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.



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.



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. 

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.

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

“Abstract Pines” by Chris Shepherd at

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: (Website link embedded within.)

Abstract Green Fantasy by Bruno Paolo Benedetti. Source: (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:

Pine tree sap. Source:

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.



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!



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. 

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.

2013 in Review: Best of & Favorites Lists



The end of the year is almost upon us, so it seems like a good time for a “Year in Review” post with a list of favorites. I can’t say it has been easy for a variety of reasons. For one thing, I always struggle with lists, both in terms of placement and selecting the thing which will take that last spot. For another, I think I may be a little fickle in terms of my favorites, as perfumery can be as much about mood as other subjective factors.

In the case of fragrances that debuted in 2013, it’s been even harder. Honestly, I wasn’t impressed by the vast majority of the new releases that I tested, and the ones I did enjoy wouldn’t amount to a full ten in number. I’m not going to put something on a list simply and solely to round out the numbers, especially if I was underwhelmed with the scent in question or thought it had some serious problems. Take, for example, Tom Ford‘s Shanghai Lily from the Atelier d’Orient line. It is a scent that I liked the most out of Tom Ford’s various new collections this year, but that is a relative thing, not an absolute thing. Just because I liked it more than the rest of the 2013 Tom Fords doesn’t mean I would classify the scent as one of the best of the year. I certainly wouldn’t include Plum Japonais which I found to be a badly done, distorted copy of my beloved Fille en Aiguilles from Serge Lutens.

Mohur pure parfum extrait. Source: Fragrantica.

Mohur pure parfum extrait. Source: Fragrantica.

Another problem is that I’m not sure I should include one scent that was supposed to be released this year, and which I adored when I got to test it, but whose release was subsequently pushed back until Spring 2014. It is Neela Vermeire‘s Mohur Extrait, the formerly named Mohur Esprit. It would definitely be in my list of top 2013 favorites, and I considered saving it for the Best of 2014. In the end, I’ve cheated by including it here for 2013 with an asterisk next to its name.

In reality, my absolute favorite fragrances came from a wide range of years, but since this is the first year of the blog, everything was technically “new” for the purposes of my reviews. So, I’m going to do two lists or, to be more technically accurate, 2.5 lists: my top fragrances released in 2013, even if the number falls short of ten; then my personal top 10 of the perfumes I covered in 2013, followed by the next 15 for an overall top 25 favorites.


  1. Photo: Oleksiy Maksymenko. Source: FineArtAmerica. (Website link embedded within photo.)

    Photo: Oleksiy Maksymenko. Source: FineArtAmerica. (Website link embedded within photo.)

    LM Parfums Hard Leather. Lust in the woods. A scent that, despite the “leather” in its name, is really more about dark woods, oud, incense, and sandalwood, than it is about leather. That said, the stunning, lusty leather and animalic musk give Hard Leather the best opening of a fragrance that I’ve tried in years. Pure, utter sex appeal, and lust. Sex in a bottle. An opening that sweeps me off my feet each time I smell it, and a gorgeous drydown as well. The middle stage isn’t particularly my cup of tea, but if one takes the scent as a whole and judges things on the basis of how intensely one wants a full bottle, then Hard Leather has to come in at first place. That said, I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. For one thing, I think Hard Leather skews very masculine in nature, and even some men may find it excessively dry, dark, or animalic, but I loved it and it is my favorite new fragrance of 2013.

  2. Dress: Rami Kadi Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2013. Source: FlipZone and

    Dress: Rami Kadi Haute Couture 2013. Source: FlipZone.

    Neela Vermeire Mohur Extrait**  I like the regular Mohur eau de parfum, but Mohur Extrait is profoundly stronger, deeper, and richer. It has a va-va-voom oomph that transforms the pale, quiet, restrained, sometimes excessively delicate rose Mohur into Cinderella at the ball. A Cinderella with a diva’s charisma, and wearing the most opulent ball gown and jewels around. Mohur Extrait is a deep, rich, potent blend of roses, with real Mysore sandalwood, iris, and violets. There is a touch of leather, smoky elemi, and pepper to prevent it from being too dainty or femme, and the whole thing sits on an ambered base that is faintly milky but always infused with that beautiful, rich, creamy Mysore sandalwood. Mohur Extrait is simply beautiful, and a head-turner.  **I’m cheating, as Mohur Extrait’s release has been pushed back until 2014, but dammit, it debuted at the Milan Esxence show, so I’m going to include it in my list of 2013 releases.

