Profumum Roma wants you to take a trip in time with its Antico Caruso, starting in a simpler, more elegant era when barber shops were filled with creamy soaps, herbal tonics, and the aromas of rich lemon oil, and men were pampered the old-fashioned way. Yet, that journey to the past quickly changes because classic masculinity is not at the core of Antico Caruso. The heart of the perfume brings you to the modern era with a more unisex scent that is all about smooth, almond creaminess.
Source: Profumum Roma website.
Antico Caruso was released in 2001, and is an eau de parfum with pure parfum concentration. Like its sugary, feminine sister, Confetto, it is an almond fragrance at its core, but Antico Caruso does not start out that way. Far from it. In fact, for much of the first hour, I was wondering if the almond was ever going to show up. It certainly seemed nothing like Profumum’s description of the scent on its website with its talk of “wheat fields” and floral orange blossoms. In my opinion, Profumum’s description of the scent is so misleading, I’m going to skip quoting it entirely.
I think the best summation of Antico Caruso — at least for its opening phase — comes from Luckyscent which writes:
Inspired by the scent and atmosphere of a classic, old fashioned barbershop: white tiled floors and leather chairs; rich, creamy soaps and brisk herbal tonics; the buzz of good-natured conversation. A vibrant citrus note mingles with the subtle sweetness of almond on a warm base of wood. The result is clean, but in a comforting and luxurious way— not at all astringent or antiseptic. Antico Caruso brings to mind the good manners and relaxed pace of an earlier time, but has an ease and minimalism that keeps it wearable and modern.
Schorem, Bertus & Leen barbershop, Rotterdam, NL. Source: gentlemensavenue.com
There doesn’t seem to be any consensus on the notes in Antico Caruso, and I’ve found that Profumum rarely gives a thorough list, settling instead for a nutshell summation. As noted earlier, the company talks about wheat fields, but oddly enough, it doesn’t say one word about lemons — and Antico Caruso definitely contains plenty of that!
Thus far, the most detailed assessment seems to come from Fragrantica which mentions:
almond, lemon, orange blossom, sandalwood and amber.
Personally, I smell slightly different notes:
lemon, almond, lavender, sandalwood, vanilla, and possibly clary sage.
Antico Caruso opens on my skin very close to what is described by Luckyscent. There is a potent wave of clean, very crisp, very bright yellow citrus, infused with a clean musk, and followed by a pungent herbal aroma. The whole thing is cocooned in a dry woodiness, then a good, frothing spray of lemony shaving cream and some expensive soap bubbles are poured on top.
The herbal aspect fascinates me. There is a brief touch of green anise which carries with it the faintest tinge of licorice, along with what I would swear is clary sage and lavender. The latter is subtle at first, so I thought I was imagining it, but, no, exactly 5 minutes in, I would bet one of my favorite bottles of perfume that there is either dried lavender, clary sage, or both in Antico Caruso. Clary sage has a herbal aroma that can be similar to lavender, and commonly has a rich soapiness, along with a subtle touch of leatheriness underneath. All of that appears in Antico Caruso, along with the more obvious dried lavender. As for the wheat referred to by Profumum in their description? Nary a whiff. And no almonds on my skin, either, not for another 45 minutes.
What there is instead is an intensely bright, fresh, crisp lemony aroma infused with soapiness, clean musk, and a slightly pungent, aromatic herbal bouquet in a blend that replicates an old-fashioned cologne. You can almost feel yourself transported to a 1940s or 1950s Italian barbershop, envision the shaving cream being whisked a man’s face, and see the bright sunshine flooding in as the barber finishes off with a bracing blend of lemon and lavender oil on his customer’s skin. Antico Caruso is definitely impressive in how smoothly and elegantly they’ve recreated that world in perfume form.
My admiration aside, it’s initially a little too herbal and clean for me personally, but relief is in sight. Exactly 20 minutes into Antico Caruso’s development, the perfume starts to shift. The heavily soapy undertone softens dramatically to something that is much better balanced. A touch of lovely, creamy vanilla slowly stirs in the base. Vanilla is not listed on Profumum’s typically abbreviated list of notes, but I would swear that is what I am smelling. At the same time, Antico Caruso’s streak of woodiness that was initially so muted now blooms, taking on a wonderful creamy smoothness. It doesn’t smell like sandalwood to me, let alone actual Mysore sandalwood, but it doesn’t smell cheap or synthetic, either. It’s an abstract wooded note, but it’s lovely.
