4711, The Water of Cologne?

4711.  Sounds like a JAMES BOND code, or something that M15 would whisper out when making that all important phone call.  “4711, you there?”

4711 exhilarates me!

The “duft” grabs me back to the German world of my mother in post-war Berlin, and then to my 1970s childhood.  My mother had a bottle throughout her life.  A “lady” would always have a bottle of “eau de cologne” for her handkerchiefs dabbing a bit here and there before going out of the house.

You still see these bottles in Germany and I wonder what tourists think when they see it.  Something for the grandmother?  One Berliner told me we call it “Oma perfume” “Grandmother perfume”.  This always upsets me.

I use it and I am no OMA!  But I wear it to remember my mother.  The smell of 4711 is my 1970s childhood in Jamaica Queens.  The summer sense of my mother rushing in the heatwave, to make us tv dinners or macaroni and cheese and then prepare to go to Lawrence NY, where she took care of an old heiress. The Son of Sam, Wackey Packs and Good & Plenty is what 4711 smells of!

Forgot about 1970s New York and let’s go back to the heritage brand.

4711 was produced in the Glockengasse, in Cologne where you can still visit as it is a shop and museum.  I went there years ago and there is this fountain, just flowing with 4711!   I can tell you I felt compelled to dunk my head in the trough.  I mean, 4711 was POURING out of the spout!!

So, the story goes, it is 1709, Giovanni Maria Farina, an Italian living in Cologne created a smell “like an Italian spring morning after the rain”.  Yes, it truly smells like that!

The ingredients are secret, but from what I found it contains over 5 percent essential oil with a mix of citrus oils, lavender, rosemary and other ingredients.

He called it “Eau de Cologne”.  Water of Cologne. Ok. But there were problems, confusions, fights.  4711 is one version and the FARINA version is another.

Found on the internet from various sources:

The most famous Original Eau de Cologne is 4711, named after its location at Glockengasse No. 4711. It was also developed in the 18th century by Wilhelm Mülhens in Cologne and is therefore one of the oldest still produced fragrances in the world.  On 12 December 2006, the perfumes and cosmetics company Mäurer & Wirtz has taken over 4711 from Procter & Gamble and have expanded it to a whole brand since then.

I believe 4711 is the most world famous.  But now I’m confused.  What came first?  Whose is the REAL “eau de cologne”?

I have never even tried the FARINA version because I have no idea where I can get it?  I have never seen it advertised, shops, nada!  Is it that big of a secret?
I guess for another posting I will explore this.  Does someone know what FARINA smells like?

Farina has a museum, a different address in Cologne.  4711 has a museum too and that waterfall of eau!  Now I’m more confused than ever.

Oh, to have the eau de confusion….
I will have to go to Cologne next year and check it out.

Just sayin!

Now, the legend (found from various sources, 4711 Museum and Wiki:

In 1792, a young Wilhelm Mülhens was given as a gift a secret recipe for “aqua mirabilis” from a Carthusian monk.  He then went about setting up a small factory in the Glockengasse 4711 of Cologne to brew this recipe.  At this time 4711 was sold medicinally but in 1810 a Napoleonic decree required that all medicines show their ingredients which could compromise the secret formula.  Instead of doing this, the company chose to market the product as a toilet water for which no disclosures were required.  

And the rest is history Ladies and Omas alike!

Marilyn Monroe once said,  she sleeps with nothing on except Chanel No. 5.  I always thought this scene from Fellini’s LA DOLCE VITA, reminded me of 4711.  Maybe it was that fountain in Cologne with its non stop spouting of 4711 elixir that brought me to the Trevi Fountain and the gorgeous Anita Ekberg dousing herself the Roman waters!  Here is to being covered in the breath of a summer day after the rain and to all things flowing!!

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap