The Good Doctor took a lot of flak for his famous reviews of Green Irish Tweed and Cool Water, and back in 2009 I had little sympathy for him. After all, Green Irish Tweed is beloved by many, a truly wonderful masculine that is both impeccably made and historically significant in ways that only the most entrenched industry insiders can fathom (ironclad verification of who actually created it is still pending, to this day). Turin and many in the fragrance community believe that Pierre Bourdon is the nose behind GIT, and I tend to agree with that, although Bourdon himself has never publicly taken credit for the perfume. In a recent interview aimed at shedding light on his work for Malle, he stated that his best work was not realized in his commercial efforts, and suggested that his niche portfolio was far better. What puts many of us at odds with that suggestion is that Creed is technically a commercial designer perfumery, steeped in tailoring tradition, and now entirely about raking in perfume profits on a clever mass gray-market scale. If GIT, a product of Creed's, is not an example of Bourdon's best work, I and many others have no idea what is. Bourdon's self assessment is more tellingly marred by the fact that he is the author of Davidoff's Cool Water.
Turin felt the heat when he awarded five stars to Cool Water in Perfumes: The Guide, but only four stars to GIT. Many felt this was simply a slighting of Creed, as a disdain for the brand is clearly perceptible in Turin's writings. Others wondered if Turin had taken his "technical" appreciation of chemical perfumery a touch too far, lauding Davidoff's scent for its innovative spirit alone. This is where my take diverged a bit from some of the conversations that were had elsewhere. Although I agree that Turin has a derisive approach to Olivier's firm, I disagree that Cool Water is the lesser of the two perfumes. This blog post exists primarily to announce that I officially feel that Cool Water is, in both vintage and current formulas, superior to Green Irish Tweed, and the more desirable perfume. In fact, despite the fact that I own a few bottles of GIT, I can safely say for the record that I enjoy it considerably less than Cool Water, for a few key reasons. Before delving into those, I want to explain why the bloom is off the Creed rose here.
I've been wearing Green Irish Tweed off and on for five years now, with only a passing appreciation of it prior to 2011. I've been very familiar with Cool Water for at least twenty years, and I owned a small bottle at some point. Back in the old days, as a high school and college student, I didn't particularly like Cool Water. I remember it was too soapy, too strong, too strange. It smelled like shampoo dialed up to eleven, with extra wattage in the green apple and peppermint departments. For some reason those notes did little for me as a teenager and young adult. Of course since then I've grown into appreciating this fragrance, and many others like it. My enjoyment of it stems from a recognition that few other perfumes for men walk the line between masculinity and femininity so well, and even fewer do it with such overtly bright and "happy" notes. Fizzy mint and green apple, blond driftwoods and purpley violets, all conspire to make Cool Water a mess, yet Bourdon managed to pull them together into something special. If you want to experience how this type of fragrance can smell when done poorly, take a sniff of Wings for Men.
There was a long stretch in the 2000s where I didn't really dabble at all with this type of fragrance, mainly because I had other interests and priorities, but ironically I wore Allure Homme every day for the better part of ten years, a scent very heavily inspired by Cool Water and GIT. I remember smelling GIT for the first time, and thinking, "That's it?" It was so familiar, so ordinary, so stunningly synthetic. It smelled of spiky green synthetic notes of no discernible origin in nature, and then it flattened into a very smooth woody/musky base that was excellent in its own right, but certainly not exciting in any way. I liked it, but the drydown grew on me, and there were times where I wondered if I was falling in love. Let's face it, when it comes to fresh, crisp, friendly accords, few do it better than Creed, and GIT is nothing if not fresh 'n friendly. The fragrance literally sparkles out of the atomizer, full of violetty esters and ambery richness. Of course I was aware of its reputed similarity to Cool Water, and I smelled that, but I was willing to forgive it, because it was so smooth and refined and rich.
Then, just for kicks, I revisited Cool Water. I figured it would be a pale shadow of GIT, designer grade, in no way genuinely comparable, save for a passing resemblance. What surprised me with the cheaper scent was how intensely similar to GIT it smelled at its price-point, a perception I was sure would fade as I got reaccustomed to it. Instead of fading, that perception strengthened, until I found myself reaching for Cool Water more than GIT. After about three years of doing this, I finally stopped to reassess the two scents and decide what had happened. My enthusiastic feelings for the expensive (and slightly older) aromatic fern were waning, despite its originality and sophistication, while whatever vestigial sentiments I had mustered for Cool Water in days past had been resurrected and given new life. I turned it over for a long time, parsing texts, doing side-by-side sniff comparisons, quizzing friends and relatives, and simply road-testing them for reactions. The results were fascinating.
