Acqua di Parma Colonia ~ fragrance review

Acqua di Parma Colonia

Over 90 years old, Acqua di Parma’s Colonia (no doubt tweaked over the decades) still smells ‘modern’ and its packaging designs are both decorous (black-and-white labels with simple lettering and the royal coat of arms of Parma, Italy) and lively (easy-to-spot, bright golden-yellow boxes and wrappings). These days, Acqua di Parma touts its rich and famous clientele — royalty, film stars and ‘aristocrats’ of the business world — but such name-dropping is unexpected from a company that once prided itself on its elegance and discretion. (LVMH bought the Acqua di Parma company in 2003.)

Acqua di Parma Colonia contains Sicilian citrus, lavender, rosemary, verbena, Bulgarian rose, sandalwood, vetiver, cedar and ylang-ylang; it starts off sharp with pungent citrus and verbena. The brash citrusy opening gives way quickly to lavender and rosemary. Colonia’s initial stages are fresh and astringent, but the cologne also possesses depth — this is not a lightweight citrus fragrance.

Rarely does a smell make me think of a color, but the opening notes of Colonia do bring to mind the “gold” of its packaging; when I spray on Colonia, I think of bright sunshine on a brisk summer morning. As Colonia develops, it softens, becomes silky and warm and its golden aura pinkens as a powdery rose note emerges. Rose and an iris-like accord come to the fore in Colonia’s mid-development and the satiny middle notes smell like expensive talcum powder (powder-haters, you’ve been warned). I like powdery scents so Colonia’s powdery stage is a welcome contrast to its sparkly-sharp opening notes.

Over the years, I’ve been drawn to Acqua di Parma Colonia whenever I see the gold-colored boxes in a store (and I’ve ordered Colonia samples more times than I can remember). I always spray it on, get excited and then — I don’t buy it. Acqua di Parma’s base notes are the deal breaker for me; I enjoy the sharp opening and the soft rosy center of the fragrance but I don’t enjoy its pedestrian ending, when Colonia turns ‘soapy’ and begins to smell like fresh laundry.

Colonia’s lasting power is good; its clean base notes survive longest on my skin. Colonia can be worn by men or women, but men who do not like floral components in their scents may be put off by Colonia’s noticeable rose and ylang-ylang notes.

Acqua di Parma Colonia Eau de Cologne is available for $64-$104. I am a semi-fan of Colonia; I like the fragrance in candles and soap. The Colonia scent is also available in body lotion/crème, shampoo and conditioner, aftershave balm, talcum powder and bath oil. For buying information, see the listing for Acqua di Parma under Perfume Houses.

Tomorrow: a review of the new Acqua di Parma Colonia Intensa Eau de Cologne.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Odd that you find Colonia 'powdery' – I detest any powdery fragrance and I love Colonia. Although I only own the Colonia Assoluta, which perhaps is less powdery..?

    I think it always resembles the smell of lemon sorbet, to my nose. The quintessential summer fragrance for me. My bottle is almost empty. :(

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Mike: I got a large vial of Colonia Assoluta last summer and it was not powdery on me if I remember correctly (so many perfumes, so few memory cells). Colonia, however, is pure powder as it dries on me.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This and Colonia Assoluta seem to be forever on my radar so I may need to pop into Sephora and try them, though these notes strike me as ones I'd enjoy better in summer, so maybe I'll wait. I looked up an old review of CA, Kevin, and noticed that in the comments you mentioned that Colonia's “fumes bore a hole in my nasal cavity.” Haha. Maybe that's why you end up never buying it!

    I enjoy something about the “classic” and “botanical” aesthetic of AdP. However, I think if I buy a full bottle of anything from them in the near future, it's going to be “Fico di Amalfi”, which I've been keeping my eye on for a long time in hopes of finding a good discount on eBay or elsewhere.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Joe: HOLD IT! Wait till you try the new Colonia Intensa before buying any Acqua di Parma scents; it's my favorite so far. (Or have you already tried it?) And how strange: my abused nasal cavaties have toughened up considerably over the years and can now withstand Colonia's onslaught!

  5. Anonymous says:

    interesting- I don't get the powdery bits either. I get more woodiness to the drydown. I love this one; always have it on hand.