  3. Source: Philolog at Traumwerk.Stanford.eduViktoria Minya Hedonist. A stunningly golden, happy, but refined, sophisticated, lush, floral oriental, Hedonist sparkles and soothes at the same time. It opens with Bourbon-like, boozy, dark honeycombs that are infused with lush peach, heady jasmine, citrus notes and some orange blossom, all perfectly blended in a soft, golden cloud. It eventually turns into a honey, beeswax and vanilla scent that soothes you in its soft sweetness. Whenever I wear it, I feel calmer, more relaxed, like a cat stretching out in the warmth of the sun. Hedonist has a truly classique feel of haute perfumery, but it never feels dated or old-fashioned, in my opinion. It is elegant and opulent without being excessive, heady but perfectly balanced, and sparkles in a way that reminds me both of champagne and the sunniest of skies in the South of France. Truly beautiful, and a stunning debut from Viktoria Minya.
  4. Source:


    Oriza L. Legrand Chypre Mousse. Elfish green and the floor of a fairy forest filled with the essence of nature in a delicate but strong bouquet of oakmoss, wet leaves, mushrooms, herbs, a strip of dark leather taken over by nature’s minted greens, and a touch of balsamic resins. It’s really hard to describe in many ways, as this is not a traditional chypre, and may be the most unusual, otherworldly scent I’ve encountered. Chypre Mousse stopped me in my tracks, made me turn around on my way to the mecca of Serge Lutens to buy my bell jar, and became something I had to have after a mere 15 minutes, further tests or development be damned. Chypre Mousse won’t be for everyone, but those who love it will experience an incredibly potent, extremely green fragrance that lasts an enormous amount of time for such a seemingly delicate, ethereal scent.

  5. Marion Cotillard photographed by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott for French Vogue, September 2010. Source:

    Marion Cotillard photographed by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott for French Vogue, September 2010. Source:

    Amouage Fate Woman. Fate Woman is a beautiful chypre-oriental hybrid that starts off as a very restrained, cool, aloof scent that smells of citruses, oakmoss, and cool daffodils. Like shedding a sculptured black dress to reveal the sensuous lingerie underneath, Fate Woman turns warmer, more opulent, and sensuous with roses, jasmine, animalic notes, and creamy vanilla that is almost gourmand-like at times. The sensual, sophisticated heart turns warmer and more golden as the fragrance ends on labdanum amber, vanilla, and soft musk in a creamy blend that feels like cuddles after a heated night. I’m not a fan of the soapiness that appears at one point, but Fate Woman is a beautiful scent that starts off as controlled restraint before ending in warm abandon.

  6. Mary Cassat. "Mother Playing With Child."

    Mary Cassat. “Mother Playing With Child.”

    Neela Vermeire Ashoka. Ashoka is a creamy, milky fig and sandalwood fragrance with incense, peppered woods, iris, and other subtle tonalities. It has an enormously comforting vibe that feels like a mother’s warm embrace. It is not my favorite NVC creation, as it is far from my personal style which is much better suited to Neela Vermeire’s bolder, spicier creations. However, it is very well done, and an elegant fragrance that is definitely one of the top releases of the year as a whole. If any of the other NVC perfumes have felt too intense, too oriental, complicated, or fiery, then Ashoka will be for you.

  7. Source:


    Lys Epona Lys Epona. Lys Epona is from a new French perfume house by the same name and sponsored by Jovoy Paris. It is a beautiful scent that caught my attention from the moment I sniffed it at Jovoy and, despite its sillage flaws and longevity problems, it is very well-done, extremely evocative, and has a very vintage vibe. It is also original, taking delicate white lilies, and infusing them with dark, animalic leather, and grassy, outdoorsy elements ranging from hay to daffodils, grass, and amber. The scent is supposed to replicate the dance between a courtesan and a Hussar cavalry officer in France’s elite Republican Guard. For me, however, it conjured up a Celtic princess astride a large white stallion, garbed in a softly burnished, slightly musky, brown leather cuirass, and draped with white lilies. Her skirt is made of hay, wheat and grass; her skin is coated in ambered oil; and her long hair braided with daffodils that matched the flowers in her horse’s mane. Truly, very well done, and the vintage, antique bottles from the 1930s are a perfect accompaniment to the scent.

  8. "Red Orange Rose Yellow Abstract" by LTPhotographs, Etsy Store. (Link to website embedded within, click on photo.)

    Photo: LTPhotographs, Etsy Store. (Website link embedded within.)

    Tauer Perfumes PHI – Une Rose de Kandahar. Andy Tauer’s PHI is a deep, spicy apricot-rose confection with rich vanilla mousse, dark green elements that almost feel mossy, and oriental flourishes ranging from tobacco to cinnamon and ambergris. It’s far from your usual rose scent, and I’d argue that the deep, dark flower isn’t even the main star of the show at times. PHI is a vibrant, sophisticated Oriental-hybrid with the faintest gourmand touches in a rich blend that that even those who don’t particularly like rose fragrances might enjoy.

  9. Ewan McGregor via The Daily Mail.

    Ewan McGregor via The Daily Mail.

    Parfums Retro Grand Cuir. Contradictions and paradoxes lie at the heart of Grand Cuir, which explores leather from one end of the spectrum to the other under the most civilized and sophisticated of veneers. It starts as raw leather coated with birch tar and pungent herbs before turning into the expensive, new black leather of a biker’s jacket, then burnished, softly aged leather with amber, before ending up as the most refined of creamy Italian suedes infused with amber, lavender, and skin-like musk. It’s a journey that is at once animalic and aldehydic, soapy clean, beginning as a masculine scent that is an aromatic, herbal fougère with leather, before it transforms into something very different. And the whole thing is done sotto voce, with the quiet firmness of a confident man who doesn’t believe he has to be flashy and loud to draw attention to himself. Very well done, and very refined.


Perfume reviewing is subjective by nature, but whittling down those personal choices into a favorites list is even more so. No-one ever agrees fully on a Top Ten list, whether it’s for movies, television shows, food, or some other category, and perfume is no different. So, I don’t expect any of you to agree with everything or even some of the things on this list, but these are my absolute favorites out of the modern, non-vintage scents available on the market and that I’ve tried this year.

I’ve struggled for hours over the placement and order, because I can be fickle and prefer some scents over others depending on mood. After re-testing a number of these, I think I have the order set, more or less, with the caveat that there may be a standard deviation of +1 or -1 for the fragrances listed. In other words, on one day, a fragrance coming in at #4 may be at #3 or #5 from one day to the next, but not really more than that. Then again, I can be a little fickle, ranking things is an utter nightmare, and who knows if this would be the precise order in two months from now? I did my best for now, however, so this is the list thus far.

  1. LM Parfums Hard Leather. As noted in my description above, I think this is sexy as hell. I’ll spare you additional heated descriptions, as I quite lose my cool whenever it comes to this fragrance.
  2. Source:


    Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles. At first sniff, Fille en Aiguilles is Christmas in a bottle, from the pine tree before the fire to sugar-plum treats. Look closer, though, and you’ll find Fille en Aiguilles is really all about the frankincense. Spiralling swirls of dark smoke weave its way around the pine, the crushed needles on the forest floor, and the plummy fruits infused with ginger and spices. There is warmth and sweetness, despite the chill in the snowy forest outside. From start to finish, Fille en Aiguilles is my favorite scent from my favorite house. To my amusement, each and every time that I’ve taken perfume samples to share with friends, Fille en Aiguilles is consistently the one that men fall for. The last time I sprayed Fille en Aiguilles on someone, there were precisely 6 women sniffing his neck, his arms, and his chest. I practically had to fight him from grabbing my travel decant there and then for himself. Yet, Fille en Aiguilles is wholly unisex in nature; out of all the people I know who wear it, the vast majority are women.  

