Last summer my girlfriend and I were slumming on the couch and chatting about her old flames. We're going way back here, the guys she dated in high school, not college.
She rolled her eyes while describing this one guy who evidently thought he was Ryan Gosling before his time. "He was such a douche," she said. "Actually, most of the guys I knew were douches. They all had attitudes, they were never honest, and they always smelled like bad cologne."
My ears perked up.
"Oh?" I said. "What do you consider a bad cologne?"
"God, I don't know. Whatever was popular back then was pretty bad. But the one I hated the most was the one every guy bathed in - Cool Water. That stuff just smells . . . no."
"Really?" I grinned. "I'm wearing Cool Water now."
She was suddenly mortified. "Shut up."
"No, really. I am."
"Very funny." She stared at me for a few seconds, and it dawned on her that I was serious. She blushed bright pink. About thirty seconds before our conversation, she had complimented me on how good I smelled.
"So I guess you don't think it smells bad anymore, huh?" I was having fun with this.
"Well shit, it smells good on you."
"That's what I thought."
"Okay, don't you be a douche!"
Cool Water, like Polo, Drakkar Noir, Acqua di Gio, Tommy, and even Joop! Homme, is a scent with widespread notoriety. Everyone knows it, and those who don't are either in a coma since 1987, or live in an alternate universe. Or both. We have memory associations with this scent, not the other way around. When we think of good times, bad times, golden-olden times, we think of Cool Water. Many girls remember it more than guys, solely because their former lovers, or even their fathers wore it. It was emblematic of a culture shift away from a world of dark brown bottles, and toward an endless ocean of deep blue.
For the longest time I was reading about how close to Cool Water Creed's Green Irish Tweed was, a sentiment that puzzled me because the comparison's order was backwards. Green Irish Tweed came a solid three years before Cool Water. If anything, the Davidoff scent mimicked the Creed. But I didn't believe it - Green Irish Tweed is a dense violet leaf construction bedecked in rich iris, ambergris, and sandalwood accords. Cool Water is a synthetic orange blossom, lavender, mint, tobacco, cedar, and oakmoss fougère, very fresh, but also much thinner. I didn't think the two perfumes were similar. I wore Green Irish Tweed for a while, enamored with its complexities, and forgot about Cool Water. Then one day I stopped into a little shop somewhere and picked up the bottle of blueness. I spritzed it on my hand, and lo and behold, there was the EDT version of Green Irish Tweed.
Creed is a great company, and one of the many wonderful things about them is that they don't release flankers of their most popular scents. Their products stand alone on store shelves as sole testaments to creative success. Creed also never produces EDT versions of their EDPs. This is also laudable, but less so than the first virtue. While flankers are almost always irrelevant marketing gimmicks designed to rake in maximum profit with minimal imagination, EDTs of EDPs are often a company's way of making a scent more accessible by way of concentration range. Many people just can't take the heaviness of an EDP, and prefer to wear their favorite scent in a lighter style. It's a gamble for a perfume house because easing a concentration always changes a fragrance, and poses the risk of making a great scent smell weak.
To avoid that pitfall, good perfumers accept the inevitable and just change the fragrance themselves when composing an EDT of an EDP. They preserve the elements that give the original scent its character, but impose new accords and shift the focus to something else. Pierre Bourdon, the talented guy who brought us Cool Water, was also the talented guy who consulted on the creation of Green Irish Tweed. Bourdon was intimately familiar with GIT, and had a hand in creating its decadent thickness. There's little doubt that when Creed released the scent to insiders, Bourdon felt his input was well taken. His first opinion was very likely that the scent was incredibly marketable, and extremely well-poised to go commercial. His second opinion was how much of a shame it was that Creed didn't make EDTs. When Davidoff came knocking on his door a few months later, he realized it was an opportunity to create an EDT of GIT, something entirely possible through reformulation. Changing the construct but mimicking the scent profile was both utterly do-able, and entirely feasible on artistic and commercial levels.
Cool Water opens with an explosion of synthetic lavender, dihydromyrcenol, which smells like dessicated citrus, here blended with a bitter edging of green apple, and a touch of mint. The notes are brightened by aldehydes, and grounded by a hint of orange blossom, and the suggestion of violet leaf. The central part of the scent is that which most resembles Green Irish Tweed; Cool Water's detached middle is an amalgamation of white flowers, mosses, tobacco, and hints of wood, but all elements are pared down to an aromatic minimum. The jasmine and oakmoss are there, but only the light sillage of jasmine is detectable, along with the fresh greenness in the oakmoss. The cedar is distilled into a coy woodiness, its fetid characteristics discarded. The tobacco is muted and sweet. The amber is sheer, almost sueded, and the musk is pale, nondescript, lending all of these airy components a central role on an unimposing stage. If you sniff casually, the composition resembles violet leaf. Bury your nose in it, give it some warm breath, and you can detect the synthetic equivalent of each note. It's a very fresh scent to be sure.
Somehow Davidoff managed to find a spokesman in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol actor Josh Holloway. Apparently it's one of his favorite scents. I guess he goes old-school, but when you look like Mr. Holloway, you could wear Coty Musk for Men and still smell like a million bucks. Personally I find it hard to believe that he would bother with something as ubiquitous as Cool Water, but I'm a skeptic. Maybe he really does like it. I like it, although I'll never love it. Fresh fougères don't move me. Even Green Irish Tweed, in all its luxury, doesn't offer an emotional peak. The concept behind fresh fougères is one that I'm unable to connect with - smelling fresh and clean. Soap gives you that. Soap is cheap, easy to use, and in abundant supply. Products that amplify the effect of smelling clean are largely just soap accessories, but I suppose one can never smell too clean.
As for my girlfriend, she learned a lesson that day. Perfume is like clothing - it works if you make it work; if you don't believe in it, it'll never work. Up until she dated me, she hadn't met a guy who understood what Cool Water could and couldn't do for him. Therefore it always smelled cheap, like something superimposed. When I wear it, I enjoy it, savor it, and recognize its limitations. The juice responds to my welcoming skin chemistry, and emits something completely different from what she smelled all those years ago on El-Doucho. That's the power of cool, baby.