Perfume Review – Fiore d’Ambra by Profumum: Opium Amber

Photo series for Interview Magazine by Mert & Marcus.

Opium den photo series for Interview Magazine by Mert & Marcus.

The room was a glowing box of silk and soft woods, decorated in shades of gold, bronze, umber, red and brown. The one touch of colour came from the crimson lacquered boxes emitting smoke. It was an opium palace, an amber palace, a place of soft luxury. As the woman stood at the threshold, she took one long, red-taloned finger and ran it down the column of her neck. She could feel the smoke, spices and vanillic powder coating her bare skin, cloaking her in its soft, sheer, silken caress. She could smell cinnamon and cloves, and perhaps a touch of carnation. She wished she could bottle the aroma forever.  

Photo series for Interview Magazine by Mert & Marcus.

Opium den photo series for Interview Magazine by Mert & Marcus.

Someone has. It is the smell of Fiore d’Ambra, a soft, dry, spicy, slightly powdered and vanillic amber eau de parfum from Profumum (sometimes called “Profumum Roma” or “Profvmvm,” but also written as “Pro Fvmvm” on the company’s website). I should confess here and now that Profumum has become my latest obsession, a house that seems tailor-made for my tastes with the richness of their perfumes — perfumes that are said to have 43% to 46% perfume oil. It’s astoundingly high, the highest I’ve ever seen, but you know what? You can smell it. It shows in the richness of the fragrances which have, somehow, also managed the feat of feeling airy and light. I don’t quite know how Profumum did it, especially given how they use the richest ingredients that always feel opaquely luxurious, but they have. And now, I’m completely obsessed. 

Profumum Fiore d'AmbraFiore d’Ambra is different from its almost twin sister, Ambra Aurea, a scent which many consider to be one of the best amber perfumes around. (I think it is!) But Fiore d’Ambra is also excellent. Profumum‘s website describes it very simply:

A candle diffuses the scent of opium and amber
An elegantly unmade bed
And my book on the night table.
In my mind thoughts of her.

[NOTES:] Opium flowers, Amber, Spices

I haven’t the faintest clue what “opium flowers” may be, since I highly doubt Profumum has mined poppy flowers from the fields of Afghanistan, but Fiore d’Ambra opens on my skin with a blast that takes me back to my beloved: YSL‘s vintage Opium. Whatever those “opium” notes may be, Fiore d’Ambra replicates some of the base elements in Opium with its dry, highly spiced, warmed woods. It’s not the power of suggestion; I suspect the similarities stem from a heaping dose of cinnamon and cloves that have combined with the amber and, I’d bet, a small dose of ambergris as well. There is also a nebulous, rich but airy, dark floral scent flickering around the edges. I couldn’t figure it out until I saw a Basenotes commentator say that he smells carnation, and I’d bet he’s right.

China Incense - Don Daniele at 500px Com http://500px.com/photo/17207583

Incense in China – Don Daniele at 500px Com
http://500px.com/photo/17207583

There are other things that must be lurking in Fiore d’Ambra as well. Incense, to begin with. I’d venture it is primarily frankincense with its sharper, slightly more forceful, biting character, but also some myrrh as well, since the perfume develops a somewhat nuttier, softer sort of smoky edge later on its development. In addition, there has to be benzoin, as Fiore d’Ambra takes on a slightly powdered vanillic base, along with sandalwood and perhaps another sort of medium-dark wood accord .

Whatever the particular makeup of Fiore d’Ambra, it is a superbly blended perfume. It may have certain notes rise to the surface as the others retreat, it may undulate like the waves in terms of intensity, but its primary character never really changes: soft, dry amber infused with spices, a slightly herbal note, incense, and a dusting of vanilla powder. In the very opening moments, the “opium” is fierce, the smoke is fiery, and both elements are accompanied by something a wee bit bitter at the edges as well as an extremely subtle green, herbal note. Soon, the amber in Fiore d’Ambra softens, turning slightly woody, but always infused by notes of cinnamon, perhaps star anise and cloves, and the start of the lightest powder imaginable. With every passing hour, the perfume softens in its elements, especially the smoke. Eventually, about six hours later, Fiore d’Ambra is a powdered, cinnamon, vanilla-caramel amber with the merest whisper of a herbal note. In its final moments, Fiore d’Ambra is just a sheen of soft, warm vanillic powder with a flicker of amber.

