In 1709 the Italian Giovanni Maria Farina was living in Cologne, Germany. He was experiencing the real pain of longing for his homeland stuck right there in Germany. This was his motivation to take to chemistry and attempt to create a fragrant reminder of home.
He penned a letter to his brother Jean Baptiste: “I have discovered a scent reminiscent of spring mornings in Italy, of mountain daffodils and of orange blossoms after the rain.” He wrote, somewhat poetically.
He named his perfume formula after the city in which he currently resided, Cologne. It had an alcohol concentration of around 2%-5% and was infused with the essential oils of lemon, orange, bergamot, tangerine, neroli, and grapefruit. Farina also inserted snippets of lavender, thyme, rosemary, petitgrain, jasmine, and, strangely perhaps, tobacco.
Farina took to wearing his newly created perfume every day, wherever he went as it always reminded him of his home in Italy.
His “Cologne” ultimately proved to be popular around the world, with even the royal houses of Europe sending for the liquid. His extraordinary ability at perfumery helped him to amass a small fortune: one small vial of his Cologne — called aqua mirabilis (which is Latin for miracle water) cost the equivalent of six months salary for a civil servant!
The formula has remained a secret for three centuries, and his factory in Obenmarspforten is the oldest known fragrance workshop in the world.
Throughout the nineteenth century, with the increased utilisation of eau de cologne, people began to adhere to certain rules regarding its application (Victorians loved rules). Some perfumes were meant to be worn while others were to be applied only to handkerchiefs, a fan or a purse — never the skin. Exaggerated aromas — those augmenting sensuality, for instance – were decidedly frowned upon as it was thought to reveal an unwholesome reputation.
The contemporary cologne, when equated with the light, fine, modest scents of the 1900’s, contain a modicum of musk, wood, and balsam notes. These powerful aromas would have made for quite disapproving responses in days gone by.
The modern, more well-known fragrance houses of Chanel and Christian Dior have added their élite, proprietary scents to the extensive array of colognes. The uncomplicatedness of eau de cologne is unmistakable, applying the most uplifting, natural foundations. It produces in its aroma the zingy zest of an orange, lime, and a lemon. It heightens the superior richness of rose, wood and musk. It’s the natural spray that will permit you to feel entirely as yourself; it doesn’t confuse your character but rather completes it.