At the turn of the century, perfume was a single-flower fragrance. Rose, violet, lilac, and lily of the valley were in high demand. Floral bouquet scents were introduced toward the end of the first decade as compounds were found to aid in binding fragrances together. Later, abstract fragrances which had no relation to the single floral or bouquet group were introduced. This advancement revolutionized the industry. Today, perfumes are becoming more complex, with many notes and overtones unheard of before the discovery of aroma chemicals.
Due to its jasmine, rose and orange-growing trades, the town of Grasse in Provence established itself as the largest production center for raw materials. The statutes of the perfume-makers of Grasse were passed in 1724. Paris became the commercial counterpart to Grasse and the world center of perfume. Perfume houses such as Houbigant (produces Quelques Fleurs, still very popular today), Lubin, Roger & Gallet, and Guerlain were all based in Paris.
Soon bottling became more important. Perfume maker Francois Coty formed a partnership with Rene Lalique. Lalique then produced bottles for Guerlain, D’Orsay, Lubin, Molinard, Roger & Gallet and others. Baccarat then joined in, producing the bottle for Mitsouko (Guerlain), Shalimar (Guerlain) and others. Brosse glassworks created the memorable bottle for Jeanne Lanvin’s Arpege, and the famous Chanel No.5.
1921- Couturier Gabrielle Chanel launches her own brand of perfume, created by Ernest Beaux, she calls it Chanel No.5 because it was the fifth in a line of fragrances Ernest Beaux presented her. Ernest Beaux was the first to use aldehydes in perfumery. In fact, Chanel No.5 was the first completely synthetic mass-market fragrance.
The 1930’s saw the arrival of the leather family of fragrances, and florals also became quite popular with the emergence of Worth’s Je Reviens (1932), Caron’s Fleurs de Rocaille (1933) and Jean Patou’s Joy (1935). With French perfumery at it’s peak in the 1950’s, other designers such as Christian Dior, Jacques Fath, Nina Ricci, Pierre Balmain.. and so on, started creating their own scents.
Today’s fragrances are crafted by perfumers trained in the aesthetic traditions of the Renaissance. These artisans, who spend years in apprenticeship, talk quaintly of amber notes and white floral accords. By the year 2000, perfumers will speak routinely of musk-receptor agonists, and the molecular binding affinities of floral-receptor proteins.
The History of Cologne
Because the word, cologne, is actually the French name given to the German city, Köln, it may seem surprising, then, that the origins of eau de cologne are actually rooted in Italy. It all started with Gian Paolo Feminis, a barber from Val Vigezzo, who left his Italian homeland to seek fortune in Germany. While in Germany, he created a perfume water which he called Aqua Admirabilis. This Aqua was made from grape spirits, oil of neroli, bergamot, lavender and rosemary. When it was released in 1709, customers swept it off the apothecary shelves of Cologne with such speed that Gian Paolo recruited his nephew, Giovanni Maria Farina, to help with the demand. In 1732, nephew Giovanni took over the business and marketed the product as a consumable cure-all for a variety of ailments, ranging from stomach aches to bleeding gums.
Word of this “Admirable Water” spread during the Seven Years’ War, a war during the mid-18th century, in which Prussia and Britain fought against an alliance that included France, Austria and Russia. Prussia and Britain may have won the battle, but Farina won a few new French, Austrian and Russian customers. These soldiers brought bottles back to their homelands and voilà!-an instant global market was created. The French were the ones who dubbed it Eau de Cologne, and it became the particular favorite of one of Louis XV’s mistresses (there were many!), the Comtesse du Barry.
The eighteenth century saw a revolutionary advance in perfumery with the invention of eau de Cologne. This refreshing blend of rosemary, neroli, bergamot and lemon was used in a multitude of different ways: diluted in bath water, mixed with wine, eaten on a sugar lump, as a mouthwash, an enema or an ingredient for a poultice, injected directly… and so on. The variety of eighteenth-century perfume containers was as wide as that of the fragrances and their uses. Sponges soaked in scented vinaigres de toilette were kept in gilded metal vinaigrettes. Liquid perfumes came in beautiful Louis XIV-style pear-shaped bottles. Glass became increasingly popular, particularly in France with the opening of the Baccarat factory in 1765.
Word of Napoleon’s (1769-1821) endorsement of this cologne (he consumed entire bottles of it each day!) reached Germany, prompting the Farinas to open a shop in Paris. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, however, and it wasn’t long before a number of copycats popped up in Paris and elsewhere. Some even had the audacity to adopt the Feminis/Farina names!
The real Farina, Jean-Marie Farina, eventually sold the formula to Léonce Collas and retired to Italy. Collas, however, inherited the same problems and in 1862 sold the formula to Roger et Gallet, which today owns the legal rights to the Parisian Eau de Cologne. While all of this was going on, a few Farinas and Feminises had remained in Cologne and continued to market their wonder water. One of these German descendants, Johann Maria Farina, later sold (?) the Aqua formula to Perfumer Wilhelm Mülhens, also of Cologne, Germany. Mülhens opened his shop in 1792; the address: 4711 Glockengasse. Today, the traditional fragrance known as Eau de Cologne is sold under the name 4711, the world’s oldest and most continuously produced fragrance.