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