Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio & Acqua di Gio Essenza ~ fragrance reviews

Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio advert

Giorgio Armani Acqua di Giò is 17 years old. And as I wore the fragrance for this week’s review, I came to feel 17 is the perfect age for the Acqua di Giò wearer, too, because Acqua di Giò smells “immature” and a bit “simple” (I won’t/can’t say “innocent” because I don’t believe many innocent 17-year-old guys exist anymore!) Though I happily (and confidently) wear all manner of fresh, citrus/floral colognes, Acqua di Giò is so adolescent, so connected to a specific time and perfume “Age,” I don’t feel comfortable wearing it.

Acqua di Giò was released in 1996*; the perfume starts with sharp citrus aromas blending with neroli. The opening has a warm vibe; this is not a cool/cold perfume. Next up is a “water” note: a bit floral, a bit calone-ish. Some old ingredients lists say cyclamen is in Acqua di Giò, and certainly clean/clear cyclamen is more apt a description for what I smell than fleshy and dense “persimmon” (which Armani lists as a note; is this a translation or botanical error?) Acqua di Giò’s base is so well blended no note stands out…there’s just a pleasant accumulation of fresh aromas: vaguely woody, vaguely floral. I would categorize this as a perfect teen cologne — for either sex.

When it’s first applied to skin, Acqua di Giò has strong sillage, but the perfume quiets down quickly (it has reasonable lasting power). Acqua di Giò reminds me of Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme (1994) and any number of calone-rich men’s perfumes of the 1990s (and, yes, the 2000s, too). Acqua di Giò is a department store fragrance Supreme, instantly familiar and genial.

No doubt hoping to capitalize on Acqua di Giò’s amazing commercial success (a, or THE, top seller for men year after year after year), Giorgio Armani released a new version, Acqua di Giò Essenza, in 2012.

acquaWhen first applied, Acqua di Giò Essenza smells more complex than its predecessor, though no “smarter” (if you know what I mean). Acqua di Giò Essenza goes on smelling a bit like citrus-scented turpentine (which I like); it smells gusty compared to Acqua di Giò. As Acqua di Giò Essenza dries on skin, I detect sage and a sweet floral aroma I’m betting is paradisone (the aroma is very artificial). The marine element is saltier in Acqua di Giò Essenza than in regular Acqua di Giò and when the marine note arrives, it stays put, and I start to look, and sniff, longingly back in Acqua di Giò Senior’s direction. For, sad to say, though more expensive than Acqua di Giò, Acqua di Giò Essenza smells more ordinary after its opening fades (and it fades fast, leaving us with marine notes/ambrox and just a smidgen of smoky cedar and vetiver — you have to put nose to skin to smell them). Acqua di Giò Essenza lasts much longer on skin than Acqua di Giò — all day (I notice it leaves an oily/glossy shine on my skin).

Overall, Acqua di Giò Essenza is a predictable, business-as-usual men’s fragrance; must all mainstream men’s scents smell so dull and similar? Apparently so!

Final verdict, a lesson learned, and a suggestion:

I think most perfumistas will find both Acqua di Giò formulas a tad dated and dull; they cater to “young” and/or easy-to-please noses. When I smelled Acqua di Giò Essenza on scent strips in magazines, I was excited and SURE I’d love the new scent; never trust a scent strip! Finally, if another Acqua di Giò flanker is created, I hope Acqua di Giò Essenza’s citrus-turpentine takes center-stage.

Acqua Di Giò Eau de Toilette is $62-$102; Acqua Di Giò Essenza Eau de Parfum is $79-$168.

*Acqua di Giò lists notes of: green tangerine, bergamot, jasmine, neroli, rosemary, marine notes, persimmon, white musk, cedar, patchouli, rock rose.

** Acqua di Giò Essenza (perfumer Alberto Morillas) lists notes of: bergamot, grapefruit, cascalone, paradisone, jasmine, sage, basil, cedar, vetiver, pepper, patchouli, ambergris/ambrox.

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  1. Joe says:

    Kevin, I don’t have any desire to test Essenza, though I’m not opposed to it. I agree that SO many mainstream men’s scents smell dull and similar.

    After having said that, I’ll admit that I wore Acqua di Giò for a year or two in my very-late twenties, then bought another 100ml bottle when I was about 33 or so. I still have that bottle, which is still half or more full. It’s certainly not to my taste anymore, but I used to like smelling it now and then. I probably haven’t sniffed it in a couple of years now. It may be time to do that again and wonder what I ever saw in it. I don’t think it’s awful — it’s just not very special.

    • Marjorie Rose says:

      Neither awful nor very special is how I’d categorize MANY mainstream scents–male and female–but I agree, you fellas seem to have far less diversity in your offerings! (Sort of like socks–have you ever tried to find some really great, creative, men’s socks? You almost need a specialty store.)

      • Kevin says:

        Marjorie Rose: well I’ve seen some pretty great men’s socks…problem is: men for the most part don’t buy or wear them! Maybe it’s just that most men choose black socks and “fresh” calone scents because they are “easy?”

        • Marjorie Rose says:

          Yeah, both are probably safe choices for pretty much any situation.

    • Kevin says:

      Hi, Joe: Acqua di Gio probably smells better in Santa Barbara! All that sun and sea scent in the air. My vote is to use it as a room fragrance if it does not please you on SKIN.

  2. C.H. says:

    Great review Kevin; I’m laughing out loud about the Essenza being more complex, but not smarter. I do know what you mean!

