Dark chocolate infused with fiery spices that transforms into patchouli woods. Or, musty myrrh infused with ambergris, honey, incense and opium flowers which puts you inside an ancient church before taking you to sweetened woods. Chocolat Amere and Ambre d’Or are two very different creations from Il Profumo, which is the focus of today’s foray into Italian perfume houses. I rather liked parts of Chocolat Amere (which is officially spelled as “Chocolat Amère,” though I’ll skip using the accent here for reasons of speed.) To my surprise, the fragrance somehow recreated a definitely patchouli vibe after a beautifully bitter, spiced Mexican chocolate opening. Ambre d’Or, however, was not my personal cup of tea, for reasons that we’ll get to later.
Il Profumo (sometimes spelled as “Il Profvmo“) is an Italian brand founded in 2000 by Silvana Casoli who also creates all the fragrances. I can’t find the company’s site to share her biography with you, but ParfuMaria says that she is a “natural scientist and cosmetologist [who] spent many years as a very successful aromatherapist before deciding to fulfill a dream and create the Il Profumo range.” For Ms. Casoli, the perfumes are “a labor of love,” and she is quoted as saying:
“Each product from Il Profumo consists of purely natural ingredients. They are obtained in hand using traditional methods of craftsmanship and meet the highest standards of quality.”
Silvana Casoli lets herself be inspired by the rhythm and language of nature and combines her traditional knowledge about the effects of fragrances essences and aromas to create the Il Profumo collection of fragrances.
Il Profumo has several different lines of fragrances that vary either in terms of their focus or, it seems, their sillage. According to Fragrantica, there is:
the Classic line; the Osmo line, which are designed with a slow evaporation rate and become a personal fragrance as they fade; the Soliflor line, which celebrates the splendor and magnificence of nature through individual floral scents; and Multiflor line, which offers olfactory bouquets. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
Chocolat Amere is part of the Classic collection, while Ambre d’Or is part of the OSMO one. I’ll look at each one in turn.
Chocolat Amere is described in the press release quoted on many sites as follows:
The dark and handsome creation by Il Profumo, Chocolat Amere, is that rare specimen- a chocolate fragrance for men. The secret of its appeal to a discerning male lies in the fact that Chocolat Amere is based on bitter, dark chocolate. This is not a sweet, obviously foody scent; its gourmand undertone is tantalizingly subtle. The presence of galbanum in the top notes sets the tone of understated elegance. The spices add alluring piquancy to the dark chocolate creaminess of the heart, and the base accord is an olfactory treat, a deep, satisfyingly rich mix of incense, woods and chocolate. Chocolat Amere is swoonworthy when worn by a man, however, this refined, not in any way aggressively macho fragrance would be perfectly wearable for a woman with a taste for dark and rich…chocolate.
According to Luckyscent, Chocolat Amere is an eau de parfum that was released in 2000, and has the following notes:
galbanum, nutmeg, ginger, flowers, cocoa, sandalwood, incense.
Chocolat Amere opens on my skin with bitter, dark chocolate drenched in dusty spices and a herbal, slightly earthy, pungent greenness from the galbanum. The chocolate is truly fantastic: deep, enormously smooth, rich, perfectly balanced, and never sweet or cloying. It doesn’t smell like Godiva or Teuscher dark truffles; not like dusty, raw cocoa nibs; and not like cocoa powder, either. It smells like mousse made from really expensive, bitter-sweet, black chocolate that is infused with red curlicues of spices and nutmeg, as well as a small bite of ginger that feels fresh instead of candied. The whole thing is wrapped up with a thin ribbon of incense smokiness.
The spiced, bitter chocolate is the dominant bouquet in the opening moments, but other elements lurk in the shadows. There is a whiff of something vaguely floral, like the fantasy “opium flowers” note that I’ve seen in some fragrances, including the next one that I’ll cover from Il Profumo. Personally, I always wonder about it since opium comes from poppies and I’ve never detected much of an aroma whenever I’ve smelled the flowers. Regardless, Chocolat Amere has a small touch of spicy, smoky floralcy hovering in the distance, behind the wall of bitter nutmeg and fresh ginger. Speaking of spices, Chocolat Amere has a surprising bite that seems to go far beyond the ones mentioned in the note list. Something about the mix is fiery in a way that evokes red chili-peppers or pimentos, and it’s a perfect complement to the dark chocolate.
