NOTE: This review is for the 200ml glass bottle European edition.
I wasn't sure what to expect with this (it was a blind buy) but I remember an episode of Frasier where there was a joke around Frasiers Dad always wearing Aqua Velva with both Frasier and Niles clearly holding it in total contempt.
Here in the UK Aqua Velva doesn't seem to have ever been as big as in the states....if at all. Sure we've had Old Spice, Hai Karate, Denim etc but not this.
The Euro version isn't branded as 'Ice Blue', simply 'Aqua Velva Locion' (Locion is spelled as per the bottle) and the reverse side of the label printed with a link to the Williams Spanish website where you will also find details of a whopping 400ml glass bottle!
Scent wise I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from this but it's sweeter than I would have imagined. For me the Lavender is the most noticeable of the ingredients. It should be kept in mind that several internet reviews suggest the Euro version is milder than the US version both in colour and in scent.
Using it as an aftershave lotion there's little to no burn with this but the Menthol/Peppermint does provide a cooling effect to the skin and neck and a very enjoyable one at that.
The scent doesn't stick around very long - maybe 30 mins to 1 hour before it has all but gone. You could look at this as low mileage or instead, safe to use before going out as a traditional aftershave whilst still spraying your usual choice of exotic elixir, safe in the knowledge that if the two do clash, it won't be for very long (you might need to re-read that sentence for it to make any sense!)
To me it's a perfectly pleasant way to finish a wet shave without screaming at the mirror from feeling like your face is on fire. The scent is nice enough, not overpowering and pretty short lived.
No fuss, straightforward, budget friendly and an enjoyable addition to my lair of lotions and potions.
Aqua Velva Ice Blue smells great, it hits all the spots for an old vintage head like me. After shave barber shop first minutes shifting to a surprisingly satisfying chypre soon after that punches way above it's weight.
If I'm ever stranded somewhere, without anything to wear, I'll head out to the nearest supermaket and get me some of this.
It's called "Ice Blue" because of how it feels, not because of the smell. It doesn't sting like Clubman (though it does a little). Rather, it sends a powerful menthol-cooling sensation over your newly shaved face. This lasts a minute or two, and during that time it's hard to focus on the smell or much of anything aside from how your face feels. After the sensation fades, what's left is a faint (but not fleeting) musky, animalic scent: almost the diametric opposite of what you'd expect from a supermarket aftershave, much less one called "Ice Blue". I can't say I find the experience of putting it on all that enjoyable, but I do love the quiet, pleasant masculinity of the smell.
Aqua Velva always gets overlooked it seems, even by folks who dig drugstore aftershaves and cheapo classics. Tons of jokes are made at it's expense like "this ain't your dad's Aqua Velva", and it's become the after shave so ubiquitous culturally, that it actually isn't all that common physically anymore. Sure, it ends up in plenty of medicine cabinets for die-hards that have used it for decades, and still sells well-enough to not fall off the face of the Earth, but for all the mentioning of it, and furthermore mentioning of how common it is, there is a surprisingly large number of people who actually don't know what it smells like, but avoid it because they think they do. I was pretty much one of those people in my late teens and early 20's. I saw the bottle of blue stuff sitting next to Skin Bracer (1931) and Brut (1963) in the shaving aisle, and thought it must be some peppermint in a bottle type swill, especially since everyone said that Aqua Velva is as plebian as it gets, even from wearers of stuff like Stetson (1981) and Old Spice (1937). Morbid curiousity did eventually get the better of me and I sniffed it once when shopping for my then-normal Gillette Cool Wave aftershave (1992), and I was confused by it's peppermint, tart citrus, and slightly dirty ambiance, so I moved on and kept with the Gillette. Fast forward a decade or so and now I'm in my mid-30's at the time of this writing, giving that bottle of Aqua Velva another sniff, now in plastic but sporting an older logo design in celebration of it's "100th Anniversary". What I find is much more clear to me now that I've smelled 100's of perfumes from all across the past 150+ years or more, and I actually "understand" Aqua Velva.
