Acqua di Parma Colonia, or would you be better off with Paco Rabanne Pour Homme?

I owned a bottle of this one a couple years back. I wore it a few times, but there seemed to be something missing in it. I couldn’t pin point the problem until I acquired some vintage Paco Rabanne Pour Homme perhaps a year later. Colonia begins quite harsh but within a short period of time there isn’t much remaining, and what there is can’t compete against PRPH’s drydown. Here is what one reviewer (“Jack Hunter”) whose opinions are usually ones I can relate to (though I certainly don’t agree with everything he’s written), has to say about it at

The opening citrus accord is stunning and lush which leads to the lavender and rosemary notes. After a while a beautiful rose blooms from the composition and it gets slightly sweeter and powdery. With the basenotes you get a lovely white musk with hints of the glory of the citrus and rose.

This is like a glorious fanfare or song and dance act though short is executed to perfection. I am really impressed with the quality of the ingredients and how lush they feel upon your skin.

Though the sillage is poor and the longevity is short this is a wonderful cologne done with panache and style…

The “official” notes for it seem to be:

…lavender, rosemary, Sicilian citrus, Bulgarian rose, jasmine, amber and light musk.

The notes for PRPH are:

…rosemary, clary sage and brazilian rosewood; middle notes are tonka bean, lavender and geranium; base notes are honey, amber, musk and oakmoss.

“karlovonamesti” at Fragrantica (author of the FromPyrgos blog) has this to say about Colonia there:

…I can’t help but feel that Colonia is actually an early iteration of what we’ve all come to know as a fresh fougere. It has bergamot and lavender up top, coumarin and oakmoss in the middle (check the ingredients list, and you’ll find coumarin is pretty high up on there), and musk down below.

I agree with the claim (made by more than a couple of people) that Colonia seems to possess oakmoss, though I don’t detect an outright fougere accord (which requires plenty of lavender and coumarin). Apparently, as was the case for Memoir Man and Brit for Men, the notes these two scents share (at least in the drydown) seem to dominate for me, and least in the formulations I have (the Colonia bottle certainly didn’t look new, and I obtained it a few years ago). There clearly are differences, but the important point for me is that I like the PRPH composition better, and when I wore Colonia I was thinking that I should have worn PRPH instead on that day. Of course others may have a very different opinion, likely because they are coming at it from a different angle, so to speak.

I do like the opening of Colonia, which as others have said is quite brief, despite its harsh qualities. However, I more or less dismiss the first hour or so of a scent. If it’s awful, but possesses a nice drydown, I know what I need to do to minimize the opening and get to the drydown quickly enough. I don’t understand why the drydown couldn’t be fortified significantly, especially considering how strong the opening was! Some claim that this is true for scents that are “all natural,” though I’m not sure that is true for Colonia in any case. Moreover, if you put amber in a scent you can increase the amount until you get a strong scent for hours, though the perfumer may have thought that doing this would turn it into something very different. Perhaps the opening would have lasted a shorter period of time and it would then be more like one of the many niche scents that feature very strong amber notes.

The PRPH drydown features a light but lingering fougere accord, which seems to complement the aromatic elements, whereas in Colonia the aromatic quality, which is obvious at the outset, seems to be betrayed by the drydown! Was the perfumer, Jean Martel, thinking about making a Colonia type unisex scent into a more “masculine” one? Other than lavender, no floral notes are listed for it, which is suggestive, especially considering how just about every “masculine”‘ scent that is accompanied by a list of note seems to have at least one (carnation and jasmine being common, especially back then). Even the ruffian, Brut, which is nine years older than PRPH, lists ylang-yland besides lavender. In any case, if you don’t mind a mild fougere accord and are more interested in drydowns (and want to save a lot of money), you can try to find some vintage PRPH on ebay. Here is a thread that offers insights into identifying different formulations of it:

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