Ten minutes into its development, Chocolat Amere starts to shift. The galbanum’s green bite softens, the abstract woodiness turns into something strongly resembling cedar, and the spices rev up. For a brief moment, the nutmeg had dominated the mix with its bitter dustiness, but the ginger now surges ahead to become one of the key notes. Its aroma is changing, too. From freshly grated ginger, it is slowly turning into crystallized, rock ginger that has a touch of sweetness, along with a teaspoon of the powdered variety.
Hiding beneath the ginger it is something that I would swear was a bigarade, bitter, or blood orange note. I’ve tested Chocolat Amere twice, and I’ve thought each time that there was a definite streak of bitter orange mixed with the black chocolate, crystallized ginger, red chili pepper, and nutmeg. I love orange tonalities, but particularly the bitter, dark kind and even more so when mixed with chocolate and spices, so I find this part of the scent to be wonderful.
What I like even more is that the whole thing is strongly redolent of patchouli. In essence, Chocolat Amere has managed to recreate many of patchouli’s core facets, from the spicy to the darkly sweet, earthy, chocolate-y, smoky, and woody. I basically feel as thought I’m wearing a dark chocolate-patchouli-incense mix, covered with a thick blanket of spicy ginger, dusty nutmeg, a touch of blood orange, and a speck of herbal, pungent galbanum.
There are so many aspects of Chocolat Amere’s opening 30 minutes which are appealing. The scent is very strong and potent, even with only a few smears. It isn’t dense in feel or chewy, but it’s extremely rich. What impresses me is the perfect balance in the notes, and how none of it is sweet. You’d be surprised how many chocolate scents skew towards the powdered cocoa, milk chocolate varieties, or are laden with vanilla. Yet, Chocolat Amere is a dry scent with more of an oriental flair than any resemblance to a gourmand dessert. There is no sugared icing, custardy vanilla, tonka, amber, or benzoin to soften the darkness. It is all spices, woodiness, and incense, swirling in a dark haze of bitter chocolate. It feels high-quality, fantastically smooth, and perfectly balanced. All the notes play off each other, weaving back and forth, married together but without any one of them fully overpowering the rest.
Unfortunately, I don’t think Chocolat Amere manages to maintain its beautiful start, and it transitions to a more difficult middle phase. The beautiful bigarade, bitter orange note is the first to go. During the first 30 minutes, it hid behind the ginger’s skirts, but popped up once in a while in a stronger, more noticeable way. Alas, at this point, it fades away, almost entirely. Much more disappointing is the fact that the chocolate does as well. It turns into a mere suggestion, more of a nebulous, hazy impression than a concrete note or clearly delineated layer.
What happens instead is that all the elements now combine to create a hardcore “patchouli”-like accord. They lose their individual shape, all overlapping and melting into a hazy blur of dusty, woody, spicy, earthy darkness whose every part is stitched together with incense. The latter is so seamlessly blended into the overall bouquet that it’s hard to pull out, but I noticed that every time I moved, ribbons of incense wafted up to curl around me.
At the end of the first hour, Chocolate Amere turns earthier, and the galbanum rears its head in full force. This is where I started to have problems. Initially, the fragrance had a slightly sweetened earthiness, undoubtedly from the patchouli, and the galbanum had provided a touch of herbal greenness (also like patchouli). Now, however, the galbanum turns pungent and its green-black aroma feels extremely acrid. It’s too much bitterness for me, particularly in conjunction with the equally bitter, dusty nutmeg. It also doesn’t help that both the ginger and patchouli have lost their vestiges of sweetness as a counterbalance, and Chocolat Amere is turning dustier. The fragrance is now purely an oriental bouquet centered on dark, patchouli-like, dry woods and pungent galbanum, all laced with dusty spices, dry cedar, smoky incense, and herbaceousness earthiness. It’s rather masculine in nature, too.