  3. Source: Warren Photographic at

    Source: Warren Photographic at

    Puredistance M. A masterpiece from Roja Dove, M has a citric chypre opening reminiscent of Hermès’ vintage Bel Ami that turns to a rich, smooth leather that briefly smells like the most expensive car seats. Soon, the leather is burnished by cognac, becoming soft, rich, and oiled with honeyed roses, jasmine, spices, and beeswax. At times, it feels a little like Serge LutensCuir Mauresque (see below at #11), but the leather phase doesn’t dominate the scent. In my opinion, the true essence of M is a molten, oriental labdanum amber. Simply stunning, from start to finish, and one of my favorite fragrances. I believe that M is unisex in nature, thanks to the florals and the honeyed amber drydown with cinnamon-dusted vanilla, but it will depend on one’s yardstick. Those who love pure florals, powdery scents, or gourmands will probably consider M to skew masculine. 

  4. Source: Huffington Post.

    Source: Huffington Post.

    Neela Vermeire Trayee. Someone once called Trayee a “force of nature,” in a slightly overwhelmed, stunned tone, and I think that’s quite true. The Bertrand Duchaufour creation is fiery, spicy, smoky, dusty, and woody, dominated by genuine, almost rare Mysore sandalwood in copious amounts that runs through the fragrance from top to bottom like a luscious red-gold vein. There are also two different kinds of Jasmine absolute, cardamom, cinnamon, saffron, ginger, frankincense, oud, amber, and a plethora of other notes, all superbly blended into a bouquet that is dry, dusty, spicy, sweet, and smoky. Trayee is intense, no doubt about it, but in its later development, it loses its dry, dusty, spiced smokiness, softens and turns warm with smooth, creamy sandalwood, and deep, slightly smoky amber. Trayee is a tempestuous, stormy, fiery, rich mix that I find utterly mesmerizing. If the perfume were a woman, she’d probably be the famous, legendary diva, Maria Callas, with a touch of the young Sophia Loren in all her hot-heated, Italian ways and a dash of the fierce Mistral wind. It is definitely a force of nature that evokes India in all its multi-faceted, complicated splendour.

  5. Photo: Jon Gonzo on Flickr. (Site link embedded within photo.)

    Photo: Jon Gonzo on Flickr. (Site link embedded within photo.)

    Amouage Tribute attar. Perhaps the smokiest of the smoky greats, Tribute reminds me of Darth Vader’s perfect rose, a rose thoroughly infused with darkness and smoke. It’s utterly spectacular, though the variations in batch numbers is troublesome, leading some versions to be out-of-balance and with such disproportionate smokiness that a handful of people have reported experiencing an almost ashtray-like note. Still, the version I tested was magnificent, and makes Tribute my favorite Amouage scent thus far.

  6. Source: photos.

    Source: photos.

    Chanel Coromandel (Les Exclusifs). My favorite, modern Chanel scent is Coromandel, hands down and by a landslide. It’s probably no surprise, as it is made by my favorite perfumer, the brilliant Christopher Sheldrake who normally works with Serge Lutens. Coromandel begins on an intense frankincense note before turning into a milky Chai tea dusted with white chocolate powder and infused with deep, mellow patchouli. It is my favorite sort of patchouli with its nutty, smoky, woody, spicy, ambered warmth, instead of that vile purple, fruited, syrupy, fruit-chouli. The whole mix is perhaps the most refined, addictive, creamy patchouli-incense fragrance I have encountered. If I could take a bath in Coromandel nightly, I would, because I find something endlessly soothing and indulgent about its ambered, golden warmth.

  7. Source:


    Serge Lutens Fourreau Noir. Nothing in Fourreau Noir should make it a fragrance that I would like, as I normally despise lavender with a fiery passion. I’m actually quite phobic about the note, and the mere mention of the word makes me shudder. But there is magic in Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake’s touch, and the two wizards created the most beautiful scent imaginable. It helps that Fourreau Noir is ultimately not about the lavender at all, in my opinion, but about the incense. From the very first moment, until the fragrance’s end in a cloud of spiced, mellow, patchouli infused with amber and vanilla, the dark tendrils of black smoke weave their way around you. It also helps that the dried lavender transforms into creamy lavender ice-cream with almonds. The real gem in Fourreau Noir, however, is that incense and ambered-patchouli cocoon at the heart of the scent. It says something when a lavender-phobe can love a fragrance with a note they despise; it says more when they go out of their way to purchase an expensive bell jar of it. Which I did….  

