Monthly Archives: November 2016

Cologne Wars

An old Bottle of Cologne water

An old Bottle of Cologne water

This does not refer to episode 9000 in the Star Wars epic. It is actually a scent epic, involving a courtroom battle over the trade mark “Farina” during the 19th century. The court decision may or may not have put an end to a couple of centuries of squabbling over who produced the original formula.  You see Eau de Cologne was big business.  Two firms had emerged as giants in the sparkly citric cologne trade, one was Roger et Gallet and the other was Muehlens whose product had come to epitomize cologne around the world.

Anyway why was cologne so special you are asking yourselves?  The formula is very old and there are about as many variations on it as there are on lasagna.  The recipe for “Hungary Water” which is a version of cologne, was supposed to be a beauty secret of the Queen of Hungary, and goes back some say to the 14th century.  However  Napoleon (see our post on The Emperor’s New Scent) really made Eau de Cologne fashionable for men because of his addiction to  the tangy stuff.  Some of his veterans noticed the preparation in and around Cologne in Germany where the fragrance was already being produced by Johann Maria Farina.  The firm of Muehlens also made cologne, and soon, so did Roger et Gallet in France.  Perhaps none of this would have mattered but the markets  for cologne were expanding worldwide and everyone wanted to be known as the originator of the true formula. Continue reading

A Gourmand for Grownups: Aftelier’s Vanilla Smoke

Smoke the first impression of Vanilla Smoke from pinterest.com

Smoke the first impression of Vanilla Smoke from pinterest.com

Whenever I consider the subject of the gourmand perfume I am always haunted by my mother’s ghost.  She detested any perfume “that smells of food”. She also loved the garden and hated to be in the kitchen.  She would hustle the frozen food into a pan and hurry on out to marvel at her latest garden acquisition and never mind whether or not the thawed peas burned.

Times have changed.  You can find nearly anything now  at American markets, and the US world of food has turned on a decade or two, to become one of the foodiest in all the world.  Take yesterday in Hartford when a brewer (Captain Lawrence) told me that a grapefruit beer was his bestseller.  Grapefruit. Beer.  Yes.  Well, he was quite right it was wonderful. Continue reading

A Very Dark Rose Indeed

A Boldini study

A Boldini study

The other week I bought a bottle of La Rose Jacqueminot without having tested the perfume.  Since it was composed about 1904, I was not certain what kind of perfume I would end up with, this is a Coty after all, and he invented two of the standard scent families of the twentieth century.

La Rose Jacqueminot is unusual.  In broad outline it is a rose chypre, but like many of the earliest of those, the formula straddles the line between chypres and orientals.  Continue reading

The Smell of American Holidays

Northern Bayberry

Northern Bayberry

These days it seems to be synthetic holly or vanillin, or sugar cookie, but once in my childhood it was the scent of bayberries. Now this no doubt seems very old fashioned indeed to people who may still be in their twenties, but the time was when candles were made up and down the eastern seaboard of the colonies using the berries of this one shrubby plant, Myrica pensylvanica.

Continue reading