First an Italian creation based on local Italian products (citruses), aromatic herbs and some spices (so highly prized when Italian cities had the monopoly) and using the distillation methods perfected in Italy. Late XVIII and early XIX it suddenly become very … German and later it is very ... French. At the beginning of modern economy it becomes more than a simple formula (mix all ingredients in different proportion they will still smell very good) but a branded product. The 4711 & Farina story and later all the legal battles are more important than the formula itself. The real adventure of Eau de Cologne starts not in the time of royal houses but at very end of the XIXth century with the birth of modern perfumery. From a luxury product, the eau de cologne type will become maybe the first "mass market" perfume, less expensive (when bergamot was really cheap) and used by other "classes". Until the second revolution in perfumes after WWII, the Eau de Cologne will be the first to be produced and sold on a large scale. The number of ads for 4711 at the end of XIXth century is rather impressive. The same can be said about Jean Marie Farina Extra Vieille from Roger & Gallet.
But what is today sold under the name 4711 and Extra Vieille are NOT the original formulas from XIXth century. They are indeed old products but what you buy is a formula created after 1910. For the simple reason that neither hydroxycitronellal nor other orange flower synthetics (used for their fixation property) used in both formulas did not exist in the XIXth century. Also, what is original about 4711 and Roger & Gallet is that they were pioneers in selling a dream - the dream of history, of tradition and all the essential elements that now are widely used by fragrance brands, but were new more than 100 years ago. What is also different from the original Eau de Cologne and modern versions is their manufacture process. The first was a distilled product and not mixed. The importance of Eau de Cologne in the economy can be seen by the great number of papers & technical articles (many about the fixation of volatile citrus notes) published since 1910 up to WWII. Eau de Cologne was THE prêt à porter of the perfume industry. Also, Eau de Cologne had a different taxes.
4711 and Extra Vieille are not authentic products but their scent is authentic for the XXth century history because they are the reference / olfactory standard of what people think Cologne is.
Extra Vieille is maybe very old for us, but it is a "new" creation that Jean Marie Farina has never smelled. Synthetics were not there.
It is also maybe the first time when the expression "original eau de cologne" on the bottle has a different meaning, and the use of "coat of arms" design is pure decoration (and marketing). In the case of both product we must separate the brand (history and histories) and the scent. They are both different cases (like all brands based on monks & secret formulas in the romantic XIXth tradition).
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Fragrance is the 8th Art - Octavian Coifan - Le Parfum est le 8ème Art