The almond appears after 45 minutes, and Antico Caruso continues to get better. The almond isn’t bitter, raw, or candied, but very fresh and light. It cuts through some of the herbal pungency, taming it, while also softening the lemon and turning it less crisp. The final traces of shaving cream soapiness fade away, leaving a citrus, almond, herbal bouquet that is lightly flecked with vanilla and creamy woods. It all feels very smooth, elegant, clean, and bright. The white musk in the base is, as usual, the one thing I don’t like, but that is just as personal dislike for the note.
Photo: my own.
Antico Caruso still manifests masculine and retro vibes, thanks to its very aromatic, citrus top notes, but they are growing weaker with every passing quarter-hour. Exactly 75 minutes in, the almonds in Antico Caruso bloom and change everything for me. They’re absolutely beautiful. Creamy, whipped with vanilla to a silky mousse, then lightly dusted with a touch of sugar, they are like a creamy dessert. Again, vanilla is not listed in Antico Caruso’s notes, but what is wafting from my skin certainly seems to contain the note. It’s lovely in its airy, rich smoothness. Yet, the herbal and citrus cologne aspect persists enough to ensure that Antico Caruso is never cloying goo. There is sweetness, most definitely, but there is also a very brisk, herbal, aromatic freshness that ensures Antico Caruso never ventures into saccharine territory.
Photo: Kate Donahue on foodbabbles.com
Antico Caruso’s primary bouquet now is of silky almonds with vanilla mousse, flecked by bright, crisp lemons and dried herbs, all atop a smooth, creamy woody base. At the 2.25 hour mark, the sillage drops to an inch above the skin, the herbal accord retreats to the sidelines, and the almond-vanilla-mousse dances in the spotlight with the creamy woods. The lavender and lemon are still there, as is the white musk, but none of them are the stars of show in the same way that they were at the start.
Source: Normann Copenhagen. (Link to blog site with recipe for mousse embedded within photo.)
Antico Caruso remains largely unchanged for the next few hours, losing more and more of its herbal cleanness and citric freshness. As the hours pass, and the drydown begins, Antico Caruso’s primary bouquet is of creamy almonds amidst even further creaminess, both of the vanilla and wooded varieties. It’s absolutely lovely, and compulsively sniffable. In its final moments, Antico Caruso dies away in a blur of lightly sweetened creaminess flecked by almonds and that persistent, clean, white musk.
All in all, Antico Caruso lasted just under 12.5 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. That figure is a bit less than what I usually get from some Profumum scents, but I know Antico Caruso’s longevity could easily be increased by applying more of the scent. On a normal person, many Profumum scents last well over 15 hours, with some reporting 24 hours or more. In terms of sillage, Antico Caruso become a skin scent on me around the middle of the 6th hour, but was still easy to detect up close for some time after that.
Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male. Source: Fragrantica.
Just as with Confetto, the reactions to Antico Caruso can be boiled down to a few, strikingly similar assessments. On Luckyscent, Fragrantica, or MakeupAlley, the comments generally boil to one or more of the following refrains:
- Antico Caruso is exactly like Jean-Paul Gaultier‘s Le Male;
- Antico Caruso is extremely similar to Le Male, but without the latter’s cloying, “screeching,” and overpoweringly synthetic vanilla;
- Antico Caruso has a barber shop smell with herbal notes and shaving foam;
- Antico Caruso smells like the most luxurious almond soap with a clean, smooth, creaminess and lovely sandalwood;
- “The smell for the perfect, classy gentlemen…” (Also, “Soft, classy attractive from the first sniff.That’s how a man should smell in my opinion. It’s oh so pure and sexy at the same time. Freshness, clean clothes with good old sandalwood soap dried in the sunny countryside.”)
- Antico Caruso is too masculine for women. (E.g., “I gave it 3 for me, but I also would give it 5 for a man” ; or, “May be more appropriate for my boyfriend.”)
- The citrus and barbershop tonalities are much more noticeable if you spray from a bottle, than if you dab, unless you dab on a lot.
