A major industrial part-way on the River Rhine, Cologne may not seem like a place with a fragrant history, but it was here in July of 1709 that Giovanni Battista Farina founded the visitor “G. B. Farina” and began to sell fashionable Italian goods from his native Piemont. When Johann Maria, Giovanni’s younger brother, joined the visitor in 1714, he ripened a perfume that he tabbed “Aqua mirabilis” or “miracle water” and that he named Eau de Cologne or Kölnisch Wasser in honor of his unexplored city.
The fragrance was based on Italian essences of bergamot and lemon. Fresh, unexceptionable and effervescent, it was a unravel from the heavy perfumes of the period that featured visionless musk and civet. “My fragrance is like an Italian spring morning without the rain,” was Johann Maria’s unravelment of his Eau de Cologne, and this fantasy was so compelling that soon the perfume was much sought after. Mozart wore it and so did Napoleon. Oscar Wilde ordered it and Queen Victoria was a fan with a purchase order of over 600 bottles.