeniekitchen.com/creme-brulee-recipe-burnt-cream-french-custard/

Dulcis in Fundo is a largely linear, simple, uncomplicated gourmand that smells of nothing more than sugared vanillic pastries. Funnel cake, waffle cones, creme caramel, Italian baked goods — you take your pick. Dulcis in Fundo is a cozy, cuddly, sweet delight, but there is sufficient dryness that (on my skin at least), it never felt like diabetes in a bottle. I’ve tried gourmand fragrances and vanilla scents that made my tooth ache from their sweetness, but Dulcis in Fundo is not one of them. It is never unctuously heavy, either, no matter how rich the fragrance may initially appear or the subtle sheen of oils that it initially left on my skin.

Actually, for all its concentrated feel, Dulcis in Fundo is rather light in weight. In fact, to my surprise, it became a discreet skin scent on me after an hour. Perhaps Profumum felt that so much rich vanilla needed a very light hand and unobtrusiveness in order to prevent a cloying, nauseating feel. All in all, Dulcis in Fundo lasted a good solid 8.75 hours on my skin, though there were lingering traces of it well over the 12-hour mark. I’m going to put the longevity at the lower figure, solely because Dulcis in Fundo really seemed like it was about to disappear at the start of the 8th hour, even if little patches lasted for another four.

Funnel cake cupcakes. Source: confessionsofacookbookqueen.com (Website link embedded within photo.)

Funnel cake cupcakes. Source: confessionsofacookbookqueen.com (Website link embedded within photo.)

Dulcis in Fundo is the furthest thing from edgy, revolutionary, or complex, but it may be the most decadent of sinfully rich vanillas. That is probably one reason why it seems to be many gourmand lovers’ idea of heaven. The perfume is not exactly cheap at $240 or €179, but it is 100 ml of something that is essentially pure perfume extrait with its 43%-46% concentrated oils. Profumum always has the richest fragrances on the market, with generally exceptional longevity, so the price makes their perfumes a good deal for what you’re getting, if you love the scent in question. I personally am not such a fanatic about vanilla or gourmand fragrances, but enough people are for Dulcis in Fundo to be completely sold out at this time at on the Luckyscent site.

Whether it’s people I observe on fragrance groups or those commenting on Fragrantica, gourmand lovers of both genders seem to adore Dulcis in Fundo. Some of the Fragrantica reviews:

  • If I had money to burn, I’d burn it on this perfume. For me, it’s one of those “eyes roll back in your head” perfumes. The citrus and vanilla are perfectly blended to create a tart, sweet, tangy, candy-like scent Willy Wonka would be proud of. My first thought – Smarties! If you’re looking for sultry, smoky, grown-up vanilla – keep shopping. If you want a truly sweet, delicious, unique perfume with the punch of a Jolly Rancher that’s not watery or shadowy (like most mainstream / celebrity fruity vanillas), this is it.
  • Seriously the best thing I have ever smelled. Warm, deep, sweet, bourbon-y. [¶] I don’t get any orange other than *maybe* a passing hint right at application. Sillage is great – dabs on my wrists keep this floating to my nose all day. It’s actually distracting. In a good way.
  • I don’t’ get any citrus at all in this, but it’s an incredible vanilla, very true to bourbon vanilla to the point of almost smelling at times like extract. There are smoky notes, faint incense feeling, and just that rich, thick vanilla, but it’s not cloying, sweet or overpowering. Lovely lovely scent. I want more.
  • Top notes: lemon cake
    Middle notes: vanilla cake and a hint of cinnamon
    Dry down: vanilla cake and marshmallow filling  [¶] Not particularly complex. Probably too sweet for me to wear very often but positively delicious nonetheless. The vanilla in this is more candy like and than floral. The most pleasant gourmand I’ve come across.

One of the women who purchased Dulcis in Fundo did so despite the cost and after extensively testing a wide variety of other gourmands. She wrote, “at $240 (which could also be a nice pair of boots!)– it had better be IT if I’m paying money for it,” but, for her, Dulcis in Fundo did turn out to be “It.” She even says it seemed to have a huge impact on a younger, male co-worker on whom she had a crush. More to the point, the perfume didn’t smell like cheap vanilla:

I’m a fan of vanilla in theory, but some as you know can smell tawdry or cheap. Some are overrun by other things –smoke, flowers, musk or what have you–which is fine if that’s what you’re looking for. […] This is vanilla with a touch of citrus–heaven sent vanilla. I keep smelling my arm, with the overwhelming urge to rub my face in it.

For others, however, with less of a passion for sweet perfumes, Dulcis in Fundo was too much. Too sweet, too expensive, and too much like food. A few experienced some bitterness, with the tiniest bit of “skank” from what they found to be a cistus, amber-like note in the base. The vast majority, however, loved the fragrance, including some men.

I’m not a gourmand lover, but I think anyone who adores dessert fragrances centered on vanilla should try Dulcis in Fundo. It’s very well-done, and very cozy.

ARSO:

Arso: Source Luckyscent.

Arso: Source Luckyscent.

Arso means burnt in Italian, but strong smoke is only part of the fragrance by that name from Profumum. Arso was released in 2010, and is classified as an Eau de Parfum but, like all its Profumum siblings, it is actually an Extrait or Pure Parfum in concentration. Profumum‘s beautifully evocative description for the scent reads:

Outside the first snow was falling and
the wind was caressing the leaves of the pine trees.
Inside the chalet of a good red wine
mingled with the notes of a beautiful jazz music.
You and I hugging on an old sofa
and around us the smell of a crackling fireplace,
the white smoke of a precious incense
and the warm scent of pine resin.

Luckyscent has a similar, mood-based description for Arso:

The sharp, evocative scent of wood smoke – triggering childhood memories of bonfires and burning leaves – is at the heart of this eloquent scent. Arso means “burned” and the masterfully rendered smokiness works with the crisp cool scent of pine to conjure up a cabin in winter, with a crackling fire on the hearth. You … also get the warm indoor scents of well-worn leather and glowing incense, as well as the fire. The mood is calm and comfortable and safe [….] This is perfectly suited for the strong, silent type – the sort of man who could build a house single-handedly and maybe even chop down the trees to build all by himself. Quiet, reassuring and powerful.

Profumum Roma rarely seems to give a complete list of notes for its fragrances, and I suspect a lot is often left out. The company says Arso contains, at a minimum:

Leather, incense, pine resin, cedar leaves

Pine tree sap. Source: howtocleanstuff.net

Pine tree sap. Source: howtocleanstuff.net

Arso opens on my skin with pine sap, smoky cedar, and sticky caramel amber. There is a hint of muskiness to the golden, sweetened base where there is plainly ambergris at hand, not amber. The note is a common signature to many Profumum scents, and it is always beautiful. As usual, it’s salty, a little bit wet and gooey, musky and sweet. The marshy saltiness works stunningly well with the woody, wintergreen, pine sap with its slightly chilly, tarry briskness. The latter feels sometimes like resin pouring out of a pine tree, then boiled down to concentrate with brown sugar until it is simultaneously sweet, tarry, and wintery wood in one. My word, what an intoxicating start. Small tendrils of black smoke curl all around, adding to the richness of the notes and preventing any cloying sweetness. In a nutshell, Arso is smoky, piney, woody, dry, sweet, salty, and golden, all at once.

The black smoke grows stronger with the passing minutes, as do the dark, green coniferous elements. Arso evokes a campfire, complete with burnt leaves and singed, smoking wood, but this campfire is drizzled lightly in sweetness. Underneath, there is a touch of leather, but it’s never harsh, black, brutally raw or animalic. Instead, it’s aged leather, sweetened by the ambergris and piney resinous tree sap into burnished richness. Still, it’s not a predominant part of Arso at this point by any means, and it certainly doesn’t alter the perfume’s woody, piney, smoky essence.

Photo: David Gunter Source: Flickr (website link embedded within photo.)

Photo: David Gunter Source: Flickr (website link embedded within photo.)

Some people have compared Arso to Serge LutensFille en Aiguilles, but I think the two fragrances share only surface similarities. The Lutens has a fruited component with its dark, plum molasses. There are strong spices up top, while the base is dark, purple-black and green in visual hue, as compared to Arso’s base of salty caramel-gold with black. The pine notes are another big difference. Arso feels as though pine needles have been crushed in your hands, but, for me at least, the fragrance never evokes the chill of a winter forest or Christmas time. It’s not because the pine is much more significant and potent in Arso, but more because it has been sweetened in a very different way. The ambergris lends it a salty quality, turning Arso much warmer, less brisk, and almost more honeyed than Fille en Aiguilles.

Source: Theatlantic.com

Source: Theatlantic.com

Perhaps more important, there is a substantial difference to the quality and feel of the smoke in Arso. It smells like juniper or cade, with a phenolic, almost camphorous tarriness that evokes leather and bonfire smoke. It’s sharper, more intense, blacker, and subsumed with the forest smells, instead of feeling more like temple incense infused with plums and spices. Lastly, on my skin, the smoky cedar is as dominant a part of Arso as is the pine. In contrast, Fille en Aiguilles is primarily fir and plummy fir resin. In short, Arso is much more purely woody, salty, musky, and leathery than Fille en Aiguilles which is much more centered on heavy frankincense with gingered sugar plums, spiced molasses, and brown sugar. I love Fille en Aiguilles passionately (and own it), but Arso is a fabulous scent in its own right and for very different reasons.

Source: wallibs.com

Source: wallibs.com

Both scents, however, evoke the very best of a forest. With Arso, it’s a landscape speckled with the warmth of summer’s golden light. The pine needles crunch under your feet, releasing their oils, and melting into an air filled with the aroma of a thick, rich, salty caramel. You know the smell of ice-cream shops that make waffle cones? Well, the note that is such a profound part of Dulcis in Fundo also lurks about Arso’s opening, though it is much more fleeting and minor. It is deep in the base, not the center of the fragrance, but there is a whiff of that same delicious sweetness in the ambergris’ rich undertones.

Josh Holloway who plays "Sawyer" on Lost. Source: momdot.com

Josh Holloway who plays “Sawyer” on Lost. Source: momdot.com

Here, it mixes with the aroma of the great outdoors, a bouquet that conjures up images of Colorado’s vast vistas of dark pine forests, complete with a trickle of smoke spiraling out a small log cabin’s chimney. It is summertime, and everything is a blur of gold, green, and black. The man who appears is handsome but rugged, with a faint scruff of beard on his face. In my mind’s eye, I see “Sawyer” from the television show, Lost, the sexy, tough con man with an inner softness and golden heart. Arso fits him perfectly, with its rugged piney profile, saltiness, smoldering dark depths, leatheriness, and sweetened smokiness.

It takes about 4 hours for Arso to change. The first stage is all sharp, tarry, piney smoke with salty, golden, caramel ambergris, cedar, pine resin, forest greenness, and sweetness. The second stage is much drier, and more about the bonfire smoke and the leather. In fact, the latter occasionally dominates on my skin, though it feels like the result of the other notes swirling about than actual, hardcore leather in its own right. There is an animalic undertone to the note, as well as a sour edge that feels almost civet-like on occasion.

The leather vies with the tarry, black campfire smoke for supremacy, with both notes overshadowing the amber. The woody elements have retreated, especially the pine, though the cedar is still noticeable. I’m not a huge fan of the sour edge to the leather, and I’m substantially less enthused by Arso’s later stages than its opening, but I suspect that it is my skin which is responsible. It doesn’t help that the gorgeous, salty amber-caramel largely vanishes around the start of the 5th hour, turning Arso much darker and smokier. In its very final moments, the fragrance is merely a blur of abstract woodiness with a touch of dark leather and the merest whisper of bonfire smoke.

As with all of Profumum’s scents, Arso is not a very complicated scent, though it is much less linear than some of the line. The Italian perfume house seeks to highlight a handful of notes in the most luxurious, plush, opaque manner possible, and Arso is no generally different. However, I was surprised by how quickly the perfume felt thin and airy; it lost much of its concentrated, heavy richness around the 2.5 hour mark which is also when Arso turns into a skin scent on me. It is not a powerhouse of projection, either. I’ve worn Arso three or four times, and no matter the quantity, its sillage in the first hour hovers, at best, about 2 inches above the skin. The sharpness of the juniper-cade’s black smoke and leatheriness remains forceful for ages though, and the perfume as a whole is still easily detectable for the first four hours when sniffed up close. All in all, Arso’s lasts between 9 and 10.25 hours on my perfume consuming skin, depending on the amount applied. As always with Profumum scents, there are minuscule patches where the aroma seems to linger for about 12 hours, all in all. 

I think Arso skews more masculine in nature, though women who love bonfire aromas, smoky pine, tarry cade, and leather fragrances will also enjoy it. I know a few who are big fans of Arso, but, generally, it is men who gush about it obsessively, falling head over heels for the tarry, woody smoke. Still, one woman on Fragrantica, wrote the following review:

Wow. I am so surprised. Arso is totally different from what i expected from the notes listed. I thought this was going to be a kinda brisk woodsy fresh forest scent; but instead its a thick dark caramel and tar. Tree sap being melted over a fire with cedar and pine logs. The beginning reminds me a lot of Mamluk (which came a year later). It settles into a cool dry *almost bitter* smooth leather scent

Im a girl and dont happen to find this too masculine smelling at all!!

Source: freeirishphotos.com

Source: freeirishphotos.com

A male commentator, “raw umber,” had a very good description for the scent, writing:

Arso is a dry pine that is encrusted with sticky, highly flammable sap. It starts out Christmas tree, and ends up blackened fire pit. [¶] On the exhale, I get the faintest trace of something that has burned, like the smoldering remains of a campsite cookout.

The almost undetectable leather and incense provide a faint saltiness, which enhances the dimension of the burned smell as Arso dries down, but it never plainly spells LEATHER, or INCENSE. It’s projection and longevity are both very good.

The slightly charred pine is the feature here from start to finish. It is 100 percent unisex, and it can be worn whenever you wish to smell like you’ve been camping.

A few people hated Arso at the start, then suddenly fell in love. Take, for example, the assessment by “alfarom” who wrote”

Arso is possibly one of my biggest 180 so far. I always found it unbalanced, sort of too smoky but I was wrong! It smells so darn good.

Strongly resinous, incensey with a tad of sweetness during the opening and with leather hints throughout. A shy boozy note discreetely remakrs its presence druing the initial phase to slowly disappear leaving space to a slighlt sweet amber note while the fragrance dries down. Smells exactly like an estinguished campfire where they burned resinous pine, cedar and tones of dry leaves, smells of velvety white smoke, smells incredibly salubrious. Initally I thought about a mash-up between Fille En Aiguilles and Black Torumaline but overall Arso is less balmy, less sweet and as much as I love the Lutens and the Durbano, this one is much more wearable.

Surely among the best deliveries from Porfumum. Terrific!

There are a few others who initially hated Arso, too, like one chap who first thought it was a “no no” of masculine pine and harsh incense at the start, before suddenly finding, after 3 hours, that it was utterly addictive. The time made a difference, turning Arso smoother, softer, and “delicious.” He found himself “blown away” and, though he still preferred Serge Lutens’ Fille en Aiguilles, he found Arso much more wearable.

I am the opposite. I find my beloved Fille en Aiguilles to be much more approachable, perhaps because the smoke isn’t like extinguished campfires and there is no cade-like, tarry leather that feels sharp or a bit animalic at times. I’m not passionate about Arso’s dry final stage, whereas I love the Lutens from start to finish. It is simply a matter of personal preferences and skin chemistry, so I’ll stick with my bottle of Fille en Aiguilles, while admiring Arso for being a wonderful smoky, woody fragrance of a different kind. That said, I think Arso would be a great Christmas gift for a man (or woman) who loves intensely smoky, woody fragrances, or scents with a incense-leather profile. It’s wonderfully evocative, and very sexy.

DETAILS:
DULCIS IN FUNDO Cost & Availability: Dulcis in Fundo is an Eau de Parfum that only comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $240 or €179. Profumum unfortunately doesn’t have an e-shop from which you can buy their fragrances directly. In the U.S.: the perfume is available at Luckyscent, which is currently sold out, but it is taking back orders for December delivery. Dulcis in Fundo is also carried at OsswaldNYC. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, Profumum perfumes are sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. Elsewhere, you can find Dulcis in Fundo at Premiere Avenue in France (which also ships worldwide, I believe) and which also has Dulcis’ matching shower gel and body oil as well. The fragrance is also carried at Switzerland’s Osswald, France’s Le Parfum et Le Chic (which sells it for €185), Paris’ Printemps department store, the Netherlands’ Celeste (which sells it for €180), and Russia’s Lenoma (which sells it for RU16,950). According to the Profumum website, their fragrances are carried in a large number of small stores from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy. You can use the Profumum Store Locator located on the left of the page linked to above. Samples: Surrender to Chance carries samples of Dulcis in Fundo starting at $6.99 for a 1 ml vial. You can also order from Luckyscent.
ARSO Cost & Availability: Arso is an Eau de Parfum that also comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $240 or €179. Again, Profumum unfortunately doesn’t have an e-shop from which you can buy their fragrances directly. In the U.S.: Arso is available at Luckyscent, and OsswaldNYCOutside the U.S.: In the UK, the full line of Profumum fragrances is at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. Elsewhere, you can find Arso at Premiere Avenue in France, Paris’ Printemps store, the Netherlands’ Celeste (which sells it for €180), Zurich’s Osswald, and Russia’s Lenoma (which sells it for RU16,950). For all other locations from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy, you can use the Profumum Store Locator to find a vendor near you. Samples: Surrender to Chance doesn’t carry Arso, but you can order from Luckyscent at the link listed above.

Profumum Patchouly & Santalum

Simplicity done in the richest, most concentrated way possible seems to be the signature of Profumum Roma. It is an Italian niche perfume house founded in 1996, and commonly called Profumum by most. (The name is also sometimes written as “Profvmvm,” but, making matters more complicated, the company puts it as “Pro Fvmvm” on their website, skipping the “Roma” part entirely). As regular readers will know, I’ve become utterly obsessed with Profumum’s fragrances, after trying their two great, incredibly rich ambers, Fiore d’Ambra and Ambra Aurea. I ended up falling hard for the latter with its gorgeous, rare, salty, expensive ambergris. In my opinion, it is the best, richest, and most luxurious amber fragrance around.

I think Profumum is a shamefully under-appreciated house, so I’ve become determined to go through their line and draw some attention to their fragrances. Last time, it was the turn of Acqua di Sale. Today, it’s time for Patchouly and Santalum, fragrances which focus, respectively, on patchouli and on sandalwood. One of them is absolutely lovely. The other, alas, was not, and is my first big disappointment from the line.

