True colognes are made with essential oils, most commonly bergamot, neroli, mullein, and rosemary, sometimes with the addition of citrus oils (neroli, lemon, and bitter orange leaf), and occasionally thyme instead of rosemary.
The history of Cologne
In the early 18th century, John Maria Farina, an Italian who moved to the German city of Cologne, named his blend “Kolnisches Wasser”. Because of its rejuvenating, deodorizing, and antiseptic properties, Kolnisches Wasser soon became a well-known product.
However, the reason why the German word “Kolnisches Wasser” became the French word “Eau de Cologne” is still unclear.
Farina or his descendants gave it a more elegant French name in order to expand the market for the product.
Others believe that the French soldiers stationed in Cologne during the Seven Years’ War brought Cologne water home and changed its name in the process.
As the name of the product changed, the signature of the maker on the trademark was also changed to the French name of Jean-Maria Farina.
The leaders of the company over the years were named John Maria, or Jean Maria, and so the leaders of the family business later named their eldest son John Maria, or Jean Maria, in honor of their ancestor who invented cologne.
At the end of the 18th century, European perfumers began making their own colognes, and several of them, who also had the surname Farina, but were businessmen unrelated to the Farina family who invented cologne (Farina was a common surname in Italy), took advantage of the same surname to also make cologne.
The cologne company run by the Farina family is still located in Cologne. Many colognes made by other companies also bear the label “J. M. Farina” – even if they are not made by the Farina family company in Cologne.
Napoleon was very fond of cologne, he consumed about 600 bottles a year and always carried it with him, even when he was fighting on the battlefield.
It’s not hard to imagine how important a cologne would have been to an extremely fussy man in a dirty military camp.
In the Napoleonic era, people often called cologne by the name “water that makes people beautiful”, and from this name, we can guess the characteristics of cologne.
The quality of the cologne
The quality of the cologne depends on the alcohol used as a base to blend with the essential oils.
The earliest colognes were made with high purity potato alcohol, which is common in Germany, while nowadays most colognes use perfume-grade alcohol.
After the alcohol and essential oils are mixed, they must be stored for six months to mature, while really good colognes are usually stored for a year.
You must have a license to buy perfume-grade alcohol, and it has to be bought in bulk and not sold separately.
However, those who want to make their own cologne should not be discouraged, as we can also make an emollient lotion with a cologne scent by adding the right drops of essential oil to the base oil, which is great for applying to the skin or adding to bath water.
Alternatively, homemade cologne can be made with high purity vodka instead of perfume-grade alcohol.
How to DIY cologne?
There are many recipes for making cologne, and the most typical is to first blend 100 drops of bergamot essential oil, 50 drops of lemon essential oil, 30 drops of bitter neroli essential oil, 50 drops of lavender essential oil, and 10 drops of rosemary essential oil together to form a compound essential oil.
The compounded essential oils are added to 150 ml of high purity vodka to make a lotion.
If you add the compounded essential oil to 100 ml of sweet almond oil or other oils, it can be used as a bath oil.
To make an emollient or massage oil, the base oil should be 300 ml. Undiluted essential oils can also be used directly as bath oil by adding 6-8 drops per bath.
Before using your homemade cologne, remember to place it in a cool place for as long as possible to give it ample time to mature.
If you only want a small amount of cologne, divide the above oils and base by 10. The cologne made from this recipe has a tangy citrus scent, and if you want to change the scent, just adjust the ratio of each type of essential oil.