Things improve about 2.5 hours into Chocolat Amere’s development. The galbanum smoothens out, losing its acrid and pungent nuances. As it weakens, a subtle sweetness creeps back into the “patchouli” accord, lessening its earthy undertones. A very ghostly suggestion of “chocolate” pops up once in a blue moon as well, but Chocolat Amere is now centered primarily on patchouli-woods with incense and abstract spices. By the start of the 4th hour, a slight wisp of powderiness enters the picture, but it’s very muted. From this point forth, Chocolat Amere is a hazy blend of spicy, smoky, sweet, dusty, dry and woody tonalities dominated by something resembling “patchouli.” The fragrance remains that way until its very end when it fades away as woody darkness with faint vestiges of dustiness and sweetness at the edges.
All in all, Chocolat Amere consistently lasted 8.5 hours or more, depending on the amount that I used, and generally had moderate sillage after a strong start. When I used 3 large smears equal to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle, the scent opened with about 4.5 inches in projection. That figure dropped after 25 minutes to 2 inches above the skin where it remained until the start of the 4th hour. At that point, Chocolat Amere turned into a skin scent on me, though it was still very strong up close. It became harder to detect after the 6th hour, and died away roughly 9 hours from the start, though tiny little patches on my arm seemed to emit something vaguely fragranced for another hour or so. When I used a smaller amount of 2 smears equal to a single spray from a bottle, Chocolat Amere opened with about 3 inches in sillage, turned into a skin scent on me at the 2.75 hour mark, but continued to be easy to detect up close until the middle of the 4th hour. It lasted 8.25 hours in total.
On Fragrantica, Chocolat Amere has mixed reviews. A few women generally find it too masculine in nature, while one man thinks its lovely but too feminine for him. Some people think the fragrance doesn’t smell enormously like chocolate; they mention either the sandalwood, galbanum, or incense instead. Others, however, think is a lovely dark chocolate fragrance. A sampling of thoughts:
- Woah, this stuff jumps out of the bitter choclate thing of the original chocolat for a powdery floral opening which just remains on the right side of favour by being ultimately cacao and nutmeg at it’s heart. Strangely I enjoy this fragrance but I’m conscious that Chocolat Amere is very feminine and reminds me of the smell of a woman. I couldn’t wear it myself but can appreciate it and the quality is good as is longevity.
- This is a warm, delicious chocolate velvet on the skin. Very long lasting, with a good sillage. The longer on the skin, the softer and velvety it gets!
- This begins in an extremely masculine aftershave like way. If you’ve ever smelled Canoe – that is what this reminds me of right off the bat. In the dry down it becomes even worse on my skin. Blech. This mixes terribly with my chemistry. I do not smell cocoa at all. I smell sour greenery (the galbanum), and smoky curtains (I guess that’s the incense). A hint- just a hint – of something sweet, but it is ruined for me by the sour notes.
- I did not find this one masculine at all; I found it warm, comforting, soothing and very powdery in the drydown but not as spicy as I’d expected. The sandalwood is the most prominent note for me, though the chocolate eluded me completely. The lasting power is amazing, almost 12 hours and though it’s quite loud initially, it settles close to the skin after the first couple of hours (or maybe I got used to it?). I also could not detect the incense in it and that’s a pity, because I love incense, but in the end, I liked it anyway. [Edited to add later]: Finally bought a decant of this and surprisingly, or not, I can smell the cocoa now, or should I say, the dark, bitter chocolate. I think this is a great winter scent, snugly and warm without being sweet. I may even need a whole bottle after all.
