Acqua di Gioia (Giorgio Armani)

If any fault can be found with the masculine Acqua di Giò, it's that it's overloaded with Hedione (25% of the formula), to the point where it lacks some necessary definition and becomes a bit chemical and raspy. That's not to say AdG smells terrible or anything, because it doesn't. But it's quite easy to identify its imbalances, and for that matter its plagiarism of Creed's Millésime Impérial, a far superior fragrance. Whenever I wear AdG, I feel the Hedione issue is part of why I can't enjoy it. I also feel like it has a story to tell that falls flat due to a lack of enthusiasm from the narrator. The dialogue is loaded with anecdotal citruses, melons, white flowers, and Mediterranean herbs, all wafting on a sea breeze across my beach-toweled cheeks. But those are just anecdotes; the main plot happens in a locker room, with misogynistic wisecracks ricocheting off sweaty jockstraps and freshly Speed-Sticked armpits. The feeling of a hastily-composed synthetic heart accord works against the integrity of AdG. This really is the "Water of Joe."

Interestingly enough, the feminine Acqua di Gioia smells a bit more successful in both concept and execution. Armani takes us off the beach and plops us into the humid, slightly fetid heart of a tropical rain forest. My positive opinion of this fragrance is tempered by the fact that it's a fresh, citrusy approach to an aquatic perfume, using sweet floral and woody notes to bolster its sunshiny luminescence. That sounds fine in theory, but in practice, even when done perfectly (as in Creed's MI), it's boring. Nevertheless, there's something rather Edmond Roudnistka-esque going on here. Acqua di Gioia's top note shimmers with a brisk tension of freshly-sliced lemons and chopped mint against an intensely sweet sugar cane and white floral accord. A saccharine edging of jasmine and the damp funk of cedar play against the fruitiness to form a pleasant unisex aquatic effect. If Hedione is used, it is used more sparingly than in its progenitor, and shares space with several other elements quite nicely.

Things become dewier as it dries. It's more floral, and more "sugary" than most of the typical aquatics on the contemporary market. I wonder if Guy Laroche's Fidji was an inspiration, or even Roudnitska's Le Parfum de Thérèse. They may have been in the minds of Loc Dong, Anne Flipo, and Dominique Ropion, yet theirs is not exactly a "rich" composition - it's just playfully sweet. D&G's Light Blue may be a more apt comparison. Whatever your perspective, this 2010 update to the aquatic theme is more pleasantly vulgar than its male cousin. Acqua di Gioia is a reminder that the tired legacy of tropical goddess perfumes isn't necessarily a result of a banal structure, but of the perfumers' inability to recklessly embrace the boozy heat of their inspiration to create the stuff of a fevered mirage, and not just a teenager's day dream. If they'd intensified the sugar enough to create an ethyl maltol bomb, and let that fuzzy rush take starbursts of more than just lemon with it - say, lemon, mango, and pineapple, along with mint, jasmine, and every other indolic white floral possible - you might have masterpiece material. As it stands, it's just very nice. I guess there's nothing wrong with that.

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