Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Acqua di Parma Colonia Ambra: fragrance review & draw

Tucked among the crags of western Portofino Promontory is the town of Camogli, which the novelist Charles Dickens once declared "the saltiest, roughest, most piratical little place. " Its sea dog mercenaries were sought after to rival the fleet of the ally city state Genoa. Ambergris, that adventure in a bottle for armchair mariners, is at the very core of inspiration for Colonia Ambra by Acqua di Parma, which I discovered this year and immediately liked.


That's not coincidental, as ambergris, the prized animal exudation from sperm whales for perfume, is a scent I could (and do) wear neat on my skin in alcohol tincture. Dedicated to a gentleman who loves to travel and explore new cultures, Colonia Ambra is part of the "ingredients themed editions" of the classic Colonia by Acqua di Parma (The other two editions include Colonia Leather and Colonia Oud, also good).

The mention of the other editions is not without merit; if you like Colonia Oud, this edition, Colonia Ambra, is like the oud base has been stripped off but the smoky woody goodness remains, layered rich and thick and nuzzling on the skin. The cypriol addition makes its presence known (as does patchouli) and the warm materials shift the direction into a woody oriental, milder and softer than Colonia Oud. I could very well wear this frequently; it's refined and lasting without elbowing anyone out of the way, yet it is no wallflower either.

Although the skeleton for the classic Colonia is one of stark freshness, the citrus fruits in Colonia Ambra have purposefully lost their sparkle in order to solely render a "lift" to the warm, musky aura of ambergris, musk and patchouli which are at the very nucleus of this composition. One can't really describe the notes one by one, as the blend is relatively tight and the overall effect is one much more refined than the allusion to Camogli would suggest.

Fans of amber and vanilla scents in men's fragrances should explore Colonia Ambra. This is marketed to men, but I find that it can be shared by women perfectly, like boyfriend jeans or a nice velvet jacket for evenings over one's chiffon top to keep the chill out.
The projection and sillage are moderate, but the staying power is very satisfying given the posh price.

Fragrance Notes for Colonia Ambra by Acqua di Parma:
Top Notes: Orange, bergamot, petit grain
Heart Notes: Rose accord, cypriol, virginia cedarwood, patchouli
Base Notes: Ambergris, sandalwood, cistus labdanum, vanilla, musk

This is what Acqua di Parma says about the scent of Colonia Ambra:
"An original, elegant fragrance inspired by the distinctive combination of two olfactory themes that are bursting with personality - the citrus notes of Colonia blend with deep sensuality of Ambergris, an ancient essence that is extremely rare and precious. Its characteristic scent is owed by the effect of the ocean and the wind, shaping and caressing this precious substance for many years before casting it ashore on the world’s beaches. The zesty citrus top notes of orange and bergamot evolves into a warm heart with cedar wood, rose and patchouli. Sublimated by the perfect harmony of Ambergris with sandalwood, warmed by the soft accents of vanilla, this new Eau de Cologne Concentrée reveals its unique personality in base notes of inimitable elegance and refinement."

This edition of Colonia Ambra comes as a natural spray of Eau de Cologne Concentrée, encased in a beautiful luxurious fabric-covered box, available in a 100ml or 180ml size.

One lucky reader will receive a 5ml vial by leaving a comment below this post, stating their views on fragrances inspired by animal essences. Draw is international and ends Wednesday 23rd midnight. 

Related reading on PerfumeShrine:
Ambergris: Definition and Musings on "Whale Vomit" (?) 
Perfumes with Ambergris, the mysterious "grey amber" note
Acqua di Parma: fragrance reviews & news
Frequent Perfumery Questions on Perfume Shrine
Cypriol/Nagarmotha: Smokiness of Wood


  1. This sounds lovely and I very much hope this Colonia edition will make it to Stockholm, Sweden. I am not familiar enough with the raw ingredients of perfumery, so I can't say much about ambergris more than I love the name and the connotations it brings of a hidden away treasure. Concerning animal essences in general I like my scents to be grounded and have a certain density, in which ofc the animal essences play a big part.
    Thanks for the draw and happy holidays!

    1. It already is, I tested it in September in Åhlens City. It is very good but even if my favorite (for myself) is Colonia Oud it somehow brings out the flowery nuances which is present in some ouds on my skin. When it comes to animalic notes: I really like their vintage, a bit skanky appearance.

