Like perfume, cologne is a type of fragrance. While most people are familiar with perfumes and colognes, these fragrances are quite different. All fragrances are characterized by a specific ratio of ingredients. For instance, colognes are made from a combination of essential oil extracts, water, and alcohol with an extract concentration of around five percent. This makes them the least potent of fragrances.
Perfumes contain the highest amount of extracts, falling anywhere between 20-25 percent. Directly following perfume is eau de parfum, which contains about 15-22 percent essential oil extracts. From here the concentration levels become much lighter, going to eau de toilette and then eau de cologne.
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Although perfumes have been widely used since the 1600s, the first colognes did not surface until 1709. The creator of cologne has been a subject of debate, as many people cannot agree as to which inventor happened upon the fragrance first. What is agreed is the fact that both individuals were Italians and both lived in the same city at one time. Created in Cologne, Germany, the product originally had both medicinal and cosmetic uses.
Paul Feminis, who some believe first created the cologne fragrance, called his version Aqua Admirabilis. It was a blend of citrus and herbal essential oils that were diluted in alcohol. As it was originally made with grape alcohol, which could be consumed, it was often used hygienically as mouth wash. In addition, it was believed to ward off the bubonic plague. This original recipe is still produced in Cologne today.
Some historians believe that Feminis gave this formula to Giovanni Maria Farina, a relative, from which eau de Cologne, or “water from Cologne,” was developed. His was a blend of lemon, orange, bergamot, and lavender oils distilled in alcohol. The scent quickly found success throughout Europe, eventually making its way into North America.
Nowadays, most cologne sprays are men's fragrances. Unlike the sweeter aromas of perfumes, colognes are generally more light and airy with fragrances like citrus and musk. Although preferred by men, they are commonly used by both men and women.
Colognes can usually be applied more liberally since they are made with smaller amounts of oils than other fragrances. They are also much less expensive. All fragrances react differently according to one’s unique body chemistry. Therefore, when purchasing fragrances of any type, it is often a good idea to sample them beforehand.