As with most Western interpretations of Asian movies or cuisine, oriental fragrances have long had a reputation for being spicy (cloves), peppery (peppercorn), and exotic (incense). When one first delves into the Eastern world of scents, he will often reach for a “floriental” one that marries Asian spices with the warm woods and resins of the West.
This somewhat traditional way of devising scents is thankfully lost at Italian fragrance house Acqua di Parma with its constant challenging of the status quo since its founding in 1916. The maison stood out amidst the glamour, sophistication, and elegance of the era with a concept we would like to term as True Scents.
If one is wondering about the meaning behind True Scents, we are referring to fragrances that do not smell of synthetics but instead smell as natural as the fresh ingredients used.
The first fragrance Acqua di Parma introduced was Colonia Acqua di Parma, a citrusy scent with lavender, rosemary, Sicilian citrus, Bulgarian rose, jasmine, amber, and light musk. Acqua di Parma’s two centuries-long commitment to the art of True Scents distils down to the trio of its latest Signature of the Sun series – Osmanthus, Yuzu, and Vaniglia.
Acqua di Parma’s three new fragrances might be already familiar – the delicate fruitiness of the osmanthus flower, bitter-sweetness of yuzu, and buttery softness of vanilla – but it is the deft manner in which these seemingly uncomplicated ingredients are blended that brings out the sunlight in each bottle.
The osmanthus notes in the eponymous fragrance do not bloom upon the first spritz. Instead, it is layered amidst sparkling green mandarin and floral neroli. Its true potency is then revealed at the base, enriched with aromatic patchouli and an animalistic whiff of ambrette. In Yuzu’s flacon, the rare oriental citrus fruit ripens next to other oriental plants like spicy Sichuan pepper and sunny Bergamot before warm sandalwood and the masculinity of musk kick in.
Contrary to what Men’s Folio has written before about “florientals”, Vaniglia – the oddity in the trio – is the new standard of the aforementioned category. It takes the buttery softness of vanilla (recall the West is usually associated with warm woods and resins) and blends it with aromatic sambac jasmine (the flower is harvested from Bhutan or Bangladesh) and citrusy mandarin.
LIGHT AND DARKNESS
Fans of Aqua di Parma will notice that the three stalwarts – Quercia (oakmoss), Oud, and Leather – are still very much present, albeit repackaged. While one might assume that the six black bottles (Amber, Leather, Oud, Quercia, Sandalo, and Vaniglia) are categorised as a different product line than the two clear ones (Osmanthus and Yuzu), it is but a savvy move on the house’s part to communicate the fragrance’s intensity.
The fresher and most vibrant fragrances are housed in the clear bottles while the intense and assertive ones are in the darker flacons. For the label, Acqua di Parma’s signature gold is printed on a black background – an aesthetic that also appears on the brand’s iconic cylinder-shaped box.
If one is also familiar with the visual language of Acqua di Parma – the brazenly good-looking men, the hyper-stylised photos, and its constant references to the Mediterranean, the Signature of the Sun’s advertising campaign comes as a pleasant surprise.
Lensed by Italian photographer Maurizio Galimberti – an “instant” artist well known for his commitment to polaroid photography since 1983 – each picture is deliberately imperfect and sun-soaked.
It is akin to one lounging in his Italian villa and lazily taking a polaroid picture of his latest obsession. In this case, it is a flacon that brings to mind every memory of one great summer a la a Luca Guadagnino film – the weather is perpetually balmy, the water is always a clear cerulean, and the air is loaded with fresh optimism and adventures ahead.