Over the years, and throughout all the personal and professional relationships I've forged, none of the reactions were as telling as those of Danielle, my girlfriend in 2011. I'm not going to get into who Danielle is, because I don't want to dissect our relationship here. I'll only divulge her reactions to GIT and Cool Water. The first fragrance I wore around her was Green Irish Tweed. We went on a movie date, and she mentioned that I smelled good on the way, and that was it. Then I switched to Green Valley for a month or two, which she seemed totally indifferent to, as she never said a word about it. By the time I got back around to GIT, our relationship was starting to hit rough waters. I wore it to dinner out one night, and her only two reactions were (paraphrased):
"It's nice, but why do men's colognes always smell like deodorant?"
"Okay, now your cologne is starting to give me a headache. It's so strong I can practically taste it."
Pretty damning comments, considering we were eating at a Thai restaurant. I learned the hard way that GIT cuts through curry. I didn't wear it around her again.
I did, however, wear Cool Water. There's a conversation I had with Danielle that still sticks in my memory, with her recounting how she hated the colognes worn by the boys at her high school. She rattled off a few, I think Drakkar Noir, Acqua di Gio, and maybe Brut were mentioned, but she made it a point to single out Cool Water:
"The one I couldn't stand the most was Cool Water. It smelled like shit on every guy who wore it. I don't know why they couldn't wear whatever you're wearing today, because THAT smells amazing."
Oh, the bitter irony. I was wearing Cool Water. With a Chesire Cat grin, I informed her of this, and she was visibly embarrassed. She gave me the old Rodney Dangerfield, "It smells good on you, though." Naturally I went into a little monologue about how Cool Water is related to GIT, yadda yadda, and her eyes glazed over, she fell asleep, etc.
Every time I wore Cool Water after that, she commented on it, telling me how good I smelled. I had a hard time understanding her. I was still of the mindset that GIT was the better perfume, and Cool Water was the poor man's travel edition. It hadn't dawned on me yet that my thinking was based on a fallacy. Danielle's only complaint about GIT was that it was too strong, yet Cool Water, no shrinking violet (pardon the pun), was just fine. This stuck with me.
It was sometime last year that I finally reckoned with this. By that point I had been wearing GIT sporadically at work and in social situations, and had never received a compliment on it, yet every other month or so I would get an enthusiastic compliment on Cool Water, invariably from women. The cheaper, "more synthetic" fragrance was beating the shit out of GIT in the compliments tally. Indeed, Cool Water is a cheaper fragrance, but in price only. I returned to Green Irish Tweed last fall, wearing it with a vengeance, trying to flush out the compliments I knew had to be out there for it. I even took walks in a nearby state forest, thinking perhaps one of the few dozen hikers that frequent the trails might catch it on a breeze and say something. Although it did make a dog heel, no attention was given to this fragrance by my fellow human beings.
Last week I wore Green Irish Tweed to celebrate the beginning of October, and it was the first time wearing it at this particular company branch, where I've worked for only a year now (I spent several years for the company elsewhere). I figured someone would say something at this place. We're in closer quarters, there are more young women (and a few gay men), it was bound to happen. Day one, no compliments. Day two, nothing. Day three, a younger woman mentions with a positive tone of voice that she can smell my fragrance as she enters the room. The only problem: it was a really, really large room, and I was a good thirty feet away from her when she entered it. Despite that, she really didn't compliment me on it, just remarked that she could smell it from afar. What the fuck?
Then today I gave Cool Water another go after work. And as soon as it hit my skin, I recognized the issue. Green Irish Tweed is often considered by amateur enthusiasts like myself to be "more natural" than Cool Water. Years ago I could relate to that impression, because GIT is definitely a richer, denser, and arguably smoother composition than the Davidoff, which in turn smells a bit more textured and complex, at the expense of smoothness. I say "a bit" because the whole textural difference is very minor, only noticeable in exacting three or four additional notes not shared by GIT, like cedar, tobacco, and jasmine. Despite being richer and immeasurably louder than Davidoff's scent, GIT is, in my opinion, just as synthetic as Cool Water. There is nothing in nature that smells like Green Irish Tweed.
When you take the "more natural" argument off the table in conversations about which of these two fragrances is better, things start to get hairy for GIT. If it's not more natural than Cool Water, what is it? Why is it so much more expensive? What possible reason could there be to choose it over Cool Water? I can only approach these kinds of questions from my own vantage point. I still own and wear GIT because I like it, and I like that it is subtly different from Cool Water, making it fun to pick apart with each wearing. I also like that it came before Cool Water. Released in 1985, GIT was on shelves a full three years before those blue-green bottles started popping up everywhere. Whenever I wear GIT, I feel like I'm wearing the first of its kind. Bourdon officially took the bitter, slightly sinister citrus and violet leaf concept of Grey Flannel and stepped over an invisible line into Cary Grant territory, making something that smelled more versatile, approachable, and accessible.
