Cool Water, both ways.

Every time we go thrifting, my spouse and I marvel at the hot trend items that end up crowding the secondhand shelves, priced at fifty cents apiece. Yesterday's rejected fondue pots have been replaced by entire sets of the Tim LaHaye Left Behind series. Multiple copies of Fifty Shades of Grey intermingle with rolls of unused wallpaper depicting geese in blue gingham poke bonnets. If you look closely, you might even discover a steady influx of Justin Bieber fan paraphernalia-- no doubt unceremoniously ditched at the back door in the dead of night.

Once viewed as indispensable must-haves, these relics of a former age have depleted both their cultural meaning and everyday usefulness. I always wondered when Davidoff Cool Water might join their ranks. I don't have to wonder any more.

Recently, my friend Mary scored a handful of perfume minis for me at a local church thrift shop. She didn't know what I might like, so she bought the entire lot for a flat, rock-bottom fee. Among some real finds (Shalimar, LouLou, Eau de Givenchy, and Van Cleef & Arpels' stunning First) there was also a little gentian-blue bottle whose name was printed in distinctive gold Edwardian script. I quickly suppressed a smile. The day that many have long feared has come at last, I thought. Then I realized I sounded like a Left Behind character and snapped out of my apocalyptic reverie just in time to prevent a malevolent MWA-HA-HA-HA! from escaping my lips.

Would you blame me, though? I've been forced to smell Davidoff Cool Water for nearly half my life-- thanks to its overwhelming popularity among a male fan base with seemingly no sense of boundaries. Such men you can smell at a hundred paces, if not from deep space. They routinely appear on Basenotes advising newbies to use cellblock-firehose methods of application (nine to twelve sprays of Cool Water distributed between the arms, neck, chest, upper back, stomach, groin, and shirt). They argue endlessly with one another over the true classification of Cool Water (aromatic or aquatic?), its reformulation (original or reboot?), its provenance (blatant Creed Green Irish Tweed ripoff or vice versa?) and its superiority to all other fragrances (SUCK IT HATERS!!!). Naysayers get slammed here, there, and everywhere. I don't think I've ever seen a single product excite more chest-thumping rage than Cool Water. No wonder I've detested it for twenty-five years: I like my peace and quiet.

Strangely, peace and quiet is exactly what Cool Water offers in low doses-- something I never realized, since no one I've ever encountered wearing it ever heard of restraint. Limited to one or two sprays at most, the dihydromercenol is almost what you'd call tolerable. I actually went so far as to dab, and the scant drop that adorns my wrists has lasted hours with no loss of clarity, power-- or pleasure. For the surprising truth is that I like what I smell. From mint-marine opening to aromatic herbal heart to sweet-woody drydown, this fragrance never screams as loud as the aficionados who defend its honor. Does its honor even need defending? No. Cool Water just wants gentle handling-- something most he-men would never admit about themselves.

Having said that, I'd like to add an afterword regarding Cool Water Woman, designed (like its male counterpart) by Pierre Bourdon. I received a bottle from a friend who had received it in turn from someone else. Obviously neither of them wanted it-- and after mistakenly unleashing one spritz of it in my house, I didn't want it either. Forget all those non-existent notes like quince and peach and lotus; here we have an industrial-strength mixture of el cheapo muguet, pure calone, and that oily lemon-peel accord from Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue. It basically smells like institutional floor cleaner and is shrill enough to take your head clean off even in the smallest increments. THIS -- and not the masculine version -- is the one people should be lobbying Town Hall to ban by local clean-air ordinance.

Scent Elements: Lavender, coriander, peppermint, rosemary, apple, orange blossom, neroli, jasmine, geranium, oakmoss, tobacco, sandalwood, amber, musk, cedar (Cool Water for Men); citrus, honeydew melon, quince, pineapple, peach, lotus, lily, rose, jasmine, muguet, iris, vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla, musk (Cool Water Woman)