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.