Thursday 9 August 2018

EAU DE COLOGNE - Apply With Abandon

The word “cologne” has become a little misunderstood in recent years with the term being used to describe anything from strength to gender. As companies played fast and loose with this classic style of fragrance, customers no longer realised just how wonderful this bottle of freshness could be. In an attempt to unscramble the confusion I asked four perfumers to give their opinion on the style, and also to reveal their favourites. Marina Barcenilla, Pia Long, Sarah McCartney and Andy Tauer have all gathered a loyal following with their mix of creativity and knowledge, so could they help us to revisit the classic cologne?

Cologne as we know it began life in 1709 thanks to the Italian perfumer Giovanni Maria Farina. He described his scent as being reminiscent of “a spring morning in Italy, of mountain narcissus, orange blossom just after the rain. It gives me great refreshment, strengthens my senses and imagination.” The style was also later referred to as a “cure all” due to the fact that it could be worn, drunk and even bathed in. However, Pia Long of Olfiction points out that when the original grape alcohol was replaced with denatured alcohol, for tax reasons, it truly became a “liberal splash with a light blend of top and middle notes.”

Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays also jokingly added that the biggest confusion occurs because of the difference in the definition of “cologne” in Europe and the USA. In America the word is used to mean any fragrance worn by men, “because men can't possibly be seen to wear perfume in case it dissolves their muscle tissue and ruins their chances with the laydeez.” However, more recently, brands such as Jo Malone London have used the term to mean a unisex fragrance, whilst others have used it to emphasise the effervescent and bright quality that was synonymous with the original splashes.

Most true colognes last around thirty minutes on the skin, because they don’t contain many base notes, but when companies ask you to pay upwards of £70 for 100ml then you can understand why customers become annoyed. Pia Long added that if it does last longer then “it's not really an Eau de Cologne anyway, it's an Eau de Toilette,” but if the fragrance is fleeting then the price is hard to justify. Guerlain’s famous range of colognes, now discontinued, are reported to have been a 5% dilution of the original perfume concentrate, which explains why their collection lasted so well on the skin.

Marina Barcenilla confessed to using colognes as “an invigorating pick me up,” Sarah McCartney reaches for it to wake herself up, and Andy Tauer uses cologne when he wants to “smell good but not the same all day long.” So, apart from instructing that we “apply with abandon”, which colognes do our perfumers recommend? Well, Marina Barcenilla has a soft spot for the most famous of all colognes, Mäurer & Wirtz’ 4711, Andy Tauer still hankers after his very own discontinued Cologne du Maghreb, and Sarah McCartney uses Sunrise Yellow Hope from her Our Modern Lives collection.

The gold star though has to go to Pia Long with a choice that's the perfect place to start if you’re new to the style, Boots lemon Eau de Cologne. She describes it as a “fresh, fleeting, refreshing scent in a huge bottle at a fantastic price.” It was great to hear that perfumers still love this traditional style of fragrance and I'm going to leave the final words to Andy Tauer, “Cologne: the smell of clean hands cooling a hot child’s forehead in summer, disinfecting little wounds, and the comfort of being in the arms of a woman who loves you whatever you do.”

4711 is available from Cologne & Cotton priced at £20 for 100ml, Yellow Sunrise Hope is available from priced at £48 for 100ml, and Boots Cologne Water is available from their stores and online priced at £4.39 for 400ml.


  1. Superb article Stephan. It's got very confusing lately as the term gets splashed around so loosely (pun intended!). I love Andy's quote about smelling good but not smelling the same all day. I love changing fragrances throughout the day colognes suit me well! xx

    1. Hello Samantha, thank you for the comment and I’m glad you enjoyed it. There are some really good colognes out there at the moment and they don’t cost the Earth. Best, Stephan