This stuff isn't some minty cheapo skin splash or generic aquatic melange with a skin conditioner worked in, but a deceptively classy hybrid of citrus chypre notes and barbershop sensibilities that is downright scary to the uninitiated, since chypres have been extinct for years in the men's space. Anyone who's smelled stuff like Moustache by Rochas (1949) instantly gets where I'm coming from in the dry down of Aqua Velva. Yes, there is that peppermint note, but it fades within a minute, and what's left behind is a citric, sharp, herbal, leathery chypre-type smell that's just dialed way down low because it's of after shave concentration. Making this stuff blue really is something of a mislabeling, since there is nothing cool or aquatic about this after the mint is gone, and I can understand why folks going in not knowing what this is get quickly horrified by something advertised as fresh but actually smelling a bit animalic after it settles. Aqua Velva opens with that famous mint, but is saddled with bergamot, lemon, petitgrain, and lavender within moments. The mint goes away after a few minutes and the tart opening really takes the learned nose back to those mid-20th century citrus chypres, where clean fought with dirty in eternal struggle but the latter sometimes won. The middle of sage, jasmine, vetiver, sandalwood, and cedar only reinforce this, as the aromatic woods and herbs continue to cut a sharp and dry path while the jasmine adds just a speck of sweetness long before the days of hedione extraction. The base is pure chypre with labdanum, oakmoss, musk, and a faint leather note. If this stuff were jacked up to eau de toilette strength and had the mint pulled out, we'd have a classic gentlemanly scent worthy of all the vintage fan ravings it could muster, but because it's blue, and in a plastic bottle, and beats you in the face with mint for the first 60 seconds, it gets mostly ignored. Now I'm defintely not saying this is some under-appreciated vintage gem of a lost quality, as it's still "just Aqua Velva" and you're paying under $5 for it, but I'm shocked at the fragrance composition under the guise of a simple dime store shaving accessory, so I have to make it clear that there is some serious business under the hood of this thing.
Fougères have stood the test of time in the drugstore segment much better than anything else offered, which is why Avon Original (1949), 'Vigorare (1957), and Tribute (1963), plus Revlon's "That Man" (1958) and Arden's "Arden for Men" line are long gone, while the Pinaud Clubman lines, and stuff like Canoe (1936) soldier on in supermarkets to this day. Hell, even the aforementioned Skin Bracer gets more cred from the mainstream than Aqua Velva, because it combined a similar mint soother with a much-friendlier fougère composition that piled on sweetness, roundness and a pleasant musk. The fact Aqua Velva Ice Blue survives at all is a puzzle to me, because of just how removed from the mainstream it's animalic citrus and leather demeanor is, but I have a theory so here goes: The people who still staunchly use Aqua Velva, and the few new folks who find it, probably don't use it for what it smells like, but for what it does, since the bulk of advertising all these years leans towards it's effects on skin and not the way it smells (early ads just called the smell "likeable" and left it alone). There was a brief flirt with marketing Aqua Velva as a dating fragrance in the 70's (just like with Skin Bracer), during the explosion of the men's cologne market at that time, with a half-dozen flankers to give a flavor for everyone, but it soon returned to business as usual with the brand once people called shenanigans on that. If you ever take a chance and just completely drench yourself in the stuff, then sit back and let it dry down, you'll discover what I'm talking about, after getting past that killer peppermint top note. All these years later, and only now does it seem clear we've all been using a chypre wolf in aftershave sheep's clothing, and nobody has been the wiser. This revelation is made more impressive by the fact this stuff presages most major notable designer chypres for men by a decade or two. Don't expect a miracle here, especially with modern formulas, but for fans of the old ways who may have been avoiding what looks like worthless drivel, expect a pleasant surprise from "your dad's Aqua Velva". Thumbs up!
This is a classic aftershave used by men since 1917, so basically over a hundred years. Unfortunately it is now only sold in plastic bottles rather than in glass as it used to be (and in my opinion everything smells better in glass than in plastic). Luckily I still own the original glass bottle of Aqua Velva that my dad used to use (he gave it to me); when it runs out I will keep the glass bottle and just refill it with modern Aqua Velva. This is a really refreshing and cooling aftershave due to the intense menthol and mint in it. It really cools the face, while also providing a slight burn if used after shaving. As for the scent, I detect mainly mint, lavender, oakmoss, and leather - these notes are very noticeable. It's an odd combination but somehow works really well. Sillage from it is actually pretty good (although it's an aftershave) while longevity is weak as it's an aftershave. Still, it's the best "minty" aftershave out there in my opinion and will forever be a staple for me.
An iconic smell, though perhaps a bit less than Brut, Aqua Velva's superior drugstore rival. Ice Blue goes on bright with a splash of mint, wintergreen, and nutmeg over hyper-sharp violet leaf, with a pinch of cinnamon or mace for just a touch of warmth in the background. It's simultaneously nostril-searing and deadening, a sort of sharpness overload, all high pitches with no meat or base.
That being said, I like Aqua Velva. It's a nostalgic smell that I find satisfying despite its shortcomings. Thumbs up for the memories.