Their names are all you need to know about their intentions. Surprise surprise, Acqua aims to be a more ephemeral version of the original, whereas Forte's objective is to give the freshness some depth and gravitas. What the names don't tell you is the accuracy with which these targets have been hit. By placing greater emphasis on the neroli and injecting a well-measured dose of floral sweetness, Acqua does indeed cajole the familiar accord onto a lighter breeze and raise it high across the stillness of the Med. What's more, unlike many compositions with similar ambitions, it isn't afraid to make a hasty exit: it explodes with vitality, then does the right thing and fades away. Forte's trick is to latch onto the slightly smoky, indolic facets of neroli and link them to a discreet leather note. By no means does this sacrifice the impact of the citrus, but it does endow the whole with a touch more danger, a reminder that orchards aren't always the innocent locales postcards would have us believe.
Since the original NP emerged, Tom Ford has attempted to replicate its impact with several blue-bottled additions to the Private Blend collection. They've all been interesting to varying degrees - for instance, the lavender-based Costa Azzurra attracted some praise - but it's probably fair to say that none of them have grabbed the attention of the public in quite the same way as their optimistic forerunner. Maybe the appearance of Acqua and Forte is a sign that Ford has decided to stop messing around and just exploit the success of one of his most lucrative creations. That may well be true, but I hope a sense of cynicism won't detract from the skill and care with which these flankers have been put together (even if the 50 ml bottle of Forte comes in at a gut-walloping £195!). They both possess distinctive personalities in their own right and, without trying too hard, they force crotchety souls like yours truly to view the original Neroli Portofino in a more favourable light. I have little doubt that, if my travels take me to sunny climes this summer, at least one of them will find its way into my suitcase.
[Review based on samples provided by Tom Ford in 2016.]