John Varvatos just released limited edition Artisan Acqua1 — a flanker to John Varvatos Artisan. I was intrigued for a couple of reasons: I liked original Artisan and can always be swayed (at least enough to sample a scent) when a cologne is described as “beach-y” (especially in cool, damp weather).
Artisan Acqua is a softer, talc-y version of Artisan, with a warm, summer-y feel to it. Artisan Acqua opens with green, spiced (though no specific "spice" is apparent to my nose) citrus — a bit herbal in character. Slowing emerging from the citrus aromas is a “barren” wood note (think bleached wood baking in the sun on the seashore). This clear, bracing and somewhat salty heart note takes over Artisan Acqua for several minutes (and almost becomes glaring and unpleasant) before it is overtaken by an accord I’ll describe as “floral mousse” (a light, semi-creamy jasmine-orange blossom — “white flower” — accord). The floral effect is ephemeral and leads to hints of fir, (clean) moss and subtle wood notes (is there the sheerest leather aroma, too?)
Artisan Acqua is sporty and uncomplicated; it reminds me of men’s colognes (Made in America) from the 1960s and 1970s. Artisan Acqua almost went on my to-buy list for practical and sentimental reasons: 1: I enjoy it, it may not be around long, and I have no perfume like it in my collection; and, 2. (and more importantly) its later stages of development smell identical to a fragrance my father wore all through my childhood (I don’t remember the name, just the dark brown bottle capped with a brushed “gold” metal top). I talked myself out of buying Artisan Acqua because it smells like my father's cologne for just a short time, and it only comes in a huge size (125 ml Eau de Toilette)2 — but at $84, it’s a bargain.
1. John Varvatos Artisan Acqua: perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux (listed notes are tangelo, mandarin, paradisamide, galbanum, lentisque, angelica root, clary sage, lavender, coriander, toscanol, basil, geranium, palmarosa, jasmine, moss, patchouli and fir balsam)
2. Ed. note: A smaller, 75 ml size does exist but does not seem to be in US department stores.