  8. Source:


    Téo Cabanel Alahine. A Moroccan souk filled with spices under a turquoise sky. Sumptuous, dark, red roses concentrated to their headiest essence. Golden amber as far as the eye can see with rich, dark, toffee’d caramel, labdanum amber. A powerfully start of incredibly booziness, but a finish that is pure, vintage Bal à Versailles without the skank or dirtiness. Alahine is a fiery, spicy, incredibly complex, oriental monster that may require a bit of Stockholm Syndrome to love. Spray on too much, she’ll blow out your nose, or traumatize you. Don’t give her enough time or tests, and you’ll be misled into thinking she is all booziness, Moroccan spices, and smoke. It seems to require four tests to understand Alahine, and not be overpowered by her intense, smoldering start. It can take time to see that her real nature is the most sophisticated of slinky black dresses, cut low and deep, with a va-va-voom glamour that is opulent, French classicism at its best. Yet, Alahine ends as a really plush, soft, golden, slightly powdered warmth that is as rich as a cashmere, camel overcoat. Don’t let the roses fool you; Alahine is unisex, and I know a number of very masculine men who love its boozy, spiced fieriness deeply.

  9. Source:


    Dior Mitzah (La Collection Privée). A start of dark incense that belongs in a Chinese temple, followed by an ode to labdanum amber in all its richness. Labdanum is the true form of amber, and Mitzah highlights all of its facets from honeyed, toffee’d, slightly dirty, occasionally leathery, and deeply warm in an incredibly refined blend that is also infused with smoke, roses, and patchouli. It’s a wave of richness that made Mitzah much loved, and I find it utterly baffling that Dior decided to discontinue one of its most popular scents. However, you can still find Mitzah online and at Dior boutiques while supplies last, so if you haven’t tried the scent and you love amber, I urge you to get a sample as soon as you can.

  10. Oriza L. Legrand Chypre Mousse. (See above. Or, better yet, read the review, as this is one scent that is very hard to describe.) 


  1. Source:


    Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque. Cuir Mauresque is a shamefully under-appreciated fragrance, in my opinion. It’s one of my favorite leather scents, and, apparently, Serge Lutens’ own choice of perfume to wear. He and Christopher Sheldrake focus on taming animalic leather by infusing it first with clove-studded oranges and spices, then hefty amounts of heady jasmine absolute and orange blossoms. He uses powder to cut through the animalic skank and civet, keeping it perfectly balanced, while also weaving in dark incense, styrax, cedar and ambered resins. The resulting combination resembles Bal à Versailles at times, and oozes pure sex appeal, in my opinion. Cuir Mauresque is wholly unisex in nature. Some men find the leather too powdery, while some women find the skank to be a little too much. It will depend on your tastes. I’ve started using my parents — aka The Ultimate Perfume Snobs who taught me about perfumery to begin with– as my yardstick for other people’s perception of “skank” and leather. My father who finds Hard Leather to be too animalic and “dirty” has Cuir Mauresque as his second favorite leather scent after Puredistance M. In contrast, my mother (who adores Hard Leather and doesn’t find it to be “dirty” at all) thinks Cuir Mauresque is feminine sex appeal and utterly addictive. Your yardstick may vary, but if you love leather fragrances and some skank, then you really should try Cuir Mauresque.