PATCHOULY:

Patchouli is one of my favorite notes when it is dark, chewy, and somewhat dirty. These days, however, the patchouli used in perfumery is usually the purple, fruited sort. I’m not a fan, to put it mildly, so it was with some trepidation that I approached Profumum’s soliflore. What I found was a callback to the past, an utterly glorious, hardcore, seriously dark patchouli that felt as rich as a thick, six-inch brownie infused with resins, caramel and nuttiness. A long time ago, when I was 14, my signature scent was a fragrance from the French jewellery house, Ylang Ylang. The eponymous fragrance was a visual feast of black, gold, and brown, redolent of black patchouli and incense, golden amber, and spicy brown sandalwood. For decades now, I’ve been searching for a scent to replicate that old favorite, only to fail again and again. Profumum’s Patchouly is not it, either, but the opening twenty minutes came so close, I could have cried.

Profumum PatchoulyPatchouly is an eau de parfum that was released in 2004. Profumum‘s website describes the fragrance and its notes very simply:

Remote regions of my unconscious are in turmoil.
I hardly hold the emotions that overcome me,
like memories of antique pleasures.

Patchouli, Amber, Sandal, Incense.

The description from Luckyscent also references memories and antiques and, in my opinion, is generally quite on point in its characterisation of the scent:

A devastatingly rich and earthy take on patchouli that fully exploits its profound and powerful nature. Amber helps bring out its irresistible, chewy sweetness that is just this side of narcotic, sandalwood accentuates its warm heart and incense wraps it all in a veil of intrigue. This is like opening a forgotten trunk found in the attic of an old manor, and discovering a bewitching mix of memories and treasures. The scent of warm, dry wood envelops you as a honeyed swirl of memories flit about like smoke. Deep and evocative.

"Fading Flower" by Hani Amir via Fotopedia.com

“Fading Flower” by Hani Amir via Fotopedia.com

Patchouly opens on my skin with a blast of blackness. Dark, chewy, dirty, smoky patchouli with a bite of black incense. It’s followed by ambergris, an expensive, rare element that seems to be the signature base of so many of Profumum’s Orientals, and whose unique, special characteristics differ so widely from that of the usual “ambers” on the market. Here, the ambergris has a musky, salty, earthy, slightly mushy, and faintly sweaty aroma with a caramel undertone. It adds to the rich, resinous, chewiness of the patchouli.

The two notes create an earthy funk but, to me, it never smells of 1970s hippies and “head shops.” Actually, to be totally honest, I’ve never been quite sure what exactly the term entails. It’s often used to describe a certain kind of dark patchouli, but I’m too young or too square to know about the whole ’70s drug culture. Though I’ve been in modern, Bohemian, hippie, counter-culture shops that had patchouli, crystals, incense, tie-dye garments, and other things, this is not the same sort of smell that wafted about there. The patchouli here is dark, yes, but it’s far too infused with ambergris’ sweet and salty goldenness to be a true ’70s, dirty, skunky funk.

Source: footage.shutterstock.com

Source: footage.shutterstock.com

Though Patchouly is essentially a simple soliflore — a fragrance focusing on one primary element — there is more going on under the surface. A spicy undercurrent lurks about in those opening minutes, almost as if cloves, black pepper, and perhaps chili were added to the notes. I’ve found that Profumum’s notes are not always complete, so it’s quite possible there are spices tossed into the mix as well. Further down below in the base is a subtle touch of leatheriness, though it feels more like a subset of one of the resins than any actual leather. The whole thing adds up to a mix that is smoky, spicy, sweet, salty, earthy, and chewy, all at once.

The glorious, dark funk of the patchouli doesn’t last long. Unfortunately for me, ten minutes into the Patchouly’s development, the hardcore nature of the note is soon weakened and diffused by the increasingly prominent ambergris. It softens the beautiful chewiness of that black patchouli, infusing it with a salty, nutty, caramel, satiny richness.The smokiness of the incense recedes to the edges, as does much of the momentary spiciness of the opening. Thirty minutes in, the primary, dominant note in Patchouly is the salty, musky, caramel-sweet ambergris. The fragrance feels a lot like Profumum’s Ambra Aurea, only mixed with patchouli and a hint of incense. 

Source: wallpaperswa.com

Source: wallpaperswa.com

As time passes, the ambergris takes over completely. It’s a disappointment, but perhaps understandable. Patchouli doesn’t have the best reputation as a note, given that whole “head shop” thing of the past. Consequently, keeping it within the warm embrace of an amber cocoon prevents it from being too overwhelming for people, the majority of whom do not like a dark, dirty version of the note. Still, I personally would have preferred that both the patchouli and the incense not weaken quite so fast. I’m sure everyone else, however, will be thrilled by that.

At the 1.25 hour mark, Patchouly turns, soft, gauzy, and blurry around the edges. It is still extremely potent up close, but the fragrance is more diffused in weight and feel. It floats about like a golden-black veil about 3-4 inches above the skin, wafting a chewy, musky, caramel amber with streaks of patchouli. It’s still dense and earthy, but not quite in the same way or for the same reasons. And it’s far too golden, sweet and nutty to feel truly dark. By the start of the fourth hour, Patchouly is primarily an amber and musk fragrance, only lightly tinged with its eponymous note. The fragrance smells like sweet, warmed flesh that is a tiny bit musky from time in the sun or from exertion. Patchouly has essentially melted to create a “my skin but better” bouquet of musk atop a base of rich, satiny, caramel ambergris. It remains that way until the very end, almost 11.75 hours from the perfume’s start.

I think Patchouly is a beautiful fragrance, especially for those who are leery of true, hardcore patchouli scents and who prefer something softer or tamer. It is an incredibly rich, luxurious, long-lasting fragrance that I think is extremely sexy. However, the extremely close similarities to Ambra Aurea may make Patchouly feel a little redundant for anyone who owns the other Profumum fragrance. I happen to have a large decant of Ambra Aurea, and that is the only thing stopping me from yearning for an immediate bottle of Patchouly.

There aren’t a ton of blog reviews for Patchouly out there. Perfume-Smellin’ Things has a short paragraph on the scent which Marina also liked a lot:

An expansive, full-bodied patchouli scent with generous helpings of sweet amber, velvety sandalwood and a dry, dark incense note that, from the middle stage on, seems to overwhelm the aforementioned amber and wood and to rule the blend alongside patchouli. I liked this one a lot. I am not sure I will be buying a bottle, I am not that big a fan of patchouli and will never be able to finish a 100ml jug…I must also add that it layers wonderfully well with Fiori d’Ambra and Acqua e Zucchero, adding to them the depth and the va va voom that both are missing.

People seem to detect different notes underlying that patchouli. On Fragrantica, the note had a chocolate nuance on some people’s skin. Others talk about the ambergris, or note some vanilla in the base. For one blogger, Nathan Branch, the fragrance had a medicinal opening, though he thought the Profumum scent was the best of a number of patchouli fragrances that he tested:

Profumum Patchouly: leaps out of the gate as a no-nonsense, take no prisoners medicinal patchouli. Your average sweet and floral perfume lover will be startled by the high-pitched mint & mothball breath of Profumum Patchouly and flee to seek comfort and solace elsewhere. True patchouli aficionados, however, will be thrilled. Includes amber, sandalwood and incense ingredients (the incense is especially nice), but these are added sparingly and only show up much later in the game. […] In summation: Profumum Patchouly is the most genuinely patchouli-ish of the bunch, graced with a nice incense afterburn

If you’re tempted by the fragrance, but have lingering trauma from the ’70s, perhaps this Fragrantica review from “MsLeslie” will reassure you:

Ever since 1967, when I was a run-away teenager in the Haight Ashbury trying [and failing] to be a flower child, I have loathed the nasty, oily, musty smell of patchouly exuding from the bodies around me. And I have avidly avoided patchouly ever since.

Or at least I did until I received this amazingly gorgeous Patchouly from Profumum Roma in a grab-bag of samples from the Perfumed Court a few months ago.

THIS patchouly is irresistable! It is rich, deep, intense, complex, with a strong redeeming sweetness that balances out the musty quality. 

This is a beautiful scent!

It really is! Absolutely lovely, and a must-sniff for anyone who loves real patchouli.

SANTALUM:

Profumum SantalumSandalwood is one of my favorite notes, so I was incredibly excited to try Profumum’s eau de parfum tribute called Santalum. Released in 2003, Profumum describes the scent as follows:

Scented votive fumes rise to the sky.
Flower garlands, statues and columns everywhere.
Carpets and drapes have been prepared.
The warm and humid air diffuses
the scent of the sacred forest.
The ceremony has started…

Sandalwood absolute, Myrrh, Spices

Santalum was a disappointment from the start. Those of you who are regular readers have christened me a “sandalwood snob,” and while it is absolutely true, it is not the reason for my enormous irritation with the scent. Well, not the main one, at least. The problem, for me, is that Santalum is a synthetic, ISO E Super hot mess. The fragrance opens on my skin with a medicinal, oud-like undertone, followed by incense, hints of powdery sweetness, and spices. The wood is rich and creamy, sweet and smoky. It’s lightly dusted by cinnamon and a hint of cloves. Within minutes, the powdery element overtakes the oud-like overtone, but also weakens some of the fragrance’s smokiness. There is a strong resemblance to Crabtree & Evelyn‘s now discontinued, vintage, 1973 fragrance, Sandalwood.

