Cologne Wars

An old bottle of Eau de Cologne

An old bottle of Eau de Cologne

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