  2. Viktoria Minya Hedonist. (See above.)
  3. "Abstract streams of gold." Photo: Jason Tockey. Site:

    “Abstract streams of gold.” Photo: Jason Tockey. Site:

    Profumum Roma Ambra Aurea. Profumum’s ode to goldenness focuses not on amber, but on ambergris in all its deep, rich, salty, musky glory. It’s a very different matter and aroma, as my review tries to make clear. Ambra Aurea is the thickest, most golden, opaque, intense, salty-caramel amber fragrance around, a veritable deluge of one note heightened to its most concentrated essence with 43%-46% perfume oils. It’s a linear, non-stop soliflore that coats your skin for hours on end, emitting a slight smokiness from incense. There are strong undertones of labdanum amber that are, alternatively, nutty, toffee’d, honeyed, faintly dirty, and almost chocolate-y at times. In its final stage, Ambra Aurea smells of amber and incense with beeswax, saltiness, and sweetness. Lovely on its own, and lovely when used as a layering base, Ambra Aurea is the single richest amber on the market. It blows all the others out of the water, in my opinion, especially Serge LutensAmbre Sultan which also has a labdanum focus but which is like water in comparison.  

  4. Gisele Bundchen for Vogue Turkey March 2011. Photo: the always incredible Mert & Marcus.

    Gisele Bundchen for Vogue Turkey March 2011. Photo: the always incredible Mert & Marcus.

    LM Parfums Sensual Orchid. A seductive floral oriental, Sensual Orchid is centered on the eponymous flower. On my skin, the orchid is a delicate, pastel, floral note that feels as crystal clear, clean, bright and sparkling as a bell rung at the top of the Swiss alps. It smells of lilies, peonies, hyacinth, rose, jasmine, vanilla — all wrapped into one in a cool, clean, crystal liquidity. It is followed by the richest ylang-ylang; custardy vanilla; a hint of smoky woods; bitter, green-white almonds; and boozy cognac fruitedness. The final result is incredibly narcotic, dramatic, opulent, and heady. For me, Sensual Orchid is all about dressing to undress, and to seduce. It is a scent that definitely skews feminine in nature, though I know a number of men to love it as well.

  5. George drawing via Vogue Italia.

    George drawing via Vogue Italia.

    Jardins d’Ecrivains George. Feminine orange blossoms turned masculine in an ode to George Sand. The potent flowers are transformed into something leathered, dark, and faintly dirty with tobacco, resins, and more. From a mentholated beginning with neroli, George slowly takes on paper, coffee, and tobacco notes, followed by heliotrope, myrrh and Peru Balsam in a play of hardness and softness, lightness and dark, masculine and feminine. Leathered orange blossoms is quite an original take on the usually indolic flowers, and I was taken enough by George to buy a full bottle. Some find the scent far too masculine for a woman, which rather defeats the whole point of a fragrance meant to reflect the particular character of George Sand. I think it’s unisex, though you have to like your neroli and orange blossoms with a dark, dirty edge.

  6. Source:


    Arabian Oud Kalemat. Kalemat is a fantastically affordable, easy, rich oriental centered on a honeyed amber with tobacco, incense, and dry cedar tonalities. It opens with dark berries that smell like blueberry purée, infused with honey and incense, then a rich, deep Damascena rose joins the party. Eventually, Kalemat turns into a non-powdery, more concentrated version of Serge Lutens’ tobacco-y Chergui with touches of Hermes’ Ambre Narguilé, Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille, and, for some, Amouage’s Interlude Man. There is a subtle whiff of oud underlying the mix, along with dried cedar. Heady and potent at first, Kalemat becomes a sheer cloud that envelopes you in a golden haze of sweetness, dryness, woodiness and incense. It lasts for hours and hours, smells incredibly expensive, and is highly affordable. If you love ambers, tobacco-incense fragrances, or sweet scent like any of those mentioned above (including Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille), then you really should give Kalemat a sniff.

  7. Arabian Horse tumblr_m7dtkdCrFl1rwt5gqo1_500Amouage Jubilation XXV (Men). I love Jubilation XXV, and always regret that it has very little longevity on my wonky skin. What a beautiful opening! Dark oranges infused with incense, balsamic resins, cedar, patchouli, ambergris and a faint touch of oud in a deep, rich blend that often makes me think of HermèsElixir de Merveilles, but better. A few hours later, Jubilation XXV takes you to the wintery outdoors, with a large stone campfire amidst a dark, dry Guaiac forest, a brisk, chill in the air and the smell of burning leaves. There is a slightly medicinal, synthetic, pink band-aids undertone to the oud, but the fragrance is really well done as a whole. If Jubilation XXV lasted on my skin beyond a mere 5.5 hours, it would be ranked much higher.   
  8. Painting by Holly Anderson. "Spherical Romance Art Set" via (Website link embedded within.)