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

Then, the ISO E Super kicks in. At first, the synthetic only faintly resembles ISO E Super, and is merely a dry, woody aroma. In exactly 9 minutes, however, the note shows its true colours, and starts to make my head throb. Something else lurks in the base, too, a synthetic approximation of sandalwood that isn’t even that terrible, ersatz, fake Australian version that so many fragrances have come to rely upon these days. Santalum turns more powdery, though it is still creamy, lightly smoked, and faintly imbued with a quiet spiciness. At the end of the first hour, the fragrance is a vague approximation of “sandalwood” with large amounts of synthetics and ISO E Super, light dashes of cinnamon, hints of incense, and powderiness — all atop a slightly ambered base.

Source: the3dstudio.com

Source: the3dstudio.com

Santalum remains that way until its very end. The levels of cinnamon, powder, and incense fluctuate, weakening over time, but the strongly synthetic undertones are a constant. The only real change to the fragrance is in its feel. It takes less than 90 minutes for Santalum to turn sheer, airy, and very light in weight. It’s a surprise for a Profumum scent, given their usual richness, concentrated, dense feel. Still, to be fair, there are occasions when the fragrance wafts by in the air around you, and it is quite pretty, but it’s something that is much better smelled from a distance. By the end of the fourth hour, however, Santalum is a faded, blurry, abstract haze of creamy woods with a light undertone of synthetics, powder and cinnamon atop an ambered base. It only vaguely smells like “sandalwood,” and I’m talking about the ersatz kind, not even the real Mysore one.  All in all, the fragrance lasted just over 8.75 hours, with generally soft sillage throughout.

By all accounts, Santalum has been reformulated from a dark, rich, woody, myrrh fragrance into something that is significantly lighter and more powdery. I have no idea if the fragrance was always such a synthetic bomb, but I do know that I’m not the only one who was disappointed with the existing version. On Fragrantica, the most recent review is from 2012 and states:

This is not the best use of sandalwood in perfume. I got a lot of camphor-like notes (oud?) in the opening and what I suspect is Austalian sandalwood, much different and greener than the wonderful Indian sandalwood,that is beautifully woody and resinous. then comes plastic, along with some powder. this smells similar to Crabtree and Evelyn’s sandalwood gift set, so if you like powder with your sandalwood, you may like this. Longevity was about 3 hours.

Other reviews from 2012 also reference the powderiness of Santalum, along with yet another comment about a “medicinal” nuance to the scent. As a whole, the comments reflect either qualified, hesitant “liking,” or actual disappointment. Older reviews, in contrast, are much more positive and talk extensively about the fragrance’s myrrh, incense, and amber. On Luckyscent, one commentator wrote:

I bought Santalum about a year ago and really enjoy the richness and warmth of its scent. I bought another bottle this year and was disappointed in the re-engineering done to the product. It’s dark ambery appearance has been replaced with a slightly off-color yellow. The product’s scent is lighter now and much of the richness of its former rendition is no longer present to my nose.

Clearly, something has changed — and not for the better. One doesn’t have to be a sandalwood snob to find the fragrance disappointing, but, even if you like powdery “sandalwood,” I think there are probably better versions out there for the price. In my opinion, the current version of Santalum isn’t worth it.

 

DETAILS:
PATCHOULY Cost & Availability: Patchouly is an Eau de Parfum that only comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $240 or €179. Profumum unfortunately doesn’t have an e-shop from which you can buy their fragrances directly. In the U.S.: Patchouly is available at Luckyscent, and OsswaldNYC. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, Profumum perfumes are sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. Elsewhere, you can find Patchouly at Switzerland’s Osswald, Paris’ Printemps store, Premiere Avenue in France (which also ships worldwide, I believe), France’s Le Parfum et Le Chic (which sells it for €185), the Netherlands’ Celeste (which sells it for €180), and Russia’s Lenoma (which sells it for RU16,950). According to the Profumum website, their fragrances are carried in a large number of small stores from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy. You can use the Profumum Store Locator located on the left of the page linked to above. Samples: Surrender to Chance carries samples of Patchouly starting at $4.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. You can also order from Luckyscent.
SANTALUM Cost & Availability: Santalum is an Eau de Parfum that only comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $240 or €179. Profumum unfortunately doesn’t have an e-shop from which you can buy their fragrances directly. In the U.S.: Santalum is available at Luckyscent, and OsswaldNYCOutside the U.S.: In the UK, Profumum perfumes are sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. Elsewhere, you can find Santalum at Switzerland’s Osswald, Paris’ Printemps store, Premiere Avenue in France (which also ships worldwide, I believe), Le Parfum et Le Chic (which sells it for €185), the Netherlands’ Celeste (which sells it for €180), and Russia’s Lenoma (which sells it for RU16,950). For all other locations from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy, you can use the Profumum Store Locator to find a vendor near you. Samples: Surrender to Chance doesn’t carry Santalum, but you can order from Luckyscent at the link listed above.

Perfume Review – Profumum Acqua di Sale: The Bottled Sea

Source: Coastalcare.org

Source: Coastalcare.org

Photo: Dayle Ann Clavin Photography, used with permission.

Photo: Dayle Ann Clavin Photography, used with permission.

The beach stretched on for miles, dotted with rocks, and garlanded by long necklaces of seaweed. A brisk, chilly Atlantic wind stirred the waters to a salty fury, and carried the smell of the myrtle and cedar trees that lined the cliffs. Though the sun shone warmly, that fragrant wind cut through the heat, bring the forest to the beach. Dry cedar danced with the herbal, mentholated aromatics of the myrtle, but both were wrapped with ribbons of kelp as if the sea insisted on joining the game. On the beach, as the water glittered in alternating shades of cold blue and warm turquoise, solitary walkers were covered with a fine spray of salt which mixed with their heated skin, creating an interplay of salty and sweet, amber and white, gold and green.

Sun, surf, sand, and fragrantly herbal, mentholated trees are the simple bouquet of Acqua di Sale, an eau de parfum from Profumum Roma. It is an Italian niche house founded in 1996, and commonly called Profumum by most. (The name is also sometimes written as “Profvmvm,” but, making matters more complicated, the company puts it as “Pro Fvmvm” on their website). As regular readers will know, I’ve become utterly obsessed with Profumum’s fragrances, after trying their two great, incredibly rich ambers, Fiore d’Ambra and Ambra Aurea. I ended up falling hard for the latter with its gorgeous, rare, salty, expensive ambergris. In fact, I think is the best, richest, and most luxurious amber fragrance around.

Source: Profumum Roma

Source: Profumum Roma

Given the scorching heat of the summer, it seemed natural that my next foray into Profumum’s wares would be the salty, sea fragrance, Acqua di Sale. Profumum‘s website describes it very simply:

The sea waves that brake on the shore donate new shells,
with a multitude of sizes and shapes,
to the sand that glimmers in the morning sun of August.
In the desert beach flutter heedlessness and freedom.

The notes, as compiled from Fragrantica and Luckyscent, consist of:

virginia cedar, seaweed or marine algae, salt and myrtle.

Source: squidoo.com

Source: squidoo.com

Acqua di Sale opens on my skin with a burst that takes me immediately back to the sea: salty kelp lying on the rocks, sea air, pure salt, and a splash of salty water. Yet, the forest is there, too, with the minty, aromatic, herbaceous notes of myrtle fused with dry, peppery cedar. There is a surprising creaminess to Acqua di Sale’s base that definitely lends itself to the Noxema comparisons made by a few commentators. For non-American readers, Noxema is a thick, white, face cream and cleanser that first came out in 1914, and which has a very herbal aroma. The reason for the similarity here is due to the myrtle which has a herbal, Mediterranean aroma, and whose essential oil is very similar to eucalyptus in aroma. Noxema is infused with camphor, menthol, and eucalyptus. Yet, the Noxema nuance to Acqua di Sale is very subtle and, for me, extremely fleeting.

Photo: Dayle Ann Clavin Photography, used with permission. Website Link embedded within photo.

Photo: Dayle Ann Clavin Photography, used with permission. http://www.dayleannclavin.com/

Moments later, there is a strong undercurrent of watery saltiness that strongly evokes a beach. It’s not the sort of beach that you’d find in Rio or Hawaii with its aroma of tropical florals and suntan oil. Instead, the beach in Acqua di Sale is either in the Atlantic, in Normandie or Bretagne, or nestled somewhere in the South on the rocky coast of the Mediterranean. It’s a windswept, desolate, slightly chilly beach where the salty air is filled with brisk, bracing herbaceousness and woodiness, and where the kelp far outnumbers the humans.

Yet, to be honest, there is something initially quite synthetic in the base that supports Acqua di Sale’s woody, sea facade. It feels like a subtle tinge of clean, fresh, musk mixed with slightly artificial ozonic and aquatic elements. It can’t be helped, I suppose, since neither salty kelp nor salty water is a natural scent in perfumery, and light musk is always synthetic. In fairness, the synthetic accord is a lot less abrasive, fake, or extreme than it is in many ozonic, clean, maritime scents. Acqua di Sale is not Armani‘s Acqua di Gio for me — and it’s a fact for which I’m enormously grateful. Even better, it only lasts a brief time, thanks to the strength of the other notes. 

Fifteen minutes into Acqua di Sale’s development, the cedar and myrtle emerge with a roar. The combination feels crystal clear, pealing like a bell’s single note in the wilderness, a strong, bracing, brisk aroma of herbal, aromatic, chilly eucalyptus and woods. The smell is actually far more herbaceous and dry than purely mentholated, and it never feels medicinal. It’s lovely, especially when subsumed under that veil of sea water and salty kelp, though it is a very simple bouquet when all’s said and done.