All in all, Fiore d’Ambra lasted a surprisingly short 8.5 hours on my perfume consuming skin — and I sprayed, not dabbed, quite a bit. I expected much, much more from a perfume that is supposedly 43% concentration, especially as the smallest smears of its sister, Ambra Aurea, lasted a good 13.5 hours and 16 hours on my voracious, perfume-consuming skin. The sillage of Fiore d’Ambra was also lower than I expected, though slightly more in keeping with that of Ambra Aurea. Neither perfume is going to project across the room, but Fiore d’Ambra was particularly soft.

There aren’t a lot of in-depth reviews for the perfume out there, probably because Fiore d’Ambra isn’t a very complicated scent at the end of the day, but there is a very positive short one from Nathan Branch who writes:

Starts off as a powdery soft, pleasantly sweet amber perfume and crosses the finish line as a musky, woodsy fragrance shrouded in a lightly powdered veil.

Layers of cinnamon and clove (or what the manufacturers call “opium”) add a bit of spice, with the ambergris at the base (and it smells like the real deal) diffusing like clockwork to achieve an earthy and sophisticated finish.

Fiore d’Ambre is restrained and feminine — nothing wild, experimental or unusual, but anyone lucky enough to lean in close will think you smell intoxicatingly lovely. In fact, I think I’m getting drunk on it as I type this . . . *hiccup*

A more detailed assessment of Fiore d’Ambra comes from a Basenotes poster, “sommerville metro man,” who seems to have the same experience that I did:

I do enjoy my amber centered scents and Profumum has one of my favorites in Ambra Aurea which used amber in a way which brought out its more strong lines. In this 2008 release Fiore D’Ambra chooses to explore the sweeter side of amber and is just as successful as its predecessor. Profumum can be frustrating with their note lists, for instance the note list for this scent is ambre gris and opium. Who knows what that means but it does free one to experience a scent without too many pre-conceived notions of what should be there. Other, than of course, amber which is in the name. From the top the amber is present and this is a sweet amber full and round. It is paired with a lovely sweet incense accord that amplifies the sweeteness of the amber without taking over the scent. The amber persists into the heart where there is a spiciness present but it has a floral character to it which makes me think carnation because there is a hint of clove. Again this is partnered well with the amber as the contrast brings out a different facet of the amber. In the base a soft creamy sandalwood mixes with the amber to finish this off in traditional territory with an accord I’ve smelled many times before and it feels like coming home as the amber and sandalwood mix together like peas and carrots. Profumum have now done two very different takes on amber and Fiore D’Ambra is every bit as good as Ambra Aurea, to me. If I was to be stuck with only these two scents as my amber contingent in my wardrobe I’d be fine with that.

I completely agree with his last sentence because both perfumes are very well done. I happen to prefer Ambra Aurea just by a hair because I love its honeyed, satiny, salty, nutty, caramel ambergris and because I think it’s richer, stronger, and slightly more unusual (real ambergris!). But the spices, smoke and powder in Fiore d’Ambra are lovely, and I could easily be happy with just that one if I didn’t know of its twin sister’s existence. Ultimately, I think it’s a question of personal tastes as to which one will suit you best. Take, for example, the rapturous assessment by one Profumum fan who likes Ambra Aurea, but who is utterly enamoured by the refinement and vanilla base of Fiore d’Ambra:

The prestigious, glorious, heavenly diamond of Ambers. This turned out to be the best out of the following:

Ambra Aurea by Profumum, Ambre Russe by Parfum d’Empire, Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens, L’eau d’Ambre Extreme by L’Artisan Parfumeur, and various other pure Amber oils and paste.

Fiore d’Ambra is refined without the funk stink of Ambre Sultan, Ambra Aurea that I found. It’s an uplifting ethereal rich amber with a vanilla like warmth. And at the top is just a hint of spiciness that is so fine it makes the whole vessel skyrocket. I was haunted for a month by this as a sample, but the price made me seek as many other options as possible. This is the winner – very precious, rare, and expensive.

The magic of Fiore sits just above unisex to me, into a feminine leaning, but ultimately transcends gender in it’s opulent luxury. Sillage is high in my opinion, and longevity is satisfying. I can still smell this on my skin waking up in the morning.