    Painting by Holly Anderson. “Spherical Romance Art Set” via (Website link embedded within.)

    Nasomatto Black Afgano. In essence, Black Afgano is a super-concentrated, richer, deeper version of YSL‘s fabled M7 in its original, vintage form. It’s a smoky plethora of darkness from the dark, quasi/fake “hashish” elements and cherry-cola labdanum amber with all its nutty, toffee’d undertones, to the incense, the oud (supplemented by Norlimbanol), leather tonalities, and resinous sweetness. I didn’t enjoy the synthetic nuances to the oud or the Norlimbanol, but I liked the fragrance as a whole. It seems Black Afgano may have been reformulated to dilute some of its super smokiness and render the fragrance more sweet, as it wasn’t the dark monster of brutish repute that I had expected. If it has changed, then perhaps the reformulation merely makes it more unisex. Those looking for a version of vintage M7 with deeper potency, sillage, and longevity, should definitely check out Black Afgano.   

  9. Source:


    Serge Lutens De Profundis. A hauntingly delicate, evocative floral that captures the essence of flowers in purple twilight and feels like a call to Spring. It opens with its core note, chrysanthemums. that have been blended with violets, green notes, white lilies, and sweet, wet earth. Lurking at the edges are peonies, chamomile flowers, incense, a dash of light roses, a whisper of purple lilacs, and some ISO E Super. The flowers feel incredibly dewy and light, almost tender and soft. It is as though they are just waking up, releasing the airiest of delicate floral scents. De Profundis is, at the start, a cool fragrance that is almost chilly in its delicacy. As time passes, however, the floral aroma becomes stronger, more robust, almost as if the flowers have fully bloomed in the sunlight. The dew has evaporated, the petals unfurled, and the meadow floor comes to life with earthy softness, light smoke, and every bit of green around. De Profundis is a bit too watery for my personal tastes, and I’m generally not one for pure florals, but it’s hard not to be swayed by its pale, ethereal delicacy. It is really a hauntingly elegant scent.    

  10. Source:


    Dior Ambre Nuit (La Collection Privée). If Mitzah was Dior’s ode to labdanum amber, then Ambre Nuit must be its homage to ambergris. On my skin, Ambre Nuit is smoky, liqueured, salty-sweet amber, with dry woods and a quiet touch of delicate roses that have been rendered a little fiery from pepper and a little sweet from patchouli. It is laced with black incense, creating a mix that evokes parts of Chanel’s Coromandel. There is something extremely sensuous about Ambre Nuit which often makes me think of the Argentinian tango. The ambergris’ special, unique features evoke the warmth of heated, slightly musky skin that has been rendered just the faintest bit salty from sweat. The incense conjures up the smoky, dark feel of those dance rooms, while the gaiac and cedar replicate the incredibly smooth, wooden floors that the dancers glide across. The rose never features much on my skin, though it does on others. On me, the patchouli is more prominent with its spicy, sweet, often chocolate-y mellowness. It’s a beautiful combination, and my second favorite scent from Dior’s refined Privée line.

  11. Painting by Gyula Tornai (1861-1928): "In the Harem."

    Painting by Gyula Tornai (1861-1928): “In the Harem.”

    Maison Francis Kurkdjian Absolue Pour Le Soir. Described by some as beastly, by others as “dirty,” Absolue Pour Le Soir is my favorite from MFK, but how you respond to it will depend very much on your personal yardstick for honey, cumin, and animalic notes. For me, Absolue conjures up the heart of a Turkish harem besieged by musky, leather-armoured warriors. They bang on the sandalwood doors which open to release spirals of incense, as honey-swathed concubines approach to tempt with deep roses and indolic ylang-ylang. Absolue Pour Le Soir begins as an instant war between warm human flesh, the mysteries of floral-draped women, sweet honeyed intimacy, animalic leather, and feral, musky masculinity. As if tamed, the fragrance later softens to a creamy, spiced sandalwood infused with honey, dark resins, frankincense, and a dollop of roses. It’s lovely, though I’ve found myself holding it at more of a distance these days, perhaps because of the sharpness of the honey which is a core element of the scent. Still, if you want a truly skanky Oriental with the most golden of ambered hues and endless layers of complexity, you should rush to try Absolue Pour Le Soir.