Photo: Dayle Ann Clavin Photography, used with permission. http://www.dayleannclavin.com/

Photo: Dayle Ann Clavin Photography, used with permission. http://www.dayleannclavin.com/

Acqua di Sale doesn’t change in any profound way for a few hours. Around the 75-minute mark, the perfume becomes softer, rounder, and smoother. Any synthetic traces have long gone, leaving a very briskly refreshing, cool, airy fragrance. Close to the end of the second hour, Acqua di Sale’s projection drops quite a bit, hovering now just a few inches above the skin, though the perfume is still somewhat strong within its tiny cloud.

Then, suddenly, just after the end of the third hour, Whoa Mama! Acqua di Sale turns into amber. The brisk, bracing, maritime, herbal, mentholated eucalyptus, cedar, and salt perfume transforms unexpectedly into almost pure, gorgeous, salty, sweet, ambered silk with just a sprinkling of herbal dryness around the edges. I couldn’t believe just how drastic the change was from the first hour. Now, Acqua di Sale is an incredibly snuggly, soft, plush amber first and foremost. Its sweet, almost cushiony warmth is infused with saltiness, leading me to believe that there is some ambergris in the perfume’s base as well. I’ve noticed in the past that Profumum doesn’t seem to give a very complete list of notes, and they seem to love their ambergris, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they tossed it into Acqua di Sale as well.

Photo: Dayle Ann Clavin Photography, used with permission. http://www.dayleannclavin.com/

Photo: Dayle Ann Clavin Photography, used with permission. Website link at end of review.

The result is so lovely, I want to burrow in it. It evokes the feeling you have after a long day at the beach when your sun-soaked skin radiates a lingering soft, salty, sweet warmth, and your slightly chilled body is wrapped in a dry towel. The aroma is incredibly soothing, relaxing, and comforting, especially given the hints of dry, eucalyptus-infused cedar to give it some character. I can’t pinpoint the cause of the sweetness which is too rich to be vanilla, and, yet, there is something vaguely similar in Acqua di Sale’s undertones. I suspect it’s some sort of resin, perhaps something like Tolu Balsam which is somewhat vanillic in character but also more than that. The base and drydown in Acqua di Sale has a similar sort of sweet, golden richness, and it hovers like the finest silk right on the skin.

Around the 4.75 mark, Acqua di Sale is a sweet, salty, golden, creamily smooth amber that feels as plush as a plump pillow. It’s just barely speckled with bits of fragrant, aromatic cedar and myrtle, creating a fragrance that is incredibly cozy and elegant. I feel like snuggling in, burrowing my nose deeper and deeper into that, alas, very soft, skin scent. How I wish it were stronger, but Acqua di Sale is too fine, sheer and gauzy at this stage. And it just gets softer still. At the start of the sixth hour, Acqua di Sale is an abstract veil of sweet, slightly salty amber, and it remains that way until the very end.

All in all, Acqua di Sale lasted just short of 10.75 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. It would sound like a hell of a lot, but Profumum Roma makes what may be the richest, most concentrated perfumes on the market, containing between 43% and 46% perfume oil. It’s astonishing, but so, too, is their longevity. The last, faintest traces of Ambra Aurea died away after almost 16 hours on my difficult skin, and that was with just a few small dabs. (It’s one of the many reasons why I love it so!) On normal skin, I could easily see the longevity of Ambra Aurea exceeding 20 hours or more, especially when sprayed. I’ve heard stories of people getting some insane numbers from Profumum across the board, with a few saying traces of their fragrance lasted even through a shower — and I fully believe it. So, if 2 small-to-medium dabs of Acqua di Sale lasted 10.75 on my voracious, crazy skin, those of you with normal skin should expect substantially longer. The sillage, however, is not profound or even moderate, which may be expected from a scent that is so aquatic, maritime and herbal for a portion of its lifespan. It simply won’t be as strong as an oriental amber fragrance.

Profumum’s fragrances seem to consistently reflect a very Italian signature. Their style seems very similar to that of famous, high-end, Italian fashion designers, like Giorgio Armani, who intentionally opt for fluid, minimalistic, clean, very simple lines but always put together with great refinement and the richest fabrics. Profumum’s perfumes are very much the same: they have just a handful of notes done in a simple, somewhat linear manner, but with great richness and at the most concentrated levels. The downside to that is that the fragrances are easily, and with some justification, accused of being… well, too simple and linear. They are. No question about that at all. And it makes Profumum’s prices far too high for some people. Again, I won’t argue that, though I do believe that price can be a very subjective issue. 

For me, however, there is just something about the Profumum fragrances that I’ve tried thus far that drives me a little wild. Quite simply, it’s that ambered base. I love it, even in the Fiore d’Ambra perfume that didn’t sweep me off my feet as much as Ambra Aurea. There is a rich, infinitely creamy, satiny lushness and luxuriousness about the amber that differs from all those I’ve tried before. If Acqua di Sale didn’t have it, I would still find the fragrance to be a refreshing, brisk, well-crafted summer scent and I would like it. Not a hell of a lot, because it isn’t really my personal style, but I would like it. However, with that sudden twist into amber plushness, Acqua di Sale becomes quite lovely. It transforms into a more interesting, but balanced, version of two different fragrances with one half being refreshingly brisk for the summer’s hot, humid days, and one half being a snuggly, cozy, relaxing scent for the summer’s cooler evenings.

The reviews for Acqua di Sale are extremely mixed. On Basenotes, a number of people like it, but the Italian commentators seem to loathe it with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. I suspect that they may actually have issues more with Profumum itself than with Acqua di Sale, given the various comments like:  “In italy this is a cult scent for all the snob-ish ladies without class but with a biiiiiig credit card. A scent that litterally makes me laughing so hard I cant’ breathe.” Or, from another Italian: “Mediocre scent despite the caos that in Italy turns it as a cult among the ignorant members of the middle class guided by the great joystick.” However, the perfume does have its admirers, though even some of those don’t find Acqua di Sale to be hugely complex or “dramatic.” I would agree with them, if it weren’t for that unexpected shift into amber that I experienced and which I don’t see much talk about in discussions about the fragrance. Still, the fans on Basenotes are hugely outweighed by the critics (even the those who aren’t Italian snobs) who find Acqua di Sale to have an artificial, synthetic or chemically sweet element that they couldn’t bear.

Fragrantica reviewers, however, are significantly more enthusiastic about Acqua di Sale. To wit, one calls it an Italian “masterpiece” that is “oceanic, wild, salty. I imagine seaweeds on a reef in the ocean. I imagine a lighthouse in the middle of a stormy sea. Is is pure freedom, also dramatic if you think to the power of the ocean.” A number of people find the scent to be extremely evocative and, at times, almost sexual:

  • This perfume melts to your skin. This is what sex on the beach smells like.
  • There is something special about this fragrance for me. It is salty and marine, woody and herbal but also sweet. It is thick, fresh and aromatic (thanks to cedar and myrtle). Very sensual and sexual. As some say – it is like a wet warmed-up naked skin by the seaside in the heat of summer, like “sex on the beach fantasy”. Sexy, sensual and provocative.
  • At first it feels as if I`m walking in a pine forest,very green and tangy, I am approaching the sea, I can smell it in the distance,
    as I walk on a cedar chip trail.Now I am on the beach, the salty air and mist of cold ocean hit my face in a sudden gust of wind.A cold fog rolls in, I smell seaweed as it dances with the tide. Very
    realistic indeed! […]P.S.,although suitable for men and women,I feel like a mermaid when I wear this:-) !! [Formatting changed and spacing added for this comment.]

Others are not as enthused, calling Acqua di Sale “over-priced” (which it is), or saying that it will “only make you smell like an elegant codfish.” (Actually, that comment comes from another Italian. I wonder why they all hate it so much?) One poster found Acqua di Sale to start with a screechingly artificial, sweet note that evoked Coppertone, before it turned into a lovely “ozonic chypre” with a “complex woody drydown” that she really liked. 

There aren’t a ton of blog reviews for Acqua di Sale out there. Perfume-Smellin’ Things has a short paragraph on the scent which Marina actually expected to fully dislike, but it surprised her:

Described by Luckyscent as “the most realistic ocean scent”, with notes of “aroma of salt on the skin”, myrtle, cedarwood and marine algae, it was meant to be my least favorite of the bunch. It is actually not bad on me at all, i.e. it is not too obviously, too nauseatingly aquatic. In fact, it is really quite good. It is the scent of the skin after a long swim in the sea. In a cold, Baltic Sea. I don’t know why, this is how it smells to me. It is understated but still has a presence and certain sensuality about it. It is slightly minty, very subtly sweet, and a little spicy. It is very nicely done, it surprised me. If ever I were on the market for this kind of scent, this would be the scent I’d buy.

Etretat, near Bretagne in Northern France. Photo: Dayle Ann Clavin, used with permission.

Etretat, near Bretagne in Northern France. Photo: Dayle Ann Clavin Photography, used with permission.

There is a more unqualified, rave review at The Scentualist, who calls it “the authentic perfume for the sea lovers, a scent that is capable to transport you into a universe filled with marine algae and a reminder of the delightful moments spent in the summer sun.” Meanwhile, Confessions of a Perfume Nerd was not only surprised to find Acqua di Sale to be her “perfect sea scent” (when she doesn’t normally like that sort of thing, it seems), but she also found it beautifully evocative:

Aqua di Sale is the sea at an forgotten, rocky bay at the mediterrean during autumn storms.

Aqua di Sale is the smell of a salty sea, but also soft notes of the cilffs, the air and the far away forrest. Aqua di Sale make me long for a mediterrean sea off-season, with abandoned taverns and beaches in rain and fog, taking long walks along empty shore lines and now and sit down on a rock and feel the smell of sea. Have you ever dreamed of being a lighthouse keeper on a distant island, Aqua di Sale may help your daydreams and imagination a little.

