Bertrand Duchaufour and Jean-Claude Ellena walk into a lab...
Sounds like the start of a good fragonerd joke (and you're more than welcome to fill in the blank), but it actually happened back in 2003 when the two superstar perfumers composed Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta, which is not to be confused with Acqua di Parma's Colonia or Colonia Intensa, each a completely different perfume.
I think that Colonia Assoluta was labeled a masculine fragrance. The press release for the 10th anniversary edition (same juice, but a gorgeous refillable bottle with an engraved bicycle motif ) certainly talks about
"... the man who lives deep in the surrounding world, ready to capture all stimulation....... He has a unique sense of style, matching garments and accessories with carefree elegance to combine tradition with modernity, Urban contemporary icons. The elegance of a man riding a bicycle in the city streets."Whatever. Bicycle riders you see around here are more about neon-colored spandex than elegance (if you've ever been to Nyack, NY on a weekend you know exactly what I mean), and I never learned to ride a bike, anyway. But none of this changes the fact that Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta is a modern take on the classic eau de cologne theme, with some interesting contradictions within the typical citrus and herbs composition.
There's something very stark, blanched, and almost overexposed in the first few minutes of Colonia Assoluta. Think of the blinding light of a summer midday in a small town as the heat drives everyone away from the emptying streets. This is where I also smell a bit too much white musk on its synthetic facet, but I have to admit that it enhances that 'blanched" effect. The citrus, flowers, herbs, and wood elements are blended seamlessly. None of them is too obvious, but there is an undercurrent of spice that keeps Colonia Assoluta from smelling too light and fresh/clean. Back in her 2005 review on NST, Robin identified a shade of cumin in this Acqua di Parma perfume, and I get it. It might be a phantom note that trails the cardamom and various peppers used by Duchaufour and Ellena, but it's there and I actually like it. It keeps things fun.
Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta requires a heavy hand if you want things to last a while. It dries down into a warmer resins and roots than you'd expect from a summer cologne, and I'd personally layer it with some dry and bitter vetiver to enhance the effect.
Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta ($96, 1.7oz) is available at Sephora and select department stores. This review is based on a bottle of last year's anniversary edition that was sent to me by the company's PR. To my nose it's identical to the regular juice (hence the refillable option).
Photo: an outtake from a famous John Rawlings beach shot for Vogue, June 1947.