France is often regarded as the epicentre of the perfume world, and rightly so, this country is responsible for the majority of the most wonderful and classic perfumes to have graced the earth. So yes, it’s right to say that France is the kingdom of perfume but it’s not the only country to have produced great fragrance and now that the world is a much smaller place we are seeing perfume from all over the place, such as; Oman (Amouage), Germany (4711) and America (Estée Lauder), and it is worth noting that other European destinations have contributed their fair share of scent to the world.
One particular place that is pretty good for perfume, and quite underrated for that matter is Italy. It’s hardly a surprise when you think about it; Italy is a beautiful country with a wealth of fragrant cues found in the food, landscapes and vitality of the people, after all. The Italian’s also have a wonderful sense of style and thirst for life that is easily translated into the spirit of a perfume. Brands such as Eau d’Italie are perfect examples of how this spirit has been ‘bottled’ by niche brands, if you pardon the pun.
Perhaps the most famous of Italian perfume brands is Acqua di Parma, a house that captures the spirit, style and traditions of Italy. Opening their doors just under 100 years ago in Parma, Acqua di Parma launched with just one fragrance – a cologne that they describe as being “the first real Italian cologne”. The house has since grown and now offers a wide range of scents and colognes, all embodying the innate sense of sophistication and quality that makes the brand so popular.
Acqua di Parma’s famous cologne – ‘Colonia’ – is still available today, 98 years after its launch and is available in a number of different guises. This means that whatever way you like to take your Colonia you can have it four ways; straight up, (the original), ‘zhuzzed up’ (Assoluta), ‘smartened up’ (Essenza) and ‘tweeded up’ (Intensa).
Colonia is what I like to call a ‘straight up’ cologne, falling squarely into the category of a simple idea executed masterfully. Everything one would expect from an Eau de Cologne is there – citrus (lemon, orange & bergamot) herbs (rosemary), flowers (lavender, orange blossom&the sleek sheen of hedione) and musk – in excellent proportion, making for a well balanced and spring-like cologne evocative of bright Italian days.
What is perhaps most remarkable about Colonia however, is its tenacity.Unlike many Eau de Colognes, Acqua di Parma’s signature cologne isn’t subtle or quiet and it does last a reasonable amount of time, thanks in part to its base of warm amber and supple coumarin. This injection of warm, resinous materials in the base adds a velvety floor, for which the lighter, more ethereal notes can rest, allowing them to shimmer on for the longest time.
Colonia is a super-stylish cologne that simply smells great. It’s presented as a no fuss, easy to wear and nicely proportioned scent that strikes the right balance between being an uncomplicated fragrance with hidden depth. My advice, spritz some on (don’t be shy) and feel like the most fashionable person in the world.
Assoluta is much in the same vein as the citrus sophistication of Colonia, but it is different in the sense that it takes an altogether spicier route, zhuzhing up the classic signature of the original with measured doses of sour orange, cardamom and pimento.
The base is richer too, with a bold streak of vetiver, serving as a nice contrast to the tartness of the citrus and amplifying the general hum of spice that makes Assoluta more of a complex and intriguing experience. If Colonia is the stylish, free spirit of the Italian people for summer days then this more mature interpretation of Eau de Cologne is for warmer summer evenings spent dining al fresco.
Essenza is an interesting beast. At first it feels incredibly zesty and lively with a sweet burst of mouth-watering Satsuma, almost as if one is biting into a thick and juicy piece of fruit. But this all quickly subdues and Essenza rapidly becomes a warmer and darker take on Eau de Cologne that feels perfectly suited for formal wear. In fact, it feels positively out of place if not accompanied by a crisp shirt and tie.
The citrus is bolstered and elongated by a patchouli gauze, which in turn adds a sense of darkness to the zesty quality of all that fruit. It is by far my favourite of the bunch and succeeds at being even more sophisticated than the original, albeit in an unusual and surprisingly citrus-centric way. Also to Essenza’s credit, it takes cues from notable (and stylish) Italian masculines such as Armani Eau Pour Homme and Dolce & Gabbana Pour Homme, tipping its cap to the country’s fragrant hall of fame.
Given the chance, I’d utilise Essenza as a go-to work scent – one that presents a character that is both serious yet vivacious – a perfume of contrasts.
Colonia Intensa (that’s ‘intense’ to you and me) is reportedly the masculine one of the bunch but if you’re sensible you’ll ignore that label, as this one, much like the others in Acqua di Parma’s cologne family, is entirely unisex. Where Intensa differs from the others is in its use of typically masculine ingredients, namely wood and leather. These give this particular take on Colonia a more rustic, refined and definitely relaxed persona.
Guaic wood makes Intensa a cologne with a robust and solid texture, showcasing a delicate layer of spicy facets. The leather adds sweet powder and benzoin gives the proceedings an odd but interesting waxy feel. All this adds up to apensive cologne that almost feels as if it would be found tucked away in an old library nose deep in a dusty book.
This one’s for those dapper country types that prefer the cool, misty outdoors of the English countryside to the sparkling seas and landscapes of Italy. Tally-ho, pip-pip and all that.
Over to you
Tell me, how do you take your ‘Colonia’?