Clearly, Acqua di Sale triggers feelings that span across the board. From those who find it to smell fishy or like Noxema, to those who find it chemical or just plain dull, to those who adore it and find it to be, quite literally, the olfactory sensation of “sex on the beach” or a chilly, oceanic “masterpiece,” the reactions are quite strong. Obviously, this is not a perfume to buy blindly, especially at Profumum’s prices.

I personally like Acqua di Sale and would wear it if a bottle were to miraculously drop into my lap. However, I would do so primarily because of the drydown which, on me, was gorgeous, soft, luxuriously smooth, sweet, salty amber in essence. The rest of Acqua di Sale was pretty and very refreshing, but I’m generally not one for sea fragrances, no matter how powerfully evocative or well done. Or, rather, to be more precise, I’m not one for sea fragrances at $240 or €180 a bottle. So, it’s a mixed bag, all in all. One thing is for certain: my interest in Profumum Roma remains quite strong.

Postscript: I’d like to express my gratitude and thanks to Dayle Ann Clavin Photography who was generous enough to allow me to use her magnificent photos. All rights reserved. You can find more of her award-winning images at her website (link embedded), where she offers a wide range of services. Her work encompasses everything from photo-journalistic series, to business-related imagery, personal portraits, and wedding photos. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Acqua di Sale is an Eau de Parfum that only comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $240 or €179. It also comes in a concentrated body oil, and a shower gel. Profumum unfortunately doesn’t have an e-shop from which you can buy their fragrances directly. In the U.S.: it is available at Luckyscent, along with the concentrated body oil which Luckyscent describes as follows: “Body Oil Concentration; No alcohol. Made with almond oil, sunflower seed oil and gingko biloba extract.” Acqua di Sale in perfume form is also sold at OsswaldNYC. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, Profumum perfumes are sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. Elsewhere, you can find Acqua di Sale at Paris’ Printemps store, Switzerland’s OsswaldPremiere Avenue in France (which also ships worldwide, I believe),France’s Soleil d’Or, the Netherlands’ Celeste (which sells it for €180, along with the shower gel), and Russia’s Lenoma (which sells it for RU16,950). According to the Profumum website, their fragrances are carried in a large number of small stores from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy. You can use the Profumum Store Locator located on the left of the page linked to above. Samples: Surrender to Chance carries samples of Acqua di Sale starting at $4.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. You can also order from Luckyscent.

Perfume Review – Fiore d’Ambra by Profumum: Opium Amber

Photo series for Interview Magazine by Mert & Marcus.

Opium den photo series for Interview Magazine by Mert & Marcus.

The room was a glowing box of silk and soft woods, decorated in shades of gold, bronze, umber, red and brown. The one touch of colour came from the crimson lacquered boxes emitting smoke. It was an opium palace, an amber palace, a place of soft luxury. As the woman stood at the threshold, she took one long, red-taloned finger and ran it down the column of her neck. She could feel the smoke, spices and vanillic powder coating her bare skin, cloaking her in its soft, sheer, silken caress. She could smell cinnamon and cloves, and perhaps a touch of carnation. She wished she could bottle the aroma forever.  

Photo series for Interview Magazine by Mert & Marcus.

Opium den photo series for Interview Magazine by Mert & Marcus.

Someone has. It is the smell of Fiore d’Ambra, a soft, dry, spicy, slightly powdered and vanillic amber eau de parfum from Profumum (sometimes called “Profumum Roma” or “Profvmvm,” but also written as “Pro Fvmvm” on the company’s website). I should confess here and now that Profumum has become my latest obsession, a house that seems tailor-made for my tastes with the richness of their perfumes — perfumes that are said to have 43% to 46% perfume oil. It’s astoundingly high, the highest I’ve ever seen, but you know what? You can smell it. It shows in the richness of the fragrances which have, somehow, also managed the feat of feeling airy and light. I don’t quite know how Profumum did it, especially given how they use the richest ingredients that always feel opaquely luxurious, but they have. And now, I’m completely obsessed. 

Profumum Fiore d'AmbraFiore d’Ambra is different from its almost twin sister, Ambra Aurea, a scent which many consider to be one of the best amber perfumes around. (I think it is!) But Fiore d’Ambra is also excellent. Profumum‘s website describes it very simply:

A candle diffuses the scent of opium and amber
An elegantly unmade bed
And my book on the night table.
In my mind thoughts of her.

[NOTES:] Opium flowers, Amber, Spices

I haven’t the faintest clue what “opium flowers” may be, since I highly doubt Profumum has mined poppy flowers from the fields of Afghanistan, but Fiore d’Ambra opens on my skin with a blast that takes me back to my beloved: YSL‘s vintage Opium. Whatever those “opium” notes may be, Fiore d’Ambra replicates some of the base elements in Opium with its dry, highly spiced, warmed woods. It’s not the power of suggestion; I suspect the similarities stem from a heaping dose of cinnamon and cloves that have combined with the amber and, I’d bet, a small dose of ambergris as well. There is also a nebulous, rich but airy, dark floral scent flickering around the edges. I couldn’t figure it out until I saw a Basenotes commentator say that he smells carnation, and I’d bet he’s right.

China Incense - Don Daniele at 500px Com http://500px.com/photo/17207583

Incense in China – Don Daniele at 500px Com
http://500px.com/photo/17207583

There are other things that must be lurking in Fiore d’Ambra as well. Incense, to begin with. I’d venture it is primarily frankincense with its sharper, slightly more forceful, biting character, but also some myrrh as well, since the perfume develops a somewhat nuttier, softer sort of smoky edge later on its development. In addition, there has to be benzoin, as Fiore d’Ambra takes on a slightly powdered vanillic base, along with sandalwood and perhaps another sort of medium-dark wood accord .

Whatever the particular makeup of Fiore d’Ambra, it is a superbly blended perfume. It may have certain notes rise to the surface as the others retreat, it may undulate like the waves in terms of intensity, but its primary character never really changes: soft, dry amber infused with spices, a slightly herbal note, incense, and a dusting of vanilla powder. In the very opening moments, the “opium” is fierce, the smoke is fiery, and both elements are accompanied by something a wee bit bitter at the edges as well as an extremely subtle green, herbal note. Soon, the amber in Fiore d’Ambra softens, turning slightly woody, but always infused by notes of cinnamon, perhaps star anise and cloves, and the start of the lightest powder imaginable. With every passing hour, the perfume softens in its elements, especially the smoke. Eventually, about six hours later, Fiore d’Ambra is a powdered, cinnamon, vanilla-caramel amber with the merest whisper of a herbal note. In its final moments, Fiore d’Ambra is just a sheen of soft, warm vanillic powder with a flicker of amber.

All in all, Fiore d’Ambra lasted a surprisingly short 8.5 hours on my perfume consuming skin — and I sprayed, not dabbed, quite a bit. I expected much, much more from a perfume that is supposedly 43% concentration, especially as the smallest smears of its sister, Ambra Aurea, lasted a good 13.5 hours and 16 hours on my voracious, perfume-consuming skin. The sillage of Fiore d’Ambra was also lower than I expected, though slightly more in keeping with that of Ambra Aurea. Neither perfume is going to project across the room, but Fiore d’Ambra was particularly soft.

There aren’t a lot of in-depth reviews for the perfume out there, probably because Fiore d’Ambra isn’t a very complicated scent at the end of the day, but there is a very positive short one from Nathan Branch who writes:

Starts off as a powdery soft, pleasantly sweet amber perfume and crosses the finish line as a musky, woodsy fragrance shrouded in a lightly powdered veil.

Layers of cinnamon and clove (or what the manufacturers call “opium”) add a bit of spice, with the ambergris at the base (and it smells like the real deal) diffusing like clockwork to achieve an earthy and sophisticated finish.

Fiore d’Ambre is restrained and feminine — nothing wild, experimental or unusual, but anyone lucky enough to lean in close will think you smell intoxicatingly lovely. In fact, I think I’m getting drunk on it as I type this . . . *hiccup*

A more detailed assessment of Fiore d’Ambra comes from a Basenotes poster, “sommerville metro man,” who seems to have the same experience that I did:

I do enjoy my amber centered scents and Profumum has one of my favorites in Ambra Aurea which used amber in a way which brought out its more strong lines. In this 2008 release Fiore D’Ambra chooses to explore the sweeter side of amber and is just as successful as its predecessor. Profumum can be frustrating with their note lists, for instance the note list for this scent is ambre gris and opium. Who knows what that means but it does free one to experience a scent without too many pre-conceived notions of what should be there. Other, than of course, amber which is in the name. From the top the amber is present and this is a sweet amber full and round. It is paired with a lovely sweet incense accord that amplifies the sweeteness of the amber without taking over the scent. The amber persists into the heart where there is a spiciness present but it has a floral character to it which makes me think carnation because there is a hint of clove. Again this is partnered well with the amber as the contrast brings out a different facet of the amber. In the base a soft creamy sandalwood mixes with the amber to finish this off in traditional territory with an accord I’ve smelled many times before and it feels like coming home as the amber and sandalwood mix together like peas and carrots. Profumum have now done two very different takes on amber and Fiore D’Ambra is every bit as good as Ambra Aurea, to me. If I was to be stuck with only these two scents as my amber contingent in my wardrobe I’d be fine with that.

