Pure White Cologne / Original Cologne by Creed (2011)

Neutral

The question that has been asked for ages of perfumers is: Can you make a traditional eau de cologne last longer? Many houses have tried answering it over the years, first and most notably with “Extra-Vielle” versions of colognes appearing at the turn of the 20th century, then later when Guerlain perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain decided to make his cologne entry into the canon of “house perfumer’s cologne” dating back to Guerlain’s origins by composing it as an eau de toilette masculine with an oakmoss base instead. Eau de Guerlain (1974) was not without its flaws, as it buried the bright neroli and herbal head notes of the traditional cologne formula in conventional aromatics of the day, but it set a precedent followed by other houses thereafter. Penhaligon’s perhaps made the truest and most notable example of an “extended eau” with Castile (1996) more than 20 years later, which was followed by the immensely popular Mugler Cologne by Thierry Mugler (2001), based on the smell of soap scented like a traditional eau. Niche luxury perfume house Bond No 9 was next with their Eau de New York (2004), which was the first to make a traditional eau de cologne style scent at eau de parfum strength, which had a controversial reception. Before long, Chanel, Dior, Tom Ford, and many others had gotten into the neroli abuse, all making iterations of eau de cologne at various strengths but all at a premium price point within their newly-minted prestige lines, themselves a reaction to luxury perfume brands one-upping them as the premium fragrance option for the absurdly rich. This of course inevitably leads us to Creed, who maintain themselves as the best of the best, longest-lived among all perfume houses, and rightly most noble perfumers on the planet, with a father and son lineage dating back 7 generations. Whether you believe all this retroactive history telling or pedigree huff and puff is up to you, but their 2011 answer to the steadily-escalating “premium cologne war” unwittingly began in the previous century, took the form of Original Cologne/Pure White Cologne (2011). This was first released as Original Cologne in an attempt to rewrite their history as they so often do, shoehorned neatly into their own canon as their original attempt at an eau de cologne dating back to whenever they claimed it was created at the time.

Original Cologne/Pure White Cologne was “re-released” as part of their “Royal Collection” to celebrate their claimed 250th anniversary. The collection hung around as a permanent fixture after initially being limited edition, and Original Cologne was quietly renamed Pure White Cologne afterward. This is an eau de parfum just like the Bond No 9 scent, and strictly speaking not even a traditional eau de cologne in style past the top notes, which burn off rather quick. What you get in the admittedly gorgeous bottle is a soft fruity floral musk scent which opens with neroli, lemon, and bergamot, but adds grapefruit, which is the first sign that this couldn’t possibly be an antique formula as grapefruit didn’t even get classified separately from the pomelo until the 20th century, let alone the fact that scents of complexity in concentration higher than a cologne or toilette are not documented before the creation of Guerlain Jicky (1889). This nice fruity orange blossom opening indeed invokes a modern and refined homage to the beloved eau de cologne, but quickly becomes submerged in more fruit as a sweet pear note emerges, made just slightly bitter by petitgrain and galbanum. The middle phase of Pure White Cologne is very “1990’s” to my nose with this fruity citric green mixture, evoking heavy use of the the aromachemical calone 1951 in scents like Calvin Klein Escape for Men (1993). The smell of Pure White Cologne is just too modern to be what it claims once we segue into the base, even if I use the term “modern” loosely since the 1990’s was quite some time ago. The dry rice powder and synthetic white musk molecule of the base also scream 1990’s to me, and the whole thing ends in Creed’s trademark ambergris base, which is of considerable beauty in this application. Original Cologne/Pure White Cologne is very unisex but probably leans more feminine to most noses due to the heavy fruit presence and the only real floral here being neroli, which is also rather gender neutral on its own. Wear time is long, and sillage is fairly tight but surprisingly intense, even if true eau de cologne aficionados probably won’t be satisfied with performance since it doesn’t evoke the aura of an eau. I’d say Original Cologne/Pure White Cologne fits somewhere in the spectrum of premium options for a light but rich summer fragrance which can transition nicely from day to night and maintain presence, all thanks to that Creed ambergris and musk.

Women or folks of any gender that prefer mostly feminine-leaning fragrances will enjoy Original Cologne/Pure White Cologne for what it is if they have the cash to blow, but Creed does not deliver on a cologne with the staying power of a perfume in the strictest sense since this is really its own animal after the opening. Another way to look at this is as a niche luxury alternative to sweet gray androgyny of Calvin Klein cK One (1993), since it goes in the same fruity floral musk direction but with much more natural-smelling ingredients and has a price tag that is several orders of magnitude higher than even the largest jumbo bottles of the Calvin Klein. As for me, the $600+ retail price for what is effectively a rather conventional 90’s-inspired fruity floral musk is entirely beyond reason, no matter how fine its components happen to be, because I’m not enamored with the genre from the start, and had to learn to love cK One in time. This too might have the chance to grow on me some more, but even at discount rates goes for more than many of the standard Creed scents like Green Irish Tweed (1985), Silver Mountain Water (1996), Himalaya (2002), and Aventus (2010), which are more complex, more original, better composed than this, and just more me. Still, hardcore neroli fans might want to shuffle on down to a Neiman Marcus if they live in the US, or a Creed boutique elsewhere, so they can smell what Creed has done with the note in Pure White Cologne, although I’d still be inclined to recommend the unisex Neroli Sauvage (1994) over this as again, it’s just more fully-realized and has more to offer besides shoving neroli and fruit into musk and Creed ambergris like they’re trying to pass a 90’s style freshie off as a reclaimed piece of antiquity. I give Creed a lot of guff for their marketing and business, but they at least have some gorgeous and sophisticated compositions that usually make me set my principles aside, but that just isn’t the case here. Sometimes less is more, but not when it’s so much less for so much more, if you catch my drift. Solid neutral from me.

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