    I always learn something reaking your reviews…

  6. Anonymous says:

    the only thing I have not learned is how to type…

  7. Anonymous says:

    I have not tried Colonia Intensa, but don't worry, I think any AdP purchase is far down my list (and I'm also trying to be mighty FRUGAL, so I'm not likely to be putting more than small decants in my shopping cart. I've developed a “lean & mean” attitude toward purchases, at least for the short term. Ha!). It's interesting how the olfactory membranes develop callouses through such diligent “abuse” isn't it?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Tom…never mind the typos…as long as my reviews don't REEK! HA! You know I remember reading your review of this, was it in summer?, and I TRIED COLONIA AGAIN hoping I would finally “get it.” But there came the clean base notes again — not woody on me. With a woody base, I'd probably wear this one.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Joe: here's to a LEAN and MEAN 2008 — I agree with your philosophy 100 percent.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I recently bought Colonia on an impulse: I was all set to pick up the new Tom Ford, but spritzed, fell in love and purchased the AdP instead. After wearing it around for a couple of days, my initial passion tapered off somwhat, but I still really like this scent a lot.

    I found your comments about color-change very interesting! I seem to get the same associations as you do, or at least a very clear sense of “pinkening” once the softer, rose-phase starts to emerge.

    Being a Jean-Claude Ellena fan I'm also quite anxious to try the Colonia Assoluta… I wonder how far he has gone to impart his own characteristic stamp on a very traditional fragrance?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Robi: after I write this I'll go find my Assoluta sample so I can say something half-way intelligent about it before my Intensa review posts tomorrow…I did try Assoluta twice but didn't take “notes” as I usually do, which means: “I don't need this ever.” That does not mean I hated it but probably had something like it already in the “collection.”

  12. Anonymous says:

    Robi: (PS) another possible reason I didn't take notes on Assoluta: Robin here at NST reviewed it already (in July of 2005); if you're interested in reading her review just click on Pefume Reviews at the top of the NST page and look under “Acqua di Parma”

  13. Anonymous says:

    I also find this very powdery. I was somewhat dissapointed with this fragrance. For me it smells a little bit like “Old Man”

  14. Anonymous says:

    A week ago I finally got to AdP store/ This brand always made me think of Hannibal Lecter and his letter to detective Starling witch he sent her on scented paper.
    I bought Colonia Intensa for my boyfriend but the sales person also gave me samples of Colonia, Colonia Assoluta and Mandorlo di Sicilia.
    I've been wearing these perfumes for a week now and so far I find Original Colonia the most interesting. I don't find it soapy. On the contrary: after lavender and powdery iris-like rose step aside I smell russian church, old men praying, lit candles burning and aromatic oils from incensory. It is subtle, but brings strong memories.
    I really like CA – it wins second prise. When two geniouses corporate nothing bad can come out. But still, it doesn't have much soul.
    Intensa reminds me Cristalle by Chanel. Citrus first, then carroty leather. But hey, I'm a girl, I'd better smell this one on men.

  15. sarahcserpa says:

    I found a never-before-opened bottle of this perfume my mother bought me in Italy over 30 years ago. I opened it and sprayed it on today. This review is spot on! I too found it to be pedestrian and powdery after 5 minutes. Should this perfume still ring true after 30 years?

    • Kevin says:

      sarahcserpa: 1979! That’s a young’un compared to some ole bottles of perfume I’ve found and that smelled pretty good. I bet if you compared your bottle to the scent today it would not smell so different…esp. if the bottle was in a box…away from light.

  16. Smart Welshman says:

    Aqua di Parma Barbiere Range – WOW ! Listen up chaps.
    Had a spare amount of cash so I decided to smarten up a bit and dress to impress. Got new brown brogues Russell Bromley, Cords, white/red stripped shirt Jermyn Street, Black Gant V-neck and grey sporting jacket from M&S Collezione range. Clobber out of they way, so next step was to look for some grooming products. Tried Armani then went to the Aqua di Parma booth in the superstore. I bought the whole range (Shaving cream, post-shave lotion for back of head & neck, post-shave balm for face and the colonia deodrant with black lid). Ended up going to Taylors of Old Bond Street in Jermyn Street to buy razors and brushes. End Result: Went out and never had as many women chat me up in my life and everyone wanted to know what products I was wearing ! So well done Aqua di Parma !

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