  12. Amouage Fate Woman. (See description above.)
  13. Source:


    Tauer Perfumes’ Une Rose Chyprée. I’m generally not one for rose scents, but Andy Tauer’s Une Rose Chyprée is an exception. It’s a spectacular chypre-oriental hybrid that features an autumnal, ambered rose nestled in the mossiest of green cocoons. The fragrance swirls all around you in a veiled shimmer of greens, garnet red, earthiness, and mossy trees — all rolled into one. This is a green rose whose petals were crushed into the damp, wet soil of the forest floor; a rose that lies nestled amidst fresh, just slightly mineralized, faintly bittersweet mosses; a rose infused with the concentrated essence of a thousand dark green, slightly spicy, peppered leaves, then sprinkled with hints of alternatively tart and zesty citruses. It is a rose that is fruited, but spiced with cinnamon, and wrapped with the tendrils of black incense. Some chypres can be haughty, cold, aloof numbers that keep you at a distance. Une Rose Chyprée is almost a coquettish chypre that beckons you with a sweet smile, despite the emeralds and rubies glowing around her elegant, rosy throat. If it didn’t have an enormous amount of ISO E Super and didn’t give me a ferocious, piercing headache, I would definitely be tempted to buy a full bottle. Nonetheless, it’s an absolutely beautiful scent, and my favorite from Andy Tauer.  

  14. Tauer Perfumes’ PHI – Une Rose de Kandahar. (See description above.)
  15. Edward Steichen photo, 1931. Molyneux dress. The Condé Nast collection.

    Edward Steichen photo, 1931. Molyneux dress. The Condé Nast collection.

    Puredistance Opardu. I’m not the sort to be deeply moved by pure florals, but Opardu has one of the most beautiful openings in the genre that I’ve encountered in years. It almost gave me whiplash as I smelled the bouquet of lilacs — vast fields of purple with a scent that was concentrated, pure, and incredibly delicate. It was followed by violets, tuberose, jasmine, lush gardenia and heliotrope in a stunning mix. It is pure, unadulterated, classique, haute elegance that calls back to the golden age of perfumery. On my skin, unfortunately, that spectacular start lasts only a brief hour before it fades, and then sheer, vaguely floral powderiness takes over. If there were a way to capture and retain that beginning, Opardu would undoubtedly be in my Top 10. As it is, I think it’s a beautifully feminine fragrance with Puredistance’s signature touch of great refinement, elegance, and luxuriousness.

So, that’s my Year in Review. I may end up having a separate post next week that divides fragrances into categories, from Ambers and Leathers, to Floral Orientals, Pure Florals, Gourmands, and the like. I’m still undecided, as I know it will take forever to compile, and some genres may only have one or two entries in it. Others may have far too many to choose from. In case you hadn’t noticed, I tend to focus on Orientals, and I rarely stick my toe into such fields as foodie gourmands, crisp colognes, or aldehydic fragrances. Plus, many Orientals are either hybrids or have two or more dominant elements that can make the scent fall into different categories. As a result, I’m not sure how useful or precise such a list will be, but we shall see.

As the year draws to a close, I want to wish you all Happy Holidays. I hope that the upcoming year brings you endless joy, peace, prosperity, good health, success, love and laughter. Thank you for staying on this journey with me, and here’s to a great 2014!

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.




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: For an easy recipe, go to:

Crème Brûlée. Source: For an easy recipe, go to:

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: (Website link embedded within photo.)

Funnel cake cupcakes. Source: (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: 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:

Pine tree sap. Source:

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.



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.



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:

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

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!!



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.

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.


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

“Fading Flower” by Hani Amir via

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.



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. 



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.


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.



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.


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



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.



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.

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.

Photo: Dayle Ann Clavin Photography, used with permission.

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.

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. 

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

Incense in China – Don Daniele at 500px Com

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!

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.