We don’t know anyone who doesn’t love a little bit of Italy – and really, Acqua di Parma has always been ‘Italy, bottled’, to us: the scents, the elegance, that exquisite packaging which is a signature of shopping, wherever you are in Italy.
The rich history of this perfume house goes back to 1916, to Parma – a city famous for its violets, and a town rooted in cultural tradition. At that time, most of the fragrances men wore came from Germany: strong, intense, complex. The idea behind the creation of the original Colonia from Acqua di Parma was to offer something crisp, subtle, utterly refreshing. Refined and elegant, sophisticated and wearable, it became an instant – and now timeless – classic.
The 1930s saw the start of an age for Acqua di Parma as golden as its signature yellow ‘hatbox’ packaging, which takes its inspiration from ‘Parma Yellow’, the colour that’s graced the facades of that city’s most elegant buildings, since the 18th Century.
the fragrance was worn by stylish men, movie stars and those who understood luxury. (And borrowed, we suspect – as now – by many of the women in their lives.) The chic hand-made Art Deco bottle, then, graced many a smart bathroom shelf – and by the 1960s, it was a ‘best-kept secret’ shared by those-in-the-know. Rich in Sicilian citrus (bergamot, lemon, bitter and sweet oranges), this sparkling creation unfolds to a heart of lavender and Bulgarian rose, on warm, woody base notes – a formula that’s never changed, to this day.
It wasn’t until 2003 that Acqua di Parma offered an alternative to its classic original: Colonia Assoluta, with all the freshness but delicately tart touches. Since then, the collection has grown, slowly, with care lavished on each new creation to ensure it embodies that Italian spirit – and signature Italian ingredients.
Iris Nobile – created by leading noses Francis Kurkdjian and Françoise Caron, in 2004, really put Acqua di Parma on the fragrance map, so far as many women were concerned, featuring iris pe
tals, iris roots (orris), orange blossom, with vanilla and amber crystals in the soft, gently powdery base. As a reviewer for The Non-Blonde website commented, ‘… the perfume is lush and ornate, like a hand-embroidered garment. Couple with the warmth and cashmere-like depth of the dry-down, it’s one of those smell like a million dollars perfumes…’
Then Magnolia Nobile burst into bloom in in 2009, a celebration of that voluptuous spring flower, inspired by ‘the gardens of majestic villas along Lake Como, graced with magnolia trees’. We’re almost there, just imagining it.
Gelsomino Nobile (signed by Michel Almairac) has at its heart ‘a jasmine grandiflorum from Calabria, Italy – one of the last surviving jasmine cultivation sites, for perfume-making in Italy’, and with a particularly green and fresh aspect, for a light and airy effect. Discover, too, Acqua di Parma Colonia Oud: an intense, masterful combination of precious woods: sandalwood, cedarwood, amyris, oudh itself – and touches of forest-floor patchouli.
Alongside the main collection, though, there’s Blu Mediterraneo. If Acqua di Parma‘s ‘Parma yellow’ collection is all urban elegance, this is a seaside vacation in Capri, or a walk in a cool, Tuscan forest: outdoorsy, breezy, reflecting (as they put it) ‘a casual, hedonistic and natural part of the Italian lifestyle’.
The most recent addition to the collection is the wonderfully juniper-y, hint-of-gin Blu Mediterraneo Ginepro di Sardegna, conjuring up Sardinia’s cystal-clear sea and wild landscape, with its maquis of holm oak, euphorbia, wild olive, myrtle and strawberry tree, adding touches of leather for depth. At its heart: the wild juniper which grows widely, on the soft dunes and rocky hills.
From time to time, special editions appear – most recently an exquisite, gilded bottle of Gelsomino Nobile; watch the story of the artisan production of its bottle, here.
This fascinating Italian brand recently became involved with another famous Italian institution: The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, in Venice, partnering with them to sponsor this world-class contemporary collection, the legacy of one woman’s passion for art. As Acqua di Parma President Gabriella Scarpa comments, ‘Our brand has always been a patron of art and culture, being deeply rooted in the invaluable wealth of Italian landscapes, cities and art.’
And bottling fragrances which are, quite simply, scented works of art in their own right…
PS We can’t recommend too highly that if you’re interested in this heritage fragrance house and its many facts, you do some exploration of their website, below. Quite a few inspiring videos there to watch and wallow in – and allow yourself to be whisked Italy-wards…)
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