As a side note, Il Profumo actually has three (possibly four) chocolate fragrances in total, and one reviewer gives a brief comparison of them when explaining why he or she likes Chocolat Amere the most:
In my opinion, the best creation based on chocolate of Il Profvmo (although I hadn’t yet had a chance to try Bambola) because Chocolat is like chocolate with a fruit salad, but with unstable composition, while Frais is too acidic, at times unpleasant, bitter chocolate. [¶] Amere, on the other hand, is dark chocolate with smoky incense and spicy nutmeg, but also dusted in sandalwood and powdery flowers. none of the notes overcome or pop out, the freshness of ginger is in the mix to make sure of that and ginger fulfills its task very well. unbelievable, but at times I can sense a little Hermes Elixir vibe in it. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
That Hermes Elixir de Merveilles comment is probably a reference to the orange note which I talked about earlier, and we’re not the only ones who noticed it. So did another blogger, the lovely Sigrun at Riktigparfym. Her brief synopsis of the scent reads in full:
Liquorice laced mendiants – Il Profvmo, Chocolate Amere. With a name like Chocolate Amere I expected bitterness, but that is not what Chocolate Amere is about. What I get is darkness. After an initial blast of dark chocolate covered candied orange peels, Chocolate Amere settles into a thin after dinner chocolate disc, boosted with notes that usually are associated with the darker side of the color spectrum such as aromatic liquorice, there is a slight burnt note and incense. In texture, Chocolate Amere feels both lightweight and powdery. It’s like this mendiant, in its latter stages, turns into powder, readily available to dust all over your body.
For Nathan Branch, Chocolat Amere was mostly a nutmeg cocoa fragrance. His old 2008 “Quick Sniffs” review includes a tiny quote from Octavian Coifan at 1000 Fragrances. (That site has now been taken down, so the Branch review is the only way to know what he said). Nathan Branch wrote:
the success of Thierry Mugler’s chocolate-fruit-&-patchouli Angel kick-started the recent gourmand trend, and Il Profumo enters the field with Chocolat Amere, a dusty, bittersweet cocoa scent that smells like a fresh delicacy from a five star French bakery. The green, herbaceous Galbanum makes an appearance in the notes list, but is employed with a light touch to counterbalance the deep cocoa. Wraps up with an unusual yet highly enjoyable ground nutmeg element that I stumble across only rarely in fine fragrance.
A Minx by Any Other Name states that “Hours into the drydown, the scent is mostly chocolate with a little woods, warm and comforting” while 1000 Fragrances calls it “a very interesting original note, not edible but dry and animalic with a dirty note that fits well.”
If you’re in the market for a dark chocolate gourmand that’s easy on the sugar, you might consider giving Chocolat Amere a try — not to mention that it lasts for well over five hours. It’s labeled as a masculine scent, but I don’t see anything about it that wouldn’t work just fine for both genders, provided the genders in mention appreciate the aroma of dark, dusty spices.
I generally liked Chocolat Amere, despite the galbanum phase, but I go back and forth on the issue of whether it is a scent that I would wear myself. I think I would, solely because of the wonderfully opening with that bitter orange and the overall patchouli resemblance. However, I don’t like Chocolat Amere enough to buy a full bottle, given the options available to me and the price. In America, the fragrance is only available in a 100 ml bottle that retails for $165, though I found one sale price. In Europe, you can sometimes find a rare 50 ml size which one place discounts for about €67, and I think that is a more tempting deal.
Still, if you enjoy bitter, black chocolate with dusty spices, incense, and woody elements, or if you love patchouli-like notes, I think Chocolat Amere is one to try.
Ambre d’Or is part of Il Profumo’s slow-release OSMO Collection. The French site, Boutique Valmont, appears to have Il Profumo’s official description:
The unique personality of Ambre d’Or relies on 3 different olfactive moments: an initial pure breath, a voluptuous and carnal heart and a base made of honey and precious woods. The Ambre d’Or fragrance, sweet and magnetic, recalls distant lands and mythic oriental palaces.
According to Luckyscent, Ambre d’Or is a 2004 eau de parfum that contains the following notes:
mandarine, white peach, grey amber, ambretta, datura, opium flowers, white iris, myrrh, rose wood, patchouli leaves macerated in citrus fruits‚ honey.
Ambre d’Or opens on my skin with rich amber that has a caramel undertone, followed by abstract flowers and a large amount of very dusty, musty myrrh covered with honey. It’s an odd mix. The myrrh feels like the inside of an old church that hasn’t been dusted in a few decades, and is suffused with a very musty, stale woodiness. I don’t detect any of the fruits — not the mandarin, white peach or citrus. The florals are totally shapeless and unidentifiable, though they resemble the sort of “opium flowers” accord that I talked about for Chocolat Amere. For the most part, they’re merely a blur of something white with smoke and spiciness, along with clean musk and a tiny streak of creaminess.