Ambra Aurea

Ambra Aurea

Honestly, you have to try both. I don’t care which one captures your heart and soul; if you are an amber lover, you simply have to try both. They may be a little linear, they may not morph into a thousand and one things, and they both may be a little soft in sillage, but I’m telling you, the Profumum ambers are magic, simply magic. If you’re a hardcore Orientalist, I will bet you my bottom dollar that you will fall for the opulent richness of one of them. (You can read my review of Ambra Aurea to help you decide which one to start with, if you don’t want to get samples of both.) I have already made plans with some friends to split a bottle of Ambra Aurea three-ways, and, thanks to the generosity of a very sweet friend of mine, have a small one of Fiore D’Ambra to tide me over for now.

But there is no stopping this obsession of mine with both perfumes (I plan to layer them for the ultimate amber experience), and with the line as a whole. In fact, I have the new(ish) Olibanum (incense, myrrh, orange blossom and sandalwood) to review later this week, and will then set my sights on trying Fumidus (which is supposed to smell like smoky Laphroaig scotch with vetiver and birch notes) and work my way through the rest of the line. It’s a testament to Profumum, its quality, its richness, and its opulent luxuriousness that — my loathing for gourmet fragrances be damned — I will even get the vanilla Vanitas and the orange-vanilla Dulcis in Fundo at some point down the road. Surely that tells you something!

I realise I sound completely deranged with obsession and lust, but I’m telling you: you must try this shamefully (shamefully!) under-appreciated line of fragrances. You simply have to!

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Fiore d’Ambra is an Eau de Parfum that only comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $240 or €179. In the U.S.: it is available at Luckyscent and OsswaldNYC. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, Profumum perfumes are sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. Elsewhere, you can find Fiore d’Ambra at Paris’ Printemps store, Switzerland’s OsswaldPremiere Avenue in France (which also ships worldwide, I believe), and Parfumerie Soleil d’Or. According to the Profumum website, their fragrances are carried in a large number of small stores from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy. However, Profumum itself does not have an e-Store. You can use the Profumum Store Locator located on the left of the page linked to above. Samples: Surrender to Chance carries samples of Fiore d’Ambra starting at $4.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. You can also order from Luckyscent.

46 thoughts on “Perfume Review – Fiore d’Ambra by Profumum: Opium Amber

  1. Superb review! I love all things amber, and Profumum has ” cornered the market ” on amber, and most definitely should be on the to be sampled list:)

    • I was thinking SO much of you while testing this, my dear! I know the Fiore one is your amber love. :) I’m curious, how long does it last on your skin? I had expected something a little more in line with Ambra Aurea’s crazy longevity.

      Totally off-topic, just WHY is it that hardly anyone talks about Profumum??!! I can’t understand it. The quality and richness of their fragrances are unbelievable! They seriously need to get more love. We’re going to have to work to spread the word, Debbie. You and I together, telling everyone we know. :)

    • I hope you get to try something in the line, Jordan. I just wish I could have found more international online retail vendors to make things easier for readers. (And to make the lure of temptation even harder to resist. lol) If you want a super rich and more unusual amber fragrance, I’d go with the Ambra Aurea since the focus on ambergris makes it very different than the usual sort of “ambers” found on the market today.

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    • I was thinking about that and I think Neela Vermeire’s perfumes were the first line to excite me as a whole. It’s a bit different with Profumum as their line is much larger; there was also the whole added element of surprise because almost no-one seems to talk about their perfumes, while the blogosphere was justifiably adoring of NVC and writing about the scents nonstop. But, yeah, I’m enormously excited over everything to do with Profumum and can’t wait to try more from them. People who love gourmands seem to go nuts for the two I mentioned, but they also have quite a few florals, woody fragrance, and incense things, so they seem to have something for everyone. Is your interest piqued even a little bit? :)

  3. at the perfume workshop about citrus and exotic fruits I just came back from I tried Acqua Viva from Profumum Roma. Gosh, how exciting it was. It was a blast of citrus, just like it Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien, but the longevity was extravagant – 8 hours of citrus joy!