    And even when poking a little fun, I really appreciate your willingness to review some of these mainstays of the mainstream. It’s really interesting to hear your take, as well as some perfume history for context. I didn’t quite realize this was 17 years old–it’s interesting to think about what age I was when this first came out and what associations I have with this fragrance (really its whole genre), as a consequence! “Adolescent” is definitely the right word for it.

    • Kevin says:

      C.H.: I know…there are so many BIG mainstream scents I’ve not gotten around to reviewing…I have more on the burner, so to speak. HA!

      • C.H. says:

        Hahaha–alas that is probably the right place for so many of them! Ah, men’s mainstream. A tough row to hoe!

  3. Rictor07 says:

    I like, and have owned the original, and might buy it again some day, despite being well over 17 years of age. Essenza just bummed me out tho. I thought it was lame and poorly conceived.

    • Kevin says:

      You’re young at heart, Rictor!

  4. sinnerman says:

    Hey Kevin
    When I saw the title announcing the fragrance and then the by line i knew the love would be Luke warm at best ;)
    I loved the advertising campaign for the new version ! Bruice Webber i think , it was visually pleasing, evocative and slightly edgy with that weird Jesus chant flowing over the sparkling visuals of a boy in the sea.
    I too enjoyed your opinion on these fragrances!
    I bet they have made GA millions of dollars so far.

    • Kevin says:

      Sinnerman…these ad campaigns exist in their own world…youtube. I always forget to look up the videos or go to the designer website. I’ll check out the ad.

  5. BigslyFragrance says:

    I think appreciation for this one is directly related to the ability to detect notes, unlike many if not most others. As a newbie I hated this one, but then had the chance to swap off something I hated (and had two bottles of) for a bottle of AdG, and I decided to give it a second chance. At that point, perhaps a year ago, I was able to detect rosemary, jasmine, hedione, and rock rose, along with the obvous citrus and musk. Now I can really enjoy it because there is good dynamism for me. No, AdG doesn’t doe anything “great,” but it does everything well enough to be rotation worthy for me. Fortunately, I had little if any prior experience with this type of scent so there was no bias to prevent me from appreciating it.

  6. Kevin says:

    Bigsley…true, the newness of an aroma or fragrance type can be appealing all by itself, especially if we don’t associate a scent with something negative; and we all have different tastes. AdG is just too ‘vague’ and artificial for me. I don’t necessarily believe knowing the name of a note (recognizing it) is all that important for the ‘average’ perfume wearer; even when I couldn’t tell bigarade from mandarin or bergamot, I still knew I liked those aromas.

    • BigslyFragrance says:

      Right, I meant to add “for the aficionado.” Of course, if a person dislikes any of the major notes it’s not going to be in the rotation, aficionado or not. I don’t have anything else like it in my rotation so that’s likely a factor as well.

  7. lupo says:

    I think ADG is a truly pleasant fragrance. Yes, it has this terrible side effect “you smell like my ex boyfriend”, but there you go – you can’t help it. I don’t think it is so popular for being a safe bet, it’s actually just an unpretentious, pleasant, easy to wear fragrance, and as far as complexity goes, I think ADG has got one or two things to teach :)
    That said, I find Essenza far more interesting: deeper, more mature, equally easy to wear but with more of a kick. Never owned ADG original, but I’m seriously considering etting Essenza soon.

    • Kevin says:

      Lupo that’s funny! At least three people told me their exboyfriend wore this

    • ErinK says:

      I can remember being 15 and, after a devastating breakup from a guy I’d dated for about 2 weeks, absolutely addicted to sniffing a couch pillow that was still scented, weeks later, with the ADG that the guy wore. Anytime I smell it now I’m taken back to those spirited high school days of easy come, easy go boyfriends who nearly all wore ADG. (Of course, back in those days guys actually wore cologne, instead of Axe…)

      • Kevin says:

        Erink, ah, for those preAxe days!!!

  8. eaudemale says:

    Acqua di Giò Essenza has just SO.MUCH.BASIL. All I can say… just too much basil, and bergamota and probably vervain. I just wanted something that would smell like the old ADG but stronger, that would last all day and as you said Kevin, it smells way more ordinary.

    • Kevin says:

      Eau, I was hoping they would use more naturals in the formula too
      But there is some unpleasant harshness smack dab in the middle of the perfume

  9. Omega says:

    Kevin, dull and too sweet seems to be the fad. Ya, I learned a while back, no point in test strips..not helpful in the least. I smelled Elle Saab and was like ZOMGosh, that’s good stuff..then sniffed the real thing..still alright but not the ZOMGosh I smelled on the strip. I don’t even see the point in magazine strips at all really.

    I don’t like basil, personally..esp in that Essenza.

    • Kevin says:

      Omega, maybe I am remembering wrong, but scent strips in the 90s seemed more ‘helpful’…remember the days when everyone was complaining about smelly magazines? Maybe new scent strip ‘technology’ is not as good…

      • Omega says:

        You are so right! I loved those smelly mags! One used to smell them from afar off, those were the days, the 90’s. Though, there were real bombs made in the 90’s..not like stuff today.

  10. VanMorrisonFan says:

    I still believe the best Armani fragrance for men was the very first…a classic that endures. The concept was well thought out and well done. The shape of the bottle resembles a man’s upper body, with the squared shoulders. This is an enduring classic…no need or room for improvement!

    • Kevin says:

      VMF: that’s my favorite too

  11. eminere says:

    Nice review.

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