It’s a difficult opening for me. I don’t like the musty, fusty quality, nor the hint of musky fur or the strangely vegetal mushiness that runs through many of the notes. I can’t figure out where it comes from; it could be from the ambrette seeds as much as the ambergris. For the most part, though Ambre d’Or opens as a very dusty, woody scent with various forms of sweetness, spiciness, smokiness, musky, and mush. It’s very hard to describe, and I know I’m not conveying its unusual bouquet in a way that full explains its odder qualities. So, I think I’m going to have to tell you a story.
Imagine, if you will, a man in a very old Catholic church. He sweeps up all the dust from the crypt, along with bits of mildewed wood and old tuffs of cat fur that hang around in the damp corners. He brushes them all into a big pile in the middle of the church, next to rows of wooden pews. He wipes off their dust, then smears them with caramelized ambergris, honey, and a mushy, musky, oily vegetal paste. He burns black incense that accidentally sets some of the wooden pews on fire, singing them before he can put out the fire. To compensate for the smell of burnt wood, incense, mildew, dust, must, myrrh, and fire, he sprays a clean air freshener with some random “white flowers” bouquet all around. Then, just for good measure, he pours even more honey and sweet, musky, caramelized amber over the dusty, musty pile. That is Ambre d’Or’s opening.
In case it wasn’t clear by now, it’s not a mix that made me sit up with enthusiastic joy. I don’t like myrrh when it takes on a High Church tonality, but its the stale airlessness of this dank, mildewed, musty church that is the problem, particularly in conjunction with the other notes and that honeyed sweetness. The damp cat fur aroma isn’t my favorite, either. It doesn’t help that Ambre d’Or seems to get marshier and mushier as the opening minutes tick by, though I still can’t tell if the ambergris or ambrette seeds are the cause.
Thankfully, the ancient dust cloud and dank mustiness weaken after about 20 minutes, and the perfume grows sweeter. Patchouli arrives on the scene, weaving its way around the incense and singed, smoky woods. The flowers seem vaguer than ever, but the honey grows stronger. It’s not animalic, urinous, or skanky, but its sweetness does feel a little sharp at times. Shortly thereafter, the amber loses its caramel undertone, the dank and dusty tonalities weaken, and a quiet spiciness occasionally pops up its head.
Ambre d’Or is quickly turning into a scent dominated primarily by honeyed woods with incense smoke and patchouli in a marshy, musky, vegetal cloud of golden ambergris. At the end of the first hour and the start of the second, all the dust from the myrrh has gone away. A certain mustiness remains, probably from the patchouli, but it isn’t a strong note. More and more, the fragrance is turning its attention to the woods and honey.
By the start of the 4th hour, Ambre d’Or is nothing more than a blur of woodiness, covered by a thin layer of honey and an almost vanilla-like, creamy undertone. That is really about it. There is a tiny wisp of cleanness floating about, and an occasional hint of patchouli, but neither element is significant. With every passing hour, the perfume turns hazier and thinner. The notes may not mention vanilla, but Ambre d’Or really smells like a dry vanilla-woody scent with some dark and clean elements. It remains that way until its very end, roughly 8 hours from the start, when Ambre d’Or finally fades away as simple woodiness with a touch of sweetness.
The reviews on Fragrantica are strongly mixed. Some people had a significantly better time of things than I did, complete with experiencing a lot of Datura flowers in lieu of musty myrrh and fusty dankness. It seems to have been quite a creamy, floral and gourmand fragrance for most people, complete with sweetened powder. The main notes that people detected were: honey above all else (21 votes), followed by ambergris (15) shortly ahead of the datura flower (14). Those votes only apply to the notes that Fragrantica provides, and what is interesting is the unlisted tonalities that other people experienced in strong measure. One person thought Ambre d’Or had a strong honey-sweetened tobacco aroma; another detected a lot of iris in the later stages; and a third enjoyed Ambre d’Or until he or she put it on their skin and detected an egg aroma mixed with cognac.
