Is Cool Water for “rookies” ?

I recently noticed this review of Cool Water for Men at Fragrantica.com:

A classical joke from the 90’s…poor longevity plus boring with no character.this is for a rookie who just started using perfumes
instead…try bvlgari acqua,acqua di gio essenza,chanel bleu,bvlgari acqua amara

At first, I dismissed the reviewer as some sort of “clown,” to be honest, but in less than a minute I asked myself if this would make sense if this person had only tried the recent Coty formulation of CW. When I sampled this formulation, my thought was “generic, fuzzy, laundry musk” for the “that smells nice” crowd. So, isn’t it possible that this is what the major, “mass market” fragrance companies intend when they reformulate complex scents like Cool Water?

If so, it doesn’t bother me in this particular case, because I don’t like the older formulation of CW anyway, though I don’t know if I have sampled the first formulation, or how many formulations there have been (I have some of a Lancaster formulation at the moment). As I’ve said before, my guess is that the original CW was created as a kind of experiment, because it contains an odd clash of elements, the “classic” one: lavender, jasmine, rosemary, neroli, and what I’ll call a “new wave” one: dihydromyrcenol, ethyl maltol (or something to increase sweetness considerably). and strong “woody amber” in the base. And if that clash of styles isn’t enough, you also get a tobacco note, which seems stale and totally out of place.

In a sense, it is not at all for a “rookie,” but for someone who likes to do things like layer scents, though of course it’s possible that many people liked it mostly for the top notes and it’s probable that most people can’t identify many if any notes in this scent! The other day I wore Molto Smalto, which in the past I would compare with Cool Water and Green Irish Tweed, not that I think any of these smell very similar to each other, but that there were things they had in common, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were “variations on a theme,” though I don’t know if Pierre Bourdon was involved in creating Molto Smalto (I think most who have read about the subject think that he either created GIT or had some influence on whomever did).

Like CW, MS is sweet at first, but MS doesn’t seem to have much if any dihyromyrcenol. Either that or it is largely masked by other notes. Both have some textural similarities due to the rosemary, and both have some lavender and jasmine. They both list coriander but that seems to be more of a supporting note in both of them. There is no note clash in MS, and eventually it’s mostly a sweet, slightly powdery wood and amber scent. With CW there is a nasty note clash (at least for me), and eventually I detect the “woody amber” material in the base. GIT is far less sweet and doesn’t have the herbal texture of the other two (instead it possesses a floral texture). However, it does have some nice wood and amber in the base, just as MS does. GIT uses citrus, violet leaf, lavender, and iris to create the smooth “fresh” ‘and green qualities, with a bit of texture, though more than a small amount of dihyromyrcenol seems essential to achieve the effect as well.

Now I’d like to consider what the reviewer meant by a “rookie” scent. Basically, this person seems to think that “statement making” scents are what aficionados or “pros” should seek. However, the examples he used suggests that he is sort of trapped in an olfactory cage from a particular time period. His “nose” only perceives certain compositions as suited for “pros.” By contrast, niche perfumers seem to want to create the opposite (generally-speaking, obviously). That is, they want to compose at least some scents that are unique, and certainly not like one of several very popular “designer” scents.

Lastly, I’d like to put forth the idea that perfumers may suffer from a kind of olfactory near-sightedness, especially those whose main focus is o create “mass market” scents. That is, they study scents in an analytical way (their own personal enjoyment is often not a consideration), and use a bunch of paper strips to try and decide which composition is “best.” In most cases, they are not creating what they think is best, but instead are trying to fulfill the wish of someone else. And in a sense, aren’t they creating scents for “rookies?” Doesn’t it seems that most of today’s designer offerings are meant to entice “rookies” with the top notes, and feature “generic” bases? To be clear, I don’t begrudge them their need to “make a living,” but on the other hand I don’t envy the person who has to use the materials allowable today by IFRA to create “rookie” scents. It would be interesting to interview perhaps one hundred of them and ask them if they wear any scent when they are not working, if any scent. Do they burn scented candles or incense?

NOTE: From what I understand, the incredible commercial success of Cool Water was unexpected. It seems that the perfumer wanted to do something that was different, and some product testing may have been conducted, but I don’t think it’s anything like today, where it seems that “safe” is the mantra of the decision makers. A good example, IMO, is Loud for Him, which doesn’t strike me as “loud” or even wearable, in that it opens rather weak and the drydown is the proverbial definition of generic or boring. To me, Cool Water was at least a bit daring, whereas Bleu de Chanel, for example, seems to have been created for the person who wants to wear “a Chanel,” but also wants to smell something familiar, and not be “challenged” in any way.

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Filed under Criticizing the critics.

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