Even if you're unfamiliar with Acqua di Selva, a quick glance at the ever-informative H&R Genealogie chart explains its characteristics with near perfect accuracy, sandwiching it neatly between Silvestre by Victor (1946), and Pino Silvestre by Vidal (1955). That's the "Italian Barbershop" section of the chart, a place where midcentury Mediterranean EdCs enjoyed a quiet little Rennaissance.
Acqua di Selva was introduced in 1949, and soon afterward became an archetypical 1950s masculine accoutrement, symbolizing post-war affluence, and the open-collared ease of the mad men era. How does it smell? The short answer is, it smells like pine. Italian colognes tend to smell like pine, usually garnished to varying degrees with kitchen herbs and lemon oil. Pino Silvestre is arguably the best of these earthy fresh fougeres, a bracing slug of sharp citrus and cedar that coalesces into a photorealistic rendition of pine needles and moist sap. I believe Acqua di Selva was its inspiration; Victor's version of this theme was minty, with significantly more lemon and oakmoss, and it has been well preserved by Visconti di Modrone's reformulation. You can occasionally find vintage Victor AdS on EBay and in shops, but I see no reason to embark on that quest. The new stuff smells right.
What makes this fragrance "barbershop?" In my opinion, the composition says it all. When I sniff its top notes, I recognize a familiar interplay between camphoraceous peppermint, lemon, and lavender, and am immediately reminded of vintage Aqua Velva Ice Blue, a minty herbaceous chypre from a few years earlier. This arrangement segues rapidly into a darker, mossier heart, and from there the pine, oakmoss, vetiver, and subtle shimmers of indistinct herbs recall shave soaps and talc, smelling green, dry, and natural, an effortless expression of manliness. Within two hours the whole affair rustles down to a toasted tobacco and oakmoss accord, like unlit pure tobacco cigarettes with a healthy dose of menthol in their filters. The man who shaves with AdS aftershave and applies the EdC afterward is essentially declaring to the world that his "dadness" is inspired by David Niven.
My only complaint, and it isn't mine alone, is that Acqua di Selva doesn't last as long as I'd like it to. I get one hour out of it before it fades down to a skin scent, and even sweat doesn't do much to reactivate it. Many guys complain about this. The truth is, it's a testament to the naturalness of the composition. These old Italian colognes were well made, and still are. They tend to use lucid materials, and there's precious little confusion over what the perfumer meant to say. There is no detectable synthetic musk molecule to help the scent drone on for hours, just a diluted composition of citrus, terpenes, and real oakmoss.
An added perk: my bottle may or may not be defective - the atomizer unscrews and lifts out, leaving an old-school splash. So the longevity issue has an upside, as it can be splashed liberally to double as an aftershave.