Your great grandma had it on her dresser, so did your grandma and probably also your aunt Sophie. A nostalgia for days gone by, dating back to 1792 when the young businessman Wilhelm Muelhens received the secret recipe as a wedding gift from a monk, and soon after it was out on the market. The iconic fragrance with the combination of bergamot, lemon, orange, lavender, petit grain, rosemary and Neroli soon became a hit, and within few years the bottle was spread all over Europe.
Many of us grew up with this bottle without knowing its interesting background. Recently I paid attention to it mainly because I spent a night in my mother’s bedroom and surprisingly there it was, the bottle. It had indeed been sitting on the dresser for a lifetime.
The name “Eau de Cologne” is French for “Water from Cologne” and Cologne is the same as Köln in German” . Cologne/Köln is the fourth-most populous city in Germany in which the bottle and the term originate. The label says “Echt Kölnisch Wasser” – real water from Köln. Thanks to French military occupation in 1794 and a vigorous French general, the title No 4711 came about. The company was located in the street Glockengasse, but the buildings did not have street numbers. The organized general had the buildings numbered, and Wilhelm Muelhens got the bright idea to use their number 4711 as their brand. The company still has the same address.
Today Eau de Cologne is a general term used for a very light concentration of perfume oils because the fragrance lasts only a few hours. In the other end of the scale we find pure Parfum – which in contrary lasts all day long. How the percentage of perfume oil and alcohol are combined, controls the concentration of the scent, and not to forget – the price.
A quick overview: Parfum (15 – 30 percent perfume oil), Eau de Parfum (15 – 20 percent), Eau de Toilette (5 – 15 percent), Eau de Cologne (2 – 4 percent) and finally the very light Eau Fraiche (1-3 percent).
The House of no 4711 in Köln is in fact a hot spot for tourists visiting the city today. The company offers guided tours and fragrance seminars and of course a well-stocked store. Today 4711 produces a variety of new Eau de Cologne as well, and their website is worth a visit. Myself I am a bit curious about their Floral Collection. However it is their turquoise and gold labelled bottle which will go down in history for being the original.