I was happy to see that one Fragrantica reviewer detected a lavender aroma just as I did. “Houdini4” also provides comparisons to fragrances other than just Le Male, so his assessment may be useful for some of you:
Instantly I thought this smelled like a lavender, almond and vanilla combination which is very pleasing. How about this Antico Caruso is an elegant blend of the best bits of from three well known fragrances. A ménage a trois of sorts between Le Male, Givenchy Pi and Amouage Reflection.[…] It’s what Le Male should smell like but goes awful on my skin and it has the deep almond accord of givenchy Pi without the sour edge. Finally it has the class and sophistication of Reflection without the relative complexity. This is a nice fragrance that has phenomenal lasting power it really is impressive. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
MOR vanilla almond soap. Photo: Kim at averysweetblog.com. (Website link embedded within photo.)
On Luckyscent, the vast majority of the reviews are positive, but they also come from men. My two favorite ones are filled with evocative historical images for what Antico Caruso makes the reviewers feel. What is interesting is that one of them detected the almond immediately, far more than anything herbal, and that Antico Caruso’s main characteristic for him seemed to be luxury almond soap that conjured up something serene and comforting, like “fresh, wholesome days outdoors and the pure simplicity of monestary, abbey or temple settings”:
- Oh ! yeah. This is somewhat of a medicine chest upon first whiff/application but then it really gets complex, rich , masculine and has an elusive comforting nature. It has a great life span- at least 5 to 10 hours, it takes about an hour just to sit with you and develop – very good sign IMO. It’s got a good description , shaving cream mixed with a very oppulent antique wardrobe filled with hair creme, woody rich soaps, leather shoes of the most bespoke calfskin , a linen suit you wore to a temple in India where the finest sandalwood burned – maybe even a tiny bit of extremely rare aged English pipe tabacco. It’s just too complex to type- but delivers alot of invoked feelings and vaugue memories- the aroma captures places and times for me, not just a pleasure of smell alone. Never been able to say that for any offering,except for CdG Incense/Avignon before this.
“Antico Caruso” smells like the purest, creamiest luxury soap you’ve ever experienced—the kind that came in cakes and wrapped in paper, scattered throughout cruise liners (like creamy-tart “Vinolia”–only sweeter) and seaside hotels in the early part of last century. There is even a similar theme between Caswell-Massey’s famous “Almond Shave Soap” and “Antico Caruso”, but antico is less salty and veers away from the syrupy cherry tone of almond and into a creamier realm of polished wood and hard-soap lather. This is a serenely comforting scent: The almond note gives it a very subtle gourmandesque spirit; however, the opening citrus zing and powdery sandlewood finish make it far to clean to pass as a food substitute. “Antico Caruso” is also, despite masculine references to barbershops and cologne, quite unisex in nature and I imagine many women would find it’s unusual non-floral creaminess appealing. It’s the smell of “clean” before “clean” meant “disinfectant/detergent”. It makes me think of fresh, wholesome days outdoors and the pure simplicity of monestary, abbey or temple settings. If you always hoped for a sweeter, creamier version of “CKOne“, “L’Huere Bleu” or you’re just looking for an interesting scent to surround but not precede you, I’d suggest “Antico Caruso”. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
Lemon almond soap. Source: blog.wholesalesuppliesplus.com
As you may have noted, most of the Antico Caruso discussion is from men. My personal feelings on the gender issue is that Antico Caruso definitely opens like a man’s cologne with its herbal-citrus aroma and shaving cream undertones. I think women who are used to mainstream fragrances, and/or who prefer clearly, distinctly feminine perfumes will struggle with Antico Caruso. I’m not sure many will have the patience to wait 75 minutes to get past the opening in order to experience the unisex almond-vanilla heart.
On the other hand, I think that all the references to “barbershop” vibes may predispose some women to think that the fragrance is not for them. After all, a lot of women wear perfumes with lavender, citrus and clean soap aromas, so why should Antico Caruso’s opening be too much? How you frame the discussion and categorize the notes may impact your reaction. If you’re the sort who doesn’t find dried lavender to be medicinal or masculine in nature, then you shouldn’t have a problem with the rest of the perfume.
Almond Powder. Photo: Emma Christensen. Source: thekitchn.com
To be clear, though, quite a few women find Antico Caruso to be “lovely and unisex,” relaxing, “cuddly” or “precious.” On MakeupAlley, some female reviewers love the scent, perhaps because the drydown is so very different than the citrus, soapy opening:
- With notes of citrus, almond and sandalwood, the Luckyscent website describes it being reminiscent of rich, creamy soaps and brisk herbal tonics. At first, I thought this scent didn’t work on me…. It seemed kind of soapy perfumey and could work on a man better than a woman…but the drydown is a soft almond baby powder scent….not a sneeze inducing powdery scent but like baby powder and sweet dry almond…and it has no masculine edge left. Also, the staying power on this is tremendous which is rare for a cuddly scent (which this certainly is once you get to the bottom notes).