In both the negative and positive reviews, the scent they described feels night and day away from what I encountered, though there are occasional mentions of a dustiness, along with an acrid quality. A sampling of the various opinions:
- Wow, how georgeous this is.. Smoky sweet tobacco with baby powder, sweetness is optimal due to pure amber..sillage is soooo goood and longevity is like 12 hours..Always draws compliments, it is quite unique, preferably should be used in fall/winter
- Ambre d’Or starts out very sweet and a little bit dusty, like candied fruit with a touch of Arabian spice. It’s no doubt a gourmand at first sight and the top and heart notes are delicious and alluring, if a bit too saccharine for some people’s tastes. [¶] The surprise I got, however, was in the drydown, where the perfume shed half its sweetness and a beautiful oriental, resinous, creamy dream revealed itself on my skin. Reminded me of Must de Cartier and Imperial Opoponax, with its vintage air, sensual smooth texture and rich warmth. [¶] It smells like a far-out place, both in time and in space. [¶] Very beautiful. [¶] Lasting power is good (8-10 hours), sillage is medium.
- warm, creamy, gourmand, sweet, a bit flowery – pure honey 🙂 [¶] I’ve checked Ambre d’Or on skin, and it smelled like an egg with a bit of alcohol, sth like eiercognac,it certainly doesn’t work on me 🙁
- Whoa… Sniff: There’s something here with an acrid bite under the honey, probably the opium (the note here is reminiscent of YSL’s Opium perfume). Frankly, I could do without it. Upon application (wet:) The sharpness of the honey gradually gives way and allows the ambrette to rise, but is hindered in fully coming forward by the opium, rosewood, & patch. Spices intermittently make their way up through the initial powdery cloud. Drying down: I sense datura along its edges, but the other elements suppress it as well. Too bad, because this is in dire need of an identity, with notes that provide balance instead of vying for control. There are, however, stabilizing aspects from the myrrh and iris… Yes, iris! I was so surprised by this. Whodah thunk it, rather than the usual dominance of datura? But this is a no-brainer scrub-off for me. I’m not exactly gagging, but the muscles in my throat are perched on the edge. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
In terms of blog reviews, Pyramus at 1000 Scents wasn’t very impressed by Ambre d’Or, finding it a pleasant fragrance that would be appealing to one who wasn’t jaded by better offerings in the genre, and far preferring MPG‘s Ambre Precieux. His 2012 review reads, in relevant part, as follows:
Ambre d’Or is very beautiful, a soft, powdery concoction, all dreamlike warmth and honeyed languor: if you don’t have a lot of experience with amber scents it might just take your breath away, and I really would have to recommend that you try it. […][¶] If you’ve smelled as many ambers as I have, though, then there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s just another amber, slightly lighter than but otherwise not much different from Ambre Précieux, the one that started my obsession with niche scents and ambers years ago and still pretty much my reference point for what an amber ought to be (and, I suppose I ought to add, even more affordable than Ambre d’Or at $120).
I have to wonder if I tried a new, reformulated version of the fragrance, because Ambre d’Or was a very honeyed, woody scent on my skin. (At least, once the myrrh shut up and went away.) Yes, there was a definite ambergris aroma in the opening, but that soon softened into a general, marshy, musky warmth, and then faded away entirely. My sample came from Luckyscent, presumably from the very latest bottle supplied to the store, but all the reviews that I have quoted were written between 2008 and 2012. There is nothing later, at least in English anyway. Perhaps it’s my skin, or perhaps the fragrance has changed to have a woodier focus than the more expensive ambergris.
Regardless, I wasn’t enthused by the overall result. Ambre d’Or has some pleasant bits after the first hour, but it’s an uncomplicated, very basic scent for the most part without anything special about it. I really can’t get past the difficult opening, though, or the images that it evokes in my head of a mad crypt keeper creating an unholy olfactory concoction in the middle of a musty, old church. Maybe you’ll have better luck with Ambre d’Or, since skin chemistry is an odd thing, but I would personally recommend Chocolat Amere out of the two.
Disclosure: My samples were provided courtesy of Luckyscent. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.