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What Is Eau De Cologne?

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  • Written By: Geisha A. Legazpi
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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Eau de cologne is a pleasant-smelling mixture of distilled water, ethyl alcohol, and essential oils, which many people wear in order to make themselves smell good. Although the origin of this scented liquid could be traced back to Cologne in Germany, the person who concocted the first eau de cologne is actually an Italian who sought greater success in that famous German city. The original version also contains oils from citrus fruits. Colognes are available for each particular sex, although men tend to use them more often because some women prefer to use eau de parfum instead.

Most written records show that the first person to produce eau de cologne was Giovanni Maria Farina, a perfumer from Italy. Some, however, claim that it was actually Farina’s uncle, Gian Paolo Feminis, who made the first cologne in 1709 and called it aqua admirabilis. Feminis was an Italian barber who wanted to practice his craft in Germany where he thought success was more attainable, but achieved success when he was able to make a perfume that was widely accepted. Feminis then asked Farina to help him with the business, which was later managed by Farina himself in 1732.

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Farina claimed that, aside from its sweet scent, the cologne could remedy a number of ailments because it contains essential oils, such as bergamot and rosemary, which are thought to have medicinal properties. The scent of Farina’s eau de cologne received the admiration of European royalty, and its cost became too high for a commoner to afford. It even received global recognition when some famous 18th century war personalities, such as Napoleon Bonaparte, started to use it. This then prompted other perfumers to create less expensive products that closely resembled the scent of the original eau de cologne.

The first components to be mixed in making eau de cologne are water and alcohol, followed by essential oils. Alcohol is obtained from the breakdown of compounds present in plant products, such as corn and grapes, through the action of enzymes. This process, called fermentation, should proceed several days before the actual production of eau de cologne. When all ingredients have been mixed, the mixture is set aside in an airtight container for at least 10 days. It can then be transferred to small bottles for future use.

Colognes are used for other purposes aside from making people smell good. The practice of offering cologne to visitors is an old Turkish tradition, as they often have alcohol contents that are thought to help refresh tired bodies. In a number of countries, some people drink cologne as an alternative to expensive wines.

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