I completely agree with his last sentence because both perfumes are very well done. I happen to prefer Ambra Aurea just by a hair because I love its honeyed, satiny, salty, nutty, caramel ambergris and because I think it’s richer, stronger, and slightly more unusual (real ambergris!). But the spices, smoke and powder in Fiore d’Ambra are lovely, and I could easily be happy with just that one if I didn’t know of its twin sister’s existence. Ultimately, I think it’s a question of personal tastes as to which one will suit you best. Take, for example, the rapturous assessment by one Profumum fan who likes Ambra Aurea, but who is utterly enamoured by the refinement and vanilla base of Fiore d’Ambra:

The prestigious, glorious, heavenly diamond of Ambers. This turned out to be the best out of the following:

Ambra Aurea by Profumum, Ambre Russe by Parfum d’Empire, Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens, L’eau d’Ambre Extreme by L’Artisan Parfumeur, and various other pure Amber oils and paste.

Fiore d’Ambra is refined without the funk stink of Ambre Sultan, Ambra Aurea that I found. It’s an uplifting ethereal rich amber with a vanilla like warmth. And at the top is just a hint of spiciness that is so fine it makes the whole vessel skyrocket. I was haunted for a month by this as a sample, but the price made me seek as many other options as possible. This is the winner – very precious, rare, and expensive.

The magic of Fiore sits just above unisex to me, into a feminine leaning, but ultimately transcends gender in it’s opulent luxury. Sillage is high in my opinion, and longevity is satisfying. I can still smell this on my skin waking up in the morning.

Ambra Aurea

Ambra Aurea

Honestly, you have to try both. I don’t care which one captures your heart and soul; if you are an amber lover, you simply have to try both. They may be a little linear, they may not morph into a thousand and one things, and they both may be a little soft in sillage, but I’m telling you, the Profumum ambers are magic, simply magic. If you’re a hardcore Orientalist, I will bet you my bottom dollar that you will fall for the opulent richness of one of them. (You can read my review of Ambra Aurea to help you decide which one to start with, if you don’t want to get samples of both.) I have already made plans with some friends to split a bottle of Ambra Aurea three-ways, and, thanks to the generosity of a very sweet friend of mine, have a small one of Fiore D’Ambra to tide me over for now.

But there is no stopping this obsession of mine with both perfumes (I plan to layer them for the ultimate amber experience), and with the line as a whole. In fact, I have the new(ish) Olibanum (incense, myrrh, orange blossom and sandalwood) to review later this week, and will then set my sights on trying Fumidus (which is supposed to smell like smoky Laphroaig scotch with vetiver and birch notes) and work my way through the rest of the line. It’s a testament to Profumum, its quality, its richness, and its opulent luxuriousness that — my loathing for gourmet fragrances be damned — I will even get the vanilla Vanitas and the orange-vanilla Dulcis in Fundo at some point down the road. Surely that tells you something!

I realise I sound completely deranged with obsession and lust, but I’m telling you: you must try this shamefully (shamefully!) under-appreciated line of fragrances. You simply have to!

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Fiore d’Ambra is an Eau de Parfum that only comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $240 or €179. In the U.S.: it is available at Luckyscent and OsswaldNYC. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, Profumum perfumes are sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. Elsewhere, you can find Fiore d’Ambra at Paris’ Printemps store, Switzerland’s OsswaldPremiere Avenue in France (which also ships worldwide, I believe), and Parfumerie Soleil d’Or. According to the Profumum website, their fragrances are carried in a large number of small stores from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy. However, Profumum itself does not have an e-Store. You can use the Profumum Store Locator located on the left of the page linked to above. Samples: Surrender to Chance carries samples of Fiore d’Ambra starting at $4.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. You can also order from Luckyscent.

Perfume Review: Ambra Aurea by Profumum Roma

Source: the Mirror newpaper, Mirror.co.uk.

Ambergris found on a beach. Source: the Mirror newpaper, Mirror.co.uk.

One of the most prized, rare, expensive, luxury ingredients in perfumery is ambergris. True ambergris is hard to find nowadays, especially in any large quantity, but it is a scent adds incredible depth and body to a fragrance. It is also nothing like “amber” which usually comes from a combination of plant-based resins and/or synthetics. In contrast, ambergris comes, in an over-simplified nutshell, from whale vomit and has a unique salty, musky, sweet, almost marshy scent.

The Perfume Shrine has a great analysis of the difference between “amber” and ambergris which also helps explain the reason for the rather sweet character of most of the “amber” fragrances on the market. The explanation for the rather unique, special smell of ambergris (sometimes known as grey amber) is as follows:

It’s hard not to fall in love with ambergris … [which] smells, depending on the piece and whom you’re talking to, like musk, violets, fresh-hewn wood, tobacco, dirt, Brazil nut, fern-copse, damp woods, new-mown hay, seaweed in the sun, the wood of old churches, or pretty much any other sweet-but-earthy scent”. [Kemp Chris., Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris]

Source: The Mirror, Mirror.co.uk

Source: The Mirror, Mirror.co.uk

The ingredient is rather sticky and gelatinous like, like a fat lump of grey color at first; while when it dries it becomes harder like a fragile but hard resin. […] [After some years, it] gains a beautiful patina that famously chemist Gunther Ohloff described as “humid, earthy, fecal, marine, algoid, tobacco-like, sandalwood-like, sweet, animal, musky and radiant”. Other people have dscribed it as having the scent of  wood in old churches or Brazil nuts.

[¶] Its greatest attribute is its capacity for rendering a composition rounder, especially in oriental perfumes or in floral compositions where it melds the notes into one and brings out their best qualities. It clings on to fabric too, through repeated washings even, becoming ever sweeter with time. Therefore it is prized for its fixative power: the ability to anchor more volatile notes and make them last. [¶] Most commercial perfumes today use a synthetic substitute, because the real thing is so expensive.

The reason for this long discussion of ambergris — synthetic or natural — is because its aroma is the heart and soul of Ambra Aurea, a luxurious, deep, beautiful, amber eau de parfum from Profumum Roma (sometimes called just “Profumum” or “Profvmvm,” but also written as “Pro Fvmvm” on the company’s website).

The Italian niche house is based in Rome and was founded by four siblings in 1996, but its history goes back to right after the end of WWII. The founders’ artisanal grandparents, Celestino and Lucia Durante, left the tiny Italian village of Sant’ Elena Sannita for Rome where they opened a tiny storefront, which over time grew into a chain of stores, featuring hand-made soaps, fragrances and beauty products. Their grandchildren decided in 1996 to start a line of exclusive fragrances which, as Luckyscent explains, were “crafted to evoke emotions, memories and a sense of their beloved Italy. These rich and layered fragrances are designed to work equally well on men and women, and, amazingly, they really do.”

Ambra AureaI’d heard a lot about Profumum’s fragrances, especially Ambra Aurea which many consider to be one of the best amber perfumes around. And, you know, it’s pretty damn good! Profumum‘s website describes it very simply:

Scent of antique temptations:
scent of pleasure and warmth.

Grey amber, Incense, Myrrh

Ambra Aurea opens on my skin with a stunningly rich aroma that is simultaneously: salty, sweet, sticky, extremely nutty, slightly musky, beautifully golden and honeyed. It radiates smooth warmth, like a bath of salty caramel. It really smells of genuine ambergris, even though Ambra Aurea must surely use a synthetic version given the exorbitant cost of the real thing. But, honestly, wow! The beautiful depth of real ambergris is all here with its musky, salty, almost marshy, gooey, minutely sweaty feel. In fact, there is actually something a little vegetal in the undertones to the perfume that is hard to explain, yet very much feels like the real thing. But, while real ambergris can sometimes be a bit too raw, rough, and untamed, here, the edges are smooth as silk, layered with rich honey, and supplemented by other elements. For example, labdanum. There has to be a large dose of labdanum in the base with its nutty, subtly leathered feel, to go along with all the beautiful smoke from the myrrh that wafts delicately in the background.

Source: Twitter.

Source: Twitter.

Ambra Aurea’s stunning, gorgeous, luxurious opening consistently brings two things to mind: caramel and candlelight. The perfume feels exactly like the darkest, goo-iest, richest caramel, the sort which oozes from the middle of an extremely expensive piece of chocolate. If you’ve ever bitten into a Maison du Chocolat, Teuscher or Godiva chocolate, you’ll know what I’m talking about: that thin, but incredibly rich, flow of brown caramel. At the same time, Ambra Aurea feels so golden, it’s like a room lit only by candles. There is a warm glow to the scent in its opening stage which just radiates coziness. I would wear this non-stop and, in truth, I couldn’t stop sniffing my arm. The real clincher for me is the ambergris feel with its salty notes. It’s absolutely nothing like the smell in most “amber” fragrances that one encounters with their labdanum-vanilla-benzoin bases. Ambra Aurea’s note isn’t hugely sweet, but more like salted, earthy, musky, almost wet, humid amber atop layers of deep, dark honey and nutty resins.

Amber SatinThe most fascinating, appealing aspect to the whole thing may be its smoothness. It truly feels like silk or, better yet, satin. There is a heavenly undulating smoothness that flows like a gentle wave in an incredibly sexy, sensuous manner. And, while the perfume is incredibly potent in those early moments, it never feels leaden or resinously thick. It’s not an airy, light scent by any means, but the weight of the perfume is absolutely perfect for such rich notes. It is truly what I had expected Tom Ford‘s Amber Absolute to be like, but which ultimately wasn’t.

