There’s no better time than to cool off with Colognes than during a heatwave, and with temperatures set to soar to record levels in the U.K. let’s all take a breather with a quick refesher on the fascinating history of Colognes – including why they used to be drunk, and while we certainly don’t recommend you do that anymore, why they should still be splashed on with abandon in the heat, and why that ‘c’ of Cologne should be capitalised…
Firstly: what denotes a true Cologne? Well traditionally, Colognes contain a blend of bergamot, neroli, lavender and rosemary oils diluted in grape spirit, and though volumes differ, tend to be poured at a strength of 2-4% – meaning that’s the amount of pure fragrance within a carrier (usually alcohol in spray or splash form). They were made at this strength because half the pleasure is in the re-applying of these cooling scents, particularly delicious if that Cologne has been stored in the fridge, we find!
The Cologne style of scent has proved to be incredibly popular for hundreds of years, the original recipe proving such a success that it’s remained remarkably unchanged, and much copied, to this day. With contemporary Colognes also abounding, it’s intrestesting to ponder why this style of perfuming ourselves has remained so stable through the centuries. Perhaps, posits Christine Nagel, in-house perfumer at the cologne-loving brand Hermès, because the composition conjures ‘immediate pleasure and a universally shared register of emotions.’
The Cologne is often assumed as male in origin, but was 100% unisex from the get-go, and with many later directly marketed to women. Indeed, this universally pleasing experince of lavishly splashing yourself with something immediately refreshing and reviving to the spirits is, ‘…a trick that Cologne has been pulling off for more than 300 hundred years.’ fragrance writer and vlogger Persolaise told us in a previous summer edition of The Scented Letter Magazine. He recounts the story: ‘Back at the start of the 18th Century, the Italian barber and entrepreneur Gian Paolo Feminis moved to Cologne, Germany, and began selling a blend of bergamot, neroli, lavender and rosemary oils diluted in grape spirit. Dubbed Aqua Admirabilis, the product was such a success that Feminis summoned other members of his family to northern Germany to help develop the business.