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.

Perfume Review: Ambra Aurea by Profumum Roma

Source: the Mirror newpaper,

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

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

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

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

Source: The Mirror,

Source: The Mirror,

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

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

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

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

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

Scent of antique temptations:
scent of pleasure and warmth.

Grey amber, Incense, Myrrh

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

Source: Twitter.

Source: Twitter.

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Stock photos.

Source: Stock photos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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