Ten minutes in, Ambra Aurea shifts a little. The honey note becomes even richer but also takes on an undertone of beeswax. The musky element and the subtle smokiness also become more prominent, lessening and cutting through some of the feel of caramel-like nuttiness. God, it’s a beautiful amber scent. Unfortunately for me, a lot of that ambergris richness and honey element starts to recede, replaced by a heavy dose of labdanum. While I love labdanum, no-one can say it’s quite as unique, rare or special a note as compared to ambergris. Making it even less attractive to me here is the fact that the note has a strong undertone of “cherry Cola” at the start of the second hour. Personally, I prefer it when labdanum has a more honeyed, nutty, faintly leathery nuance. That said, Ambra Aurea is still very pretty. The labdanum has a light dusting of incense and a creamy amber finish that feels lightly infused with a custardy vanilla. In some odd way, the combination makes me think a little of “Tauerade,” the drydown base to many of Andy Tauer’s perfumes. The difference here is the ambergris note in the background with its musky, salty feel.

For the next ten hours (yes, ten!), Ambra Aurea remains primarily as a labdanum-amber-incense perfume with fluctuating levels of each element. The labdanum eventually loses much of its “Cherry Cola” nuance, the ambergris remains as a light component infused with saltiness and light incense, there are strong elements of beeswax lurking in the background, and the whole thing sits atop a generalized amber base that has a subtle vanillic element to it. By the thirteenth hour (!), Ambra Aurea is nothing more than a vague, generalized, musky ambery perfume with a faint suggestion of smoke and saltiness.

If your eyes are popping open at those longevity numbers on my voracious, perfume-consuming skin, you’re not alone. Ambra Aurea lasted at least 13 hours on my skin! In truth, I think I detected faint remnants of the perfume flickering here and there in small pockets around the 16th hour. It’s mind-boggling to me, especially as I did not apply very much at all. Which brings me to the sillage. Ambra Aurea is not a perfume with the sort of monstrous projection that emanates in tidal waves across a room. For the first thirty minutes, the projection was expansive but, after one hour, it dropped quite a bit to emanate only 2-3 inches above the skin. Yet, within its own little pocket, it is very noticeable and powerful. I think it became a skin scent only about 6.5 hours into its development, but you still didn’t need to inhale at your arm to detect it. I suspect all of these numbers would be massively higher if I not only applied a greater quantity but if I did so via a spray bottle. Aerosolization always adds far greater potency to a perfume than mere dabbing from a vial. And, God, what I would give to spray on a lot of Ambra Aurea for its opening stage! What an amber!

Source: Stock photos.

Source: Stock photos.

Ambra Aurea is intentionally and expressly intended to be an amber soliflore — meaning a perfume centered around one main note — so it is obviously going to be very linear and uncomplicated in nature. I frequently say that “linear” is a bad word only if you hate the scent in question. And I most definitely did not hate Amber Aurea. Nonetheless, I thought the opening phase was significantly better than its subsequent, less interesting, less special change into a predominantly labdanum-based amber. If the opening hour had remained for most of Ambra Aurea’s development, I would be contemplating how to buy a bottle right now. The notes were so sumptuously smooth, so satin-y rich and layered, I was in absolute heaven and I truly thought Ambra Aurea would become my go-to amber, cozy fragrance. I could just see myself after a long day, after a hot bath, spraying on the perfume and curling up for a cozy evening. The beauty of that start, its cocoon-like warmth, and the extent to which it was comforting, soothing, and relaxing… I can’t begin to convey it properly. But, to me, it didn’t remain that way and, while the subsequent development of the perfume was perfectly lovely and pretty, I’m not convinced that it’s special enough for the perfume’s price.

Which brings me to perhaps one of the biggest problems with not only Ambra Aurea, but with Profumum’s fragrances in general: cost. The perfume is only available in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle that costs $240 or €179 (with some European vendors selling it for more). It’s a little steep for a perfume that is a linear soliflore whose second act doesn’t quite match its first one. If Ambra Aurea came in a smaller size, I think it would be much harder to resist but, as it is, I’m still weighing the pros and cons. I’m not the only one having problems with the cost issue. It’s a subject that is frequently and commonly raised when it comes to both Ambra Aurea and Profumum as a whole, though some seem to think it’s wholly justified. On Basenotes (where Ambra Aurea has a 100% positive rating from 8 reviews), I read a very interesting claim by a commentator, “sultan pasha,” who wrote, in part:

After Profumi Del Forte’s Ambra Mediterrana this has to be one of the greatest and most sublime and richest Ambergris driven amber fragrance I’ve ever smelt. A lot a of people complain about the price, but I’ve heard on good authority that Ambra Aurea is stronger than most normal perfume extraits. For the $240 you are getting 100ml of parfum with a staggering concentration of 46% which is higher than most extraits available in the market! So stop complaining and buy a bottle!

I have no idea where he got the 46% concentration number or if it’s true. I’ve found nothing on any site elsewhere to support that fact which, if true, would be utterly astounding and the highest thing I’ve ever seen. I did some investigation, and the only thing I can find to corroborate that number is a French perfume retailer called Soleil d’Or whose online purchase page for Ambra Aurea states: “Perfume very highly concentrated (43%).”

Outside of genuine curiosity at such a high number, I don’t ultimately care about the technicalities and, in truth, I actually wouldn’t be surprised if Ambra Aurea’s concentration were that insanely high. It smells like it! As “Sultan pasha” wrote in the rest of his review, this is a perfume where one spray will last overnight, and he’s probably right that it would last over a week on clothing. Ambra Aurea has spectacular longevity and its concentrated dosage certainly may warrant its high price. (On the other hand, that concentration would make a smaller bottle even more practical; a 100 ml of such potent juice may well last a person for the next 80 years!) At the end of the day, however, cost is wholly subjective, so I think people who love rich orientals or ambers with smoke absolutely should try Ambra Aurea — for a sniff at the very least. It’s shamefully under-appreciated and unknown.

There aren’t a lot of in-depth reviews for the perfume out there, probably because it isn’t a very complicated scent at the end of the day, but a few assessments from Basenotes may help you decide, especially in terms of comparisons to other amber fragrances out there like Serge LutensAmbre Sultan:

  • A dark, resinous, warm and sensual amber fragrance, probably one of my favourites because of its deep and obscure character, softened by some saline and rounding facets – surely due to its high percentage of ambergris that gives this fragrance its wonderful identity. As all other Profvmvm fragrances, its quite oily texture add a long-lasting but close-to-skin quality at the same time. Really addictive!
  • Ambra Aurea is a top of the line Amber along with Amber Sultan. However, I am not a fan of the sharp stink factor of really raw Amber. I love the other aspects of both of these, but what they were competing against in my samples was Fiore d’Ambra by Profumum Roma. To me, Fiore d’Ambra is the most heavenly, well balanced, and intoxicating Amber. Ambra Aurea is a little darker, mellower, with a touch of sharp Amber stank, while Fiore d’Ambra is refined enough to take the edge off, introduce a slight spice floral with a mere suggestion of powderiness and let the warm vanilla laced amber soar in majestic opulence. Ambra Aurea by contrast stays more grounded and less high flying. With quality this high between these 3, it really comes down to personal preference. […] In summary, this is one of the best Ambers ever, but it just isn’t as incredible as its sister.
  • First of all, l do not think this is at all similar to Ambre Sultan; the Sultan is much more herbal & medicinal than this one. This fragrance is most similar to Tom Ford’s Amber Absolute, & along with that one, it is one of the very best ambers that l’ve tried. l also find it much more satisfying than its’ sister fragrance, Fiore d’Ambra. This has the “wow” factor for me; a strong, raw, resinous amber that smells like it just dripped out of a pine tree. After 30 minutes it sweetens to a deep, rich, velvety amber that is not at all powdery. The sillage is great & the longevity even better. lf you’re looking for a raw amber fragrance with lots of depth that’s not TOO sweet, this one is definitely worth a try.

I haven’t tried Fiore since Ambra Aurea is my very first Profumum fragrance, but Patty at The Perfume Posse has a brief line about it in an Amber round-up. [UPDATE: here’s my Fiore d’Ambra review.] In the sub-category “The Mongol Hordes are Coming” (which is hilarious), she writes:

Profumum has two fairly fierce ambers – Fiore d’Ambre and Ambra Aurea.  You would have to go a long ways to find two ambers from one line that are quite good, and Profumum has done that.  Fiore is warmer.  Aurea is a little sweeter on the open, more honeyed.  If it weren’t for my annoyance with Profumum’s huge price tag with perfumes in such plain bottles, I’d be a huge fan.  I am a huge fan of these two and several of their perfumes, but I get stuck on thinking their price point is just not right.

As you see, we’re back to the price issue, but I agree with her. At a lower price point, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy Ambra Aurea, uncomplicated and simple though it may be. All I can do is to urge the rest of you to try it and see for yourself. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go figure out how to get my hands on a decant of the perfume. It’s that good!

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Ambra Aurea is an Eau de Parfum that only comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $240 or €179. In the U.S.: it is available at Luckyscent and OsswaldNYC. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, Profumum perfumes are sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. Elsewhere, you can find Ambra Aurea at Paris’ Printemps store, Switzerland’s OsswaldPremiere Avenue in France (which also ships worldwide, I believe), Le Parfum et Le Chic (which sells it for €185), Soleil d’Or, and Germany’s Apropos Concept Store. According to the Profumum website, their fragrances are carried in a large number of small stores from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy. You can use the Profumum Store Locator located on the left of the page linked to above. Samples: Surrender to Chance carries samples of Ambra Aurea starting at $4.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. You can also order from Luckyscent.