Would it be harsh to sum up the Bvlgari Aqva series of colognes as: 'Bvlgari-does-Acqua di Giò'?

Well, yes and no.  Let's consider the evidence: 

Bvlgari Aqva Pour Homme - REVIEW:

Let's start with Bvlgari Aqva Pour Homme.  As the name would imply, this is targeting the ever-popular, this is targeting the ever-popular 'aquatic', Mediterranean, citrus-y fragrances of which Acqua di Giò is so emblematic.  It's got the straightforward mandarin notes, and then the sea-brine whiff that comes from the Posidonia (basically, seaweed) that is in there.  But this one won't knock you off your feet with its originality: it does feel as if Bvlgari have created this fragrance just so they can have an Acqua di Giò clone in their stable.  

 Strong on seaweed...

Strong on seaweed...

The product write-up on Bvlgari's website is equally lacking in substance: 'Aquatic, noble and masculine, AQVA pour Homme Eau de Toilette evokes the power and beauty of the sea. The perfection of a spherical flask. Aquatic blue and green merging together, capturing light, creating deep reflections'.

Well, this one didn't create 'deep reflections' of the metaphorical sort in our minds and noses, if we're honest: it was all too easy to think 'Armani' when we sniffed this EDT.  And it seems all too revealing to us that the write-up is focusing on the product colour and flask-design (more on that topic below) than the actual fragrance itself, because frankly there isn't a huge amount to say on that front.

Having said that...

If we're right to argue that Aqva Pour Homme is an Acqua di Giò clone, it's worth pointing out that it retails quite a bit cheaper than the Armani original at the time of writing... So kudos for that.

Overall rating: a perfectly serviceable 6.5 out of 10.  (If it's a true clone, it would get the same high mark as Acqua di Giò... but we have to dock it 2.5 marks for lack of originality.  It's only fair.)

Bvlgari Aqva Pour Homme Marine - REVIEW:

As if to prove the points we make above, Bvlgari then brought out Bvlgari Aqva Pour Homme Marine.  It's as if they wanted another crack at producing an 'aquatic' fragrance.  And in their defence, this one is superior to plain old Aqva Pour Homme.  

In case we didn't understand the whole seaside concept from Aqva Pour Homme, Bvlgari labour the point this time by giving this cologne the same name - but this time with 'Marine' tacked on the end.  

 I think I geddit...

I think I geddit...

And then, so we really, really get the point, it's packaged in a box that is aquamarine in colour... geddit? You can see where they're going with this... Anyway, they explain it all to us knuckleheads on their website: 'The unique blue-green color evokes the luminous character of “water”, in all its purity and vitality'.  You don't say.  Anyway, we like the way 'water' is framed in inverted commas: like it's a new concept we might be unfamiliar with.  Thanks for the education, guys! 

In fairness, we do feel this version tries a lot harder than the original Aqva Pour Homme: it's like a supercharged Acqua di Giò. For starters - and it may just have been our imagination - it seemed to have better projection.  Second, it wasn't a straightforward citrus: superficially, it is a lot like its older brother Pour Homme, but importantly, it has some of the sourness of the grapefruit you get in, say, Bleu de Chanel (but don't misunderstand us: Marine and Bleu de Chanel are very different fragrances).  

grapefruit and tomato plant

The difference is that for Marine the grapefruit is not the dominant note by any means - but it is there. Really inhaling Aqva Pour Homme Marine brings out a geranium, greenhouse smell: like walking into an old-fashioned greengrocer's shop, or breathing in the stink of a tomato plant.  It's interesting, and not unpleasant, that's for sure.

So Aqva Pour Homme Marine is an improvement: but again, it won't go down in history as the most memorable fragrance ever.  And again, it's cheaper than Aqua di Giò...

Overall rating: a better-than-its-big-brother 7.5 out of 10.

THE Promotional video for Bvlgari Aqva:

A quick word on the promotional video: frankly, just as Aqva Pour Homme seems to be an Acqua di Giò clone, the ad campaign is pretty derivative too.

We've been here before: good looking guy, he's at the beach, he penetrates the water, there is a big foamy splash.  Nothing new here, then.  Sort of like the way the way they play with the flask-shape to suggest that its a kind of rising air bubble, but they don't do much else with that idea.  It just looks vacuously beautiful, and that's all.

And finally, as if to remind us that Marine is just Aqva Pour Homme's little brother, they actually recycle the same video used for Aqva Pour Homme to market Marine (as you will see from the video embedded here, if you compare it to this video).  Lazy stuff, we feel.

 Bvlgari Aqva Amara - REVIEW:

So finally, on to Bvlgari Aqva Amara.  A change of tack, in that it's not blue, and there's no more seaweed...

We would argue that this one is the best of this little trio.

We all know 'Amara' means bitter, so we're following a kind of arc here as each Bvlgari Aqva gets less straightforwardly sweet and citrusy and more sour and interestingly-flavoured.  There's a development there, and Bvlgari deserve some credit for delivering that.

bitter oranges

The predominant note here is bitter oranges - hence the coppery flask that, however metallic it may look, is clearly meant to recall oranges too.  

For us, there was not much else to it: it was pretty subtle, and if you really try hard you can detect Aqva Amara's roots in the other two 'aquatic' colognes.  But basically we are talking bitter oranges here.

Check out the ad campaign - again, it's a recycled version of the original of the extended Aqva Pour Homme advert.

So Oriol Elcacho (or his stunt-double) dives in, but on this occasion, with a lung-popping feat of endurance, stays down there and grabs the Aqva Amara flask off the seabed - kind of like those oyster-catchers you see on, dunno, National Geographic or something.  Very athletic stuff from Oriol - his reward was to have fellow Spaniard Jon Kortajarena take his place in the still shots.

Anyway, the message is: Aqva Amara, in its round flask, is kind of like a pearl in an oyster, right?  OK, neat idea, but again not much else is done with that.  

And while we're on the topic of the flask shape, we have to highlight its slippery roundness as a major downside, in our opinion:  frankly, it's awkward to hold and spray compared to an ordinary, oblong men's cologne flask; the button to operate the spray is flush against the surface of the flask, making it oddly un-ergonomic; the flask has to be laid down flat and cannot be stood up; and finally, roundness, to us, feels stereotypically feminine.  Bubbles, circles, spheres, pearls, round bits: it's kind of girly somehow.

So is Aqva Amara a hidden gem? Well, it's fairly inoffensive, and it won't let you down, but then it won't qualify you as a trend-setter, clearly. It's just...um... nice, really...  And tends to be sold cheaply too!

Overall rating: a nice enough 8 out of 10.

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