    • I’m THRILLED you found one that you love and that you were deeply impressed by it! I tell you, the line is fabulous — and I’m sure there is one out there for everyone that will result in utter rhapsodies. The quality is simply amazing! The longevity is pretty great too! As for Acqua Viva, given how little time Eau d’Hadrien lasts, that wonderful that you found a more concentrated version that worked even better on your skin!

        • Their prices are very frustrating, and I do wish they were cheaper. $120 for 50 ml would be much easier to manage than $240 for 100 ml. Perhaps you can arrange a split? That’s what I’m doing for Ambra Aurea.

          • Oh, you’re buying Ambra Aurea, how cool, congrats!
            I can’t justify this price for a perfume that I would only wear half-year. I find citrus only appropriate for spring-summer, I feel weird wearing it in winter.

          • Plus I’m having some expenses lately, the trip to Warsaw wasn’t cheap and I want to buy a great present for my Mum, she’s turning 50 in a few weeks.

          • What a great son you are, my dear! I’m sure that whatever you get her will involve great thought, love and effort — and she’ll adore it!! As for the Acqua Viva that you loved, if you’re only going to wear it a few months of the year, then I quite agree that it would be too high a cost, even if split. See, the thing about me and my obsession with orientals is that I wear them all year round and refuse to give them up no matter what the season or weather may be. They’re going to have to pry my labdanum, spices and amber fragrances out of my cold, dead hands! *grin* ;)

          • I’m not much into orientals and you know it well.
            Fougeres and chypre are for me but that’s not a rule. Not every fougere and chypre is for me :( And I love citrus, but I would wear it only in warm months.

  4. Dear Kafka, this could be unfounded but the brand name is actually very hard to spell and could be spelled many different ways, as your paragraph 2 provides variations used. I assumed you searched the blogo world under all these variations and did not find much.

    In any case, since I don’t typically hang out at niche perfume stores (how I wish I could!), and despite my proximity to niche access, I would never have heard of this line were it not for you and this blog! So thank you for your public service. :-) although my wallet may curse you for making it exercise.

    • I started with searches for Fiore d’Ambra between quotes. :) I was surprised that there actually was more on this fragrance than on Ambra Aurea — which isn’t saying much at all! But, in terms of in-depth reviews by perfume blogs, there is surprisingly little out there. Mr. Hound reviewed both, but not in any great detail (since that’s not his style to begin with). And I saw nothing by the really established blogs. Even in perfume groups, I rarely hear mention of the line. Such a shame. But, as you can tell, I am now on a mission to talk about Profumum as much as bloody possible! LOL.

      I’m glad that I’ve made at least one person super tempted by the line. Well, two, if you count Baconbiscuit as well. But I will not rest until I pique the interest of as many people as possible — it doesn’t matter if it’s something other than these two ambers. I just really want the line to have more love. :)

    • I do, too! There is an elegant simplicity about them, but they have a hefty, solid look about them as well. And I adore the font/lettering. I know, I know, I sound quite deranged about this line…. heh. :P

  5. I loved this. I tested this on one wrist and Ambra Aurea on the other. Would be very happy (rather THRILLED) with both, but for me, it was Ambra Aurea that really stole my heart away.

    I feel like Fiore d’Ambra could be one of those that can become very, very addictive over time.

    Wonderful review, Kafka! Thank you so much for introducing me to the line! Well, I thank you . . . my bank account would say differently ;-)

    • I definitely agree that the Fiore one could be bloody addictive!! I think it’s an easier, softer, more versatile fragrance than the Ambra Aurea, which is much edgier and more unusual. Perhaps more of an acquired taste for those not used to the unique nature of ambergris. But, I’m with you in being blown away by it! And you’re very welcome for the introduction to the line, though my wallet is right up there with yours, shrieking in abject fear of what is to come. LOL.

      • I agree: I hesitated to say that it was the more wearable of the two, but it really it. That’s not meant to be pejorative! It just turns into a very, very beautiful skin scent after a while.

        Speaking of Ambra Aurea, my dear enabling Kafka, we should discuss soon :-)

  6. I loved both of your reviews for this line and as a fellow amber lover I must seek these out! I saw the line in Osswalds in NYC this past winter but, didn’t get a chance to even smell them on paper. Now I know what I need to do on my next visit to NYC!

    • When will you be in NYC next? If not for a while, then when/if I get a decant of the Ambra Aurea, I send you some, along with a sample of the Fiore! I’m on a mission to spread the word, just like you are for Amouage. LOL.

