As it becomes more believable that the snow is in my rear-view mirror I have been looking at my perfume vault. I’ve been considering which warm weather perfumes should begin their seasonal migration and I noticed a change in my attitude. For many years the aquatic perfumes in my collection stayed at the back of the cabinet. Two years ago with the release of two very different takes on this overdone style of perfume I suddenly craved some of the older ones. In the list below you’ll find those two and three others which might make you move aquatics back to the front of the shelf.
The entire class was created with 1988’s Davidoff Cool Water by perfumer Pierre Bourdon. This would launch, literally, thousands of imitators in the years since. None of them have the soul of the original. M. Bourdon created what was meant to be a fougere but instead lived up to its name as a splash of cool water. Still to this day I always get an unsolicited compliment when I wear it.
There were so many bad aquatics that came after Cool Water that I was really taken by surprise by Truefitt & Hill 1805. Created in 1998 by perfumer Mark Zini I didn’t discover it until I started wetshaving in 2003. Truefitt & Hill is one of the venerable houses of wetshaving and when I was getting a professional straight razor shave the barber finished me off with this. After ignoring aquatics for so long 1805 woke me up with a veritable bit of spicy driftwood in the presence of cardamom, nutmeg, and vetiver floating on the water. I’ve always seen this as one of the most sophisticated straight aquatics available.
Heeley Sel Marin by James Heeley in 2008 would go for something entirely different. Most aquatics go for the actual water. Sel Marin evokes the sea spray and there is nothing like this. Every time I wear this I am sitting in the bow of a speedboat cleaving the waves as the spray comes up over the bow. Mr. Heeley conveys speed and salt spray together. When I want to take an imaginary boat ride Sel Marin is what I wear.
These three were my staples and I wore them but rarely and then like a one-two punch in 2013 the next two perfumes gave me very different visions of this class of perfume.
The first was Maria Candida Gentile Finisterre by Maria Candida Gentile. This is the smell of huge waves crashing against a cliff in a battle the rock is destined to lose. Sig.ra Gentile combines an aquatic accord complete with algae with a rocky flinty accord to represent the cliff. The mix of earth and water makes me love Finisterre more each time I wear it.
Barely a month later Hermes Hermessence Epice Marine by Jean-Claude Ellena would present me a gourmand aquatic. I didn’t know I wanted one of these but working with Chef Olivier Roellinger; known for his spice blends, M. Ellena created a tidal pool with spices floating gently on the surface. Cardamom, cinnamon, and cumin are the mix developed by M. Roellinger and that is what M. Ellena placed into the aquatic matrix. It makes for something I have worn regularly when the heat is on.
If you have tired of the same old aquatics I really encourage you to try the last two on my list. If you haven’t discovered the class this list might save you from wading through the ocean of aquatics for sale. In any case dive right in the water’s more interesting than you think.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of the perfumes I purchased.
The aquatic class of fragrance has been so overexposed it has become a caricature of itself. When a man asks for something “fresh and clean” at a department store counter today he is likely to be sprayed with an aquatic fragrance. By the late 1980’s it was time for a change from the hairy chested powerhouses which dominated men’s fragrance and the perfume which would change things for over twenty-five years, and counting now, was released. That scent was Davidoff Cool Water by perfumer Pierre Bourdon.
Back in the late 1980’s at the nightclub the fragrance of choice for most men was either Calvin Klein Obsession for Men, Drakkar Noir, or Ralph Lauren Polo. All of these are great fragrances and hold their own place within perfume’s timeline. None of those would be defined as fresh or clean. It is why when Davidoff allowed Pierre Bourdon to try and capture the smell of cool water it was a huge risk. It turned out the timing was just right as Cool Water became a gigantic success. That success caught most perfume companies flat footed and it was almost a year before Cool Water began to see any competition. In the overcrowded field of fragrance that fresh and clean aquatic perfume occupies it is surprising to me how much this original template has been used. Even more amusing is that there are few aquatics which can stand up to the original and every time I wear it I am reminded of what a game-changer this was. Now it can be found for less than $25 in many places.
Cool Water has one of my favorite openings of any fragrance I own. The first fifteen minutes is pure bliss for me as M. Bourdon takes a bracing lavender and twists it with coriander, rosemary, orange blossom, and peppermint. That inclusion of the last note has an effect of making the rest of it feel like an icy cold splash of water hitting you right between the eyes. It has a vibrational energy I just feel every time I spray it on. The heart notes are a variation on this, as green floral is again called for, but it is achieved differently as jasmine and oakmoss are the flower and the green. A bit of geranium bridges the floral and the green and sandalwood is made sweeter for the jasmine being present. If the top was fresh the heart is where clean comes into play and it has a less flamboyant way of making its point. The base notes are amber and musk and M. Bourdon keeps them very light in keeping with what has led to them. The first few time I wore Cool Water I kept expecting these notes to get more intense but M. Bourdon was once again creating the new trend.
Cool Water has 8-10 hour longevity on me and above average sillage.
Of every perfume I wear Cool Water is the leader for eliciting unsolicited compliments. I have had both genders and all ages hand out the coveted “You smell good!” to me when I am wearing this. It is a true classic which has stood the test of time and was inducted into The Fragrance Foundation Hall of Fame in 2009. I could rue the scads of imitators it has spawned but I wouldn’t want to have a perfume collection which didn’t include Cool Water in it. As we approach the summer months here in the Northern Hemisphere it is Cool Water’s season to shine in. You can be sure it will be brightening up more than a few of my summer days. For $25 you not only get a Discount Diamond you also get one of the true masterpieces of perfume.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.