- how relaxed and istantly happy i felt after putting on my skin after bath the other day.I was so distressed and tired and it worked like some magical potion. It smells a bit of cherry (well that comes from almond) and it’s sweet tarty with a subtle vanilla note and a true sandalwood drydown.Precious!
- I wasn’t getting the barbershop notes at all, but putting on a ton, I can get that sense. There’s a old fashioned perfume feeling to this in quantity, but overall it dries to a gentle, slightly powdery vanilla musk that’s compulsively sniffable. The wood, old style cologne and herbal tonic are there in suggestion, but it’s all muted into a mood rather than distinct pictures. Lovely and unisex, warm and comforting. Expensive though. Makes me sad because I would love to own this but it’s just too expensive.
It’s true, Profumum scents are not cheap at $240 a bottle. On the one hand, they are 100 ml of pure concentrated parfum, and a little goes a long (long!) way. On the other, Antico Caruso is not particularly original. Just as with Confetto, it has a very close counterpart in the designer or mainstream aisle for much, much less. And they’re both much less original or distinctive than some of their non-gourmand siblings in the Profumum line — like the peaty Laphroaig Scotch and smoky vetiver Fumidus, or the kelp and salty ocean Acqua di Sale.
The thing about Profumum, however, is that they generally use very high-quality ingredients and few synthetics. So, yes, Antico Caruso may be like Le Male, but almost everyone agrees that it is not even close to being as synthetic or as shrilly over-bearing as the Gaultier creation. Whether it feels different or luxurious enough to warrant the price is going to be a personal determination. I personally happen to think Antico Caruso is very elegant, and I struggle to see how Profumum’s quality could possibly be compared or equated to Le Male.
Almond cream. Photo: Melissa Breyer at care2care.com
For me, Antico Caruso is one of the nicest Profumum scents that I’ve tried in a while, and I have to admit that I far preferred it to its almond sister, Confetto. Though I enjoyed both almond scents, Antico Caruso comes out ahead for a few reasons. Confetto was a little too sweet for my personal tastes. Antico Caruso felt not only more complex, relatively speaking, but I also found the drydown to be beautiful and compulsively sniffable. Yes, the opening was a little too herbal for me and I don’t particularly like soapiness, but neither aspect lasted all that long on my skin. The main thing, though, is that almond-vanilla mousse over a base of creamy woods will always beat out sugared almond with cotton candy for me. The vanilla is simply better, richer, deeper, smoother and more high-quality in Antico Caruso.
Do I like Antico Caruso enough to actually buy a full 100ml bottle? That part I’m not so sure about. I suspect some of you will find yourself engaged in a similar debate if you try either Confetto or Antico Caruso. But if you love sweet almond fragrances, you should really give one of them a test sniff.
Cost & Availability: Antico Caruso is an Eau de Parfums with Extrait concentration that only comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle. It costs $240 or €179. Profumum doesn’t have an e-shop from which you can buy their fragrances directly. Profumum now seems to have released 20 ml “stylos” of 10 of its fragrances, including Antico Caruso, but those 20 ml each cost €60. The stylos are also limited to Europe thus far, in such department stores as Paris’ Printemps boutique. In the U.S.: you can find Antico Caruso at Luckyscent and OsswaldNY. Both sites sell samples at different prices. As a side note, Profumum says that the perfume is accompanied by body products like “body milk” or “Shower bath.” Outside the U.S.: In the U.K., Profumum is sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. Elsewhere, you can generally find the Profumum line at Paris’ Printemps store, Premiere Avenue in France (which ships world-wide), France’s Soleil d’Or, the Netherlands’ Celeste, Hungary’s Neroli, zurich’s Osswald, and Russia’s Lenoma boutiques. Taizo in Cannes also carries Profumum and says they ship worldwide, but I don’t see an e-store. Profumum’s website says that their fragrances are carried in a large number of small stores from Copenhagen to Poland, other parts of France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy. You can use the Profumum Store Locator located on the left of the page linked to above. Samples: Surrender to Chance does not have Antico Caruso. However, you can order vials of both scents from Luckyscent or Osswald. The latter has a sample program for U.S. customers along with free shipping, though there is a 3-item minimum.