  7. I had never heard of this line, but I´m sure I would adore this perfume. My first love with the oriental fragrances was Dolce and Gabbana The One, that is the one that made me realize I love floral oriental fragrances, and I can imagine that this would be a much deeper, richer and more nuanced scent definitely. I love that you found a perfume that could take the place of your loved discontinued fragrance (I know they still make Ysl Opium but it doesn´t smell like it did before) and that you can now find your signature scent again. I would love to at least smell this but seriously if there is some part where commercial fragrances defeat niche is the bottle design, could they look anymore boring? Lol :P .

    • Oh no, nothing replaces Opium!! And this certainly doesn’t measure up to that! ;) :) It’s a very different scent, for one thing. Like it’s sibling, Fiore d’Ambra is essentially an amber soliflore — a perfume centered primarily around one main note. (Neither Opium nor The One are that. They have significantly more notes, are structured differently and are intended to be floral orientals.) But, for a purely amber fragrance, Fiore d’Ambra is damn good!!

  8. Great review!

    I have a small sample of Fiore d’Ambra and tested it twice. Both times I didn’t like the opening but then really enjoyed how it developed on skin. I plan to test it more though at the price (and the bottle size! :) ) most likely I won’t ever go for something I didn’t fall in love with at the first sniff.

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  17. This fragrance is sweet and ought to be too sweet for me. But rather, its awesome! The floral note is beautiful, and provides nice counterpoint to the rich but sweet amber accord.
    On my Buy List.

      • Haven’t tried it yet! Still waiting for my decant.
        But the odds are very high that I will like it. First, I LOVE Profumum scents.
        More, I haven’t found an amber yet that I truly disliked. All have some sweetness to them, but there are usually enough other things in the mix to keep me interested. Fiori d’Ambra is a case in point. One of the sweetest ambers I’ve ever tried, but I still like it–really like it, actually–because of the flowers in the mix. What were the flowers, anyway? Do you know?

        Thank you for reviewing the Profumums. Since reading your reviews, I have ‘found’ Arso, Olibanum, Santalum, and the Ambers.

        The Profumums, and Slumberhouse, have gotten me through a nasty winter.

        • I never found out what the florals were. Profumum’s lists are always incomplete. I once contacted Profumum about something, but they don’t seem very interested in bloggers. lol So, I never bothered again to write to them, let alone about note lists.

          It will be VERY interesting to me to see if you find Ambra Aurea more sweet or less so than Fiore d’Ambra. That is an issue that is often discussed, but people don’t seem to agree. I think Fiore d’Ambre is much softer and slightly powdered than A/A, but does AA’s richness mean that it is actually sweeter? Hmm, I don’t know. It’s hard for me to decide. Richness and sweetness are not necessarily the same thing.

          Do you like Olibanum as well? As for Santalum, hummpphh. This sandalwood snob isn’t going to say a word. ;) lol

          • Love both of them. I saw your review of Santalum, which is my favorite sandalwood dominant scent. Too synthetic as I recall? I never tried real mysore sandalwood oil, so I don’t have ‘the real thing’ to judge the modern stuff by. I’m plenty old enough to have tried it, had I been smart enough to do so back in the 60s and 70s, but didn’t start in with fragrance until after the mysore had become very scarce.

            Having said that, I still think the Santalum is great. Its right at the edge of my sweetness threshold, but with discrete application, I find it captivating.

            Also love Arso, Olibanum and Acqua Viva. I think Fumidus is really weird in its first hour, although I enjoy that aspect of it, and transitions to a nice smoky vet. I have a decant of Ichnusa to try, and am beating the bushes for samples of Aquae Nobile and Eccelso to try.

            Do you think Dolcis in Fundo would agree with me? Have been a bit fearful to try this one, and the other openly sweet-gourmandish creations from this house.

            Re sandalwood, I understand that La Via Del Profumo has a nice EdT with real Mysore + perf. alcohol, and that LVdP’s Chillum has a nice real sandalwood in the mix. Have you tried them? I have not, but will.

      • PS, I should search your review list, but have you reviewed Ambra Mediterrena by Profumi del Forte? Its a drop dead gorgeous Italian “amber” that allegedly features ambergris.

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