4711: 2 posts

In Search of Eau de Cologne in Cologne

A major industrial center on the River Rhine, Cologne may not seem like a place with a fragrant history, but it was here in July of 1709 that Giovanni Battista Farina founded the company “G. B. Farina” and began to sell fashionable Italian goods from his native Piemont. When Johann Maria, Giovanni’s younger brother, joined the company in 1714, he developed a perfume that he called “Aqua mirabilis” or “miracle water” and that he named Eau de Cologne or Kölnisch Wasser in honor of his adopted city.

The fragrance was based on Italian essences of bergamot and lemon. Fresh, bright and effervescent, it was a break from the heavy perfumes of the period that featured dark musk and civet. “My fragrance is like an Italian spring morning after the rain,” was Johann Maria’s description of his Eau de Cologne, and this fantasy was so compelling that soon the perfume was much sought after. Mozart wore it and so did Napoleon. Oscar Wilde ordered it and Queen Victoria was a fan with a purchase order of over 600 bottles.

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4711 Original Eau de Cologne : Perfume Review

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Simple. Lemon with a touch of lavender and piney rosemary. Not a perfume to wear if you want a big trail. Not a perfume that will make you ponder the mysteries of life. Just a good, no-nonsense cologne that smells bracing and sharp and makes you feel clean and energized. And the name is straightforward too, just four numbers. 4711.
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When I first smelled 4711 at the now defunct pharmacy on New York’s East Side, it smelled so familiar and traditional that I could picture my grandfather slapping some on his shaved cheeks or my grandmother adding it to her bath. This was, of course, pure fantasy. 4711 didn’t exist in my Ukrainian childhood, but because the scent of a classical cologne–and 4711 is anything if not classical–has such a recognizable form, it feels as if this German cologne has always been around.

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