Aside from its coming before Cool Water, I see no other reason to choose GIT over the twenty dollar scent. Despite being much cheaper, Cool Water is no more synthetic than its progenitor. It was designed by one of the greatest noses in the business, and the man put every effort into making his greatest artistic statement before the nineties hit, perhaps foreseeing the messiness that would follow perfumery out of the Reagan era and into the Day of the Microprocessor. Whatever the case, Davidoff's release was more popular, more widely known, and more meaningful to people than its template, which was still relatively unknown well into the nineties and naughts. A slightly broader awareness of GIT's existence began to emerge around 2005 and 2006, but it wasn't until people started marveling at the similarities between Creed's then $185 perfume and its $25 counterpart that people realized something was up here - the Cool Water we thought we knew had surprising origins. Instead of being a successful accoutrement to a smoker's lifestyle, Cool Water was a distinctly singular cultural artifact with an esoteric ivory tower heritage. This really put the "cool" in Cool Water. Hey, you can wear this for twenty five bucks if you buy it online, and smell really, really similar to rich guys who wear that expensive perfume with the sleek bottle and quirky name that no one ever heard of before. Who knew?
Whenever anyone mentions that they think GIT is the best of its ilk, someone else pops up right alongside them to convey that really, Cool Water smells too much like GIT to justify paying the extra cashola. It's this little yin-yang thing that had me screwing up my eyes with every sniff and examining every conceivable detail of both fragrances. Green Irish Tweed is richer, yes. Green Irish Tweed is richer in that it is a heavier, louder, more powerful concentration of very synthetic accords, all of which smell very good. GIT also lasts longer, its woody notes lifting over the course of a few days on fabric, leaving behind this sublimely pleasant grassy-floral note, still heavily tinged in violet. Cool Water is thinner, significantly weaker, does not carry over across days in the same manner as GIT (although its sweet musk can still be felt at least 24 hours after), and prone to the sort of deliberate aesthetic criticism that comes the way of every "fresh" aquatic since AdG. That's to be expected, since Cool Water has a distinct salty sea-spray element pervading its pyramid.
Yet Cool Water's added transparency lifts it out of the eighties, and keeps it feeling modern and relevant today, twenty-six years after its release. When I wear this perfume, I feel like its green minty violet-leafy notes are moving, alive, unpretentiously cheap and chemical, yet holding those qualities up as examples of how coherent and concise aroma chemicals can be when assembled with such skill, such keen judgment and selection. Alone, its shampoo-grade green apple note is banal and forgettable, but when paired with the other aromatics in Cool Water, it becomes crab apple: bitter, green smelling, with an oddly woody aftertaste. Smelling synthetic is the whole point of this type of aromatic fragrance - the idea is to depart from nature using analogs of natural materials.
Green Irish Tweed does it just as well, but does it a touch too loudly, and here is the main reason why I don't enjoy it as much as Cool Water. I'm more self conscious when I wear GIT to work. I've literally apologized for it twice in one week, because the same woman keeps mentioning that she smells it, NOT that she likes it, from many feet away. That makes me feel like my fragrance is too loud, and possibly a bit vulgar. It won't stop me from wearing GIT because I know the stuff smells good, so even if there's too much of it, it's not the end of the world. But with Cool Water, I can relax a bit more. This stuff isn't Cary Grant in a tuxedo, it's Robert Forster in a sweat shirt. Still refined, still classy, but not as overly eager to please. Cool Water makes itself known at three or four feet away, but unless you literally empty an entire bottle on your head, it's not going to greet you from thirty feet away.
My other problem with GIT is that it's simpler than Cool Water. Much simpler, actually. Lemon verbena, a hint of lavender, Granny Smith apple, a cloud of octin esters, synthetic amber materials, synthetic ambergris for that trademark bitter-metallic Creed musk, and a bit of natural sandalwood, perhaps in microscopic doses under all the Ambrox, are what comprise the entire scent. Lovely for what it is, but not exactly a precision instrument. Cool Water defies all explanation by yielding dessicated citrus, green apple, a saline breeze, lavender, peppermint, and neroli, all in the top accord alone. These notes are followed by clear notes of jasmine, cedar, amber, violet leaf, violet, and more amber, with a drydown of woody amber and musk. If it was just a soupy blob, I'd say you're better off with the simpler, ostensibly more legible scent by Creed, but Cool Water is legible. Cool Water is very legible, actually. Coty's version is even more legible than Lancaster's.
All the suavest tones of GIT are mimicked perfectly in Cool Water's heart. If you want a sleek violet/amber effect, it can be had for three or four hours at a quarter the price of its competition. The similarities stem from the good things in the Creed, while the divergences are in the things that I want from GIT, but don't get. Therefore, I enjoy Cool Water more. Its additional complexity, its remarkable balance, its lower concentration, and its transparent (and more modern) characteristics carry it just over Green Irish Tweed's padded shoulders. And no, Cool Water isn't "more chemical" than GIT. It's just as chemical, but it does more with those chemicals.
In the end, I enjoy both of these fragrances. I think Cool Water's bottle should have been green, like the color of Davidoff's ill fated Relax, and I wonder why they didn't sell the formula to Creed as an EDT version of GIT. It is essentially a cleaner version of that billowy purple perfume from days gone by, and for that I am glad, and will continue to wear it long after the last drop of GIT has been worn and forgotten.