7/9/13

Agua Brava (Antonio Puig)



There are moments in my seemingly endless fragrance journey when I know I have encountered something valuable: an idea, liquefied and bottled and worn by millions of people, yet still rare. Such perfumes are not accouterments to dress, or accessories in fashion, but mantles into which certain individuals are to step, to assume their roles as the world's Alphas and Omegas. Such is Agua Brava, a coded message in brown glass. This flawless gem declares its wearers as mindful of the earth on which they tread, acutely aware of nature's master plan for all blooded vessels, and ready to bequeath this truth to loved ones, should their love be cut short. It is a fragrance one can live comfortably in, and die happily in. It is the simplicity of verdant beauty, expressed in three simple accords - citrus, pine needles, and moss.

This fougère's best feature is its amazingly natural feel. It is structurally unremarkable, as there are thousands of woody-piney old-school masculines in a similar caste, and it lacks assertiveness (it's all but gone in four hours), but the quality of its materials is humbling. Its bergamot and lemon top note is woven with enough skill to allow every one of its minuscule citrus molecules a chance to shine, and to pierce through the air with crystalline clarity. Its bay-laden pine accord is brisk, airy, and quite rich, a balancing act completely devoid of synthetic foundation and flourish. There are no white musks, no iso E-supers, no dihydromyrcenols, Calones, or Acetylenic esters. There are simply the expressed constituencies of 10 carbon alcohols, with vague wisps of lavender and mint interlaced into stronger notes of bergamot and raw fir, an entirely natural effect, complete with wood sap and dew.

I'm inclined to accept the English interpretation of Agua Brava's name as "Brave Water," although there are variances in meaning, depending on where you look. It reminds me of Dior's Eau Sauvage, or "Savage Water," in that respect. Is Eau Sauvage "savage?" Yes and no - it is savagely beautiful, but ultimately a tame composition. What about "Brave Water?" I think this is closer to the mark, not because it takes an act of courage to wear Agua Brava, but because attempts to explain it to bystanders requires a leap of faith. You have to believe that your melon/aquatic-wearing brethren will accept your headscratch-inducing embrace of bitter, indedible fruit and dusky pine, twenty-five years after the death of that trend in fine fragrance. Furthermore, once your explanation has been proffered, an unflinching faith in the continued existence of kindred spirits is needed to get you through the odd reactions ("it smells like soup," "it's herbal b.o.") that are sure to follow. In any case, Agua Brava remains a stalwart member of a triad of Mediterranean herbal-pines, and continues to stand beside Pino Silvestre and Acqua di Selva as a timeless cologne that always smells great.









6 comments:

  1. I've almost bought a bottle a number of times. Couldn't decide between this and Acqua di Selva. Always loved the look of the bottle too. Pino just reminded me too much of a bag of italian seasoning spilled on the floor.

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    1. Really? That's interesting, I always thought Pino smelled exactly like a Christmas tree. Agua Brava is a little more natural though.

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    2. I put this on this AM for the first time in awhile and it brought a smile to my face. It reminded me that there really are a number of great frags out there that fly under the radar and don't cost an arm and a leg (Pino, Aqua de Selva, Aqua Quorum, Clubman Reserve, Jacomo, etc.) As the owner of 300+ colognes I probably could have stopped at 10-15 well-thought out buys and saved a fortune. But, for me at least, the hunt is half the fun! It also occurred to me that what would probably be helpful to many just starting out, particularly younger buyers, is a list of great frags to check out that won't break the bank. Outstanding site by the way. Keep up the excellent work!

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    3. Thanks for reading John! I feel the same way a lot of the time, looking at my collection thinking that maybe I could have saved myself some trouble by just discovering all the greats first. Agua Brava, Pino, and the others you mentioned all warrant top-shelf treatment and as you said, are very inexpensive. We guys seem to have that advantage, excellence for the price of a sandwich. What amazes me is how something like Agua Brava can endure for 45 years without falling out of the market.

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  2. I prefer Pino Silvestre to Agua Brava because it's longevity is superior and it's a bit fuller, to me. Agua Brava, as you said, is gone fairly quickly and I find it thins out even before that. It is quite natural for the first hour, though and I enjoyed it a great deal when I owned a bottle but I didn't care for its ephemeral nature. Both Pino and Agua Brava are worthy sniffs.

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    1. Yeah I do love Pino. Hard to beat as far as pine goes. Agua Brava's citrus notes are more impressive to me than Pino's, though. They just smell more natural, perhaps because they're not meant to be fully incorporated into a reconstruction of pine needle smells, and are allowed to stand apart. Pino's citrus seems to be part of an effort to recreate pure pine in all its glory. In any case, they're both grand imo.

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