    2. Excellent news, thanks!

    3. Thanks for supplying the shopping info Parfumista! Much appreciated. :)

  2. I think most of my favorite scents include animal essences. They really do add a certain weight and depth to a fragrance ... I'm not good enough at describing scents to get more prosaic than that. But a little skank is usually a good thing, IMO!

  3. I'm still a fragrance noob, so I can't really opine on the animalic side of fragrances. "smoky woody goodness" sounds fantastic, though! thanks for the draw!

  4. Oh I do love a amber scent so I will look out and see if this comes to my shores!

  5. Oooh! Thanks for the lovely draw. Unknowingly, I was introduced to animalic scents by way of Mom. She used to wear Secret de Weil and Oil of Mink among many others. Later, I realized fragrances never smell the same on anyone else, not even me with half the same genes.

  6. i would LOVE to try this one! "smoky woody goodness", mmmm, yes please!

  7. Anonymous21:36

    I'm not aware of any perfumes actually inspired by civet, but I note that some of my favourite, older perfumes have civet: Shalimar, Chanel no.5, Ysatis, Must de Cartier. For me, the civet provides a depth and roundness. I also like some of the older musks, but the overwhelming prevalence of the oh-so-clean musks sometimes sends me running away.
    Classic cologne structures often work well for me, so I'm very interested in the Colonia Ambra. Thanks for your generous draw opportunity.

    -- Lindaloo

  8. Miss Heliotrope05:50

    O dear, you've done it to me again. I have an ongoing love affair with the aethetics of colonialism (& yes, am perfectly aware of it's evils, I am Australian & we are still perpetuating them). Nevertheless, I could wear this with my pith helmet, non?

    ps - if you are also into the whole colonial theme thingy, have you ever seen the decor/interior design books by Sibella Court, especially the first, etc? Lots of fun...

    1. Miss Heliotrope05:50

      its evils. I am not that ill-educated. Promise.

  9. I have not yet tried this one and would love to. Ambergris "neat" is not for me but I adore it as part of a good composition. Thanks for another great draw.

  10. Eva H.09:03

    This sounds intriguing.
    When it comes to animal notes I like them a bit more tame. I really dislike the fecal aspect some musks can have.
    I guess I am just not that daring..

  11. OOO!!! I love animalics!
    I'll wear an entire zoo as long as those critters are all kept in their cages. ROWRRR!!!!
    I'm wearing PK's TNT, a gorgeous realistic tuberose with ambergris & musk!

  12. Aline12:29

    Not very keen on non vegan essences but loving the effect of animalics in general. Thankfully they can be synthesized. Please put me in the draw!

  13. As long as the animal elements don't overpower, I'm all for them. This sounds beautiful, so I'm off to see if I can find a sample to try. Thanks for the giveaway. Is it Christmas in Greece? Merry Christmas in advance or belatedly depending.

  14. Hmmm, sounds like spicy trade winds, rough ocean waves, and golden velvet sunsets. I would love a whiff!

  15. intrested...to say the least
    thanks a lot
    Merry Christmas to those celebrating

  16. This sounds wonderful! Just the thing for a bracing walk along my favourite beach!
    Thank you,

  17. This sounds lovely! As long as the "animal" is not too overwhelming I feel it adds depth to the perfume. Thank you for the draw and Merry Christmas, E.

  18. I love the animal notes!

  19. Anonymous20:43

    Although it may sound strange, I feel that a little 'animalic' accord added to a perfume makes it a bit more 'human'....or perhaps a better word would be 'alive'. I'd love to try this fragrance...I don't think I have any that center on ambergris.

  20. I love civet, and a bit of barnyard in fragrances. While not exactly animalic, I don't think, the first hour of Mona di Orio Oud is big barnyard and I don't like getting to the office in that first hour!

    1. ...and you make Colonia Ambra sound fabulous

  21. Over the past few months and into the new year my goal is to try a greater variety of fragrance types. I love florals with all my heart, but I'm finding new loves in other areas. It was here at Perfume Shrine I learned of Eau des Merveilles' ambergris note, and oh how I love it. Colonia Ambra sounds truly remarkable. Thank you for telling the piratical story behind it. Exciting!

  22. Flowergirlbee sent me the following comment for inclusion in time by email:

    "thanks for the draw.
    i don't really have anything insightful to say about animal essences but the few vintage things i have smelled with real ambergris or real musk smell amazing.i read a great book all about ambergris and now i always look on the shore for some..never had any luck though."


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