The birth of Acqua di Colonia
Giovanni Paolo Feminis and Giovanni Maria Farina, both from northern Italy, share the paternity of the creation of the celebrated Acqua di Colonia. The former is accredited with inventing it, the latter with spreading it all over the world.
After settling in Cologne, Feminis opened a distillery and herbalist shop specialising in selling perfumes, especially his Aqua mirabilis, a medicinal perfumed water based on an ancient monastery recipe that had come into Feminis’ hands.
It was at the beginning of the eighteenth century that Giovanni Maria Farina, whom everyone knew as Jean-Marie Farina, started working, also in Cologne, producing an alcohol-based water whose main ingredients were citrus fruits whose therapeutic virtues were certified by the local Faculty of Medicine. This fresh, citrusy, revitalising preparation was immensely successful throughout Europe and has remained so to this very day.
The original recipe
This water’s original recipe is not known, as its secrecy has been guarded jealously by the descendents of the Feminis family, but it is supposed to be very similar to this variant, which dates back to 1830:
Essence of bergamot: 2 ounces
Essence of lemon: 2 ounces
Essence of lime: 2 ounces
Essence of sweet orange: 1 ounce
Essence of petit grain: 1 ounce
Essence of cedar: 1 ounce
Essence of rosemary: 1 ounce
Essence of lavender: ½ ounce
Essence of bitter orange: ½ ounce
Cinnamon: 3 grains
Spirit of rosemary: 8 ounces
Melissa water compound: 3 pounds
Alcohol at 32°: 12 pounds
Eau de Cologne
The original recipe’s success was inherited by one generation after another, as cultures and fashions developed, but also with the evolution of knowledge and processing methods, such as ways of distilling and treating bergamot peel.
What has never changed over the centuries is the freshness and vivacity of its citrusy notes, so full of sunshine, plus the bright colours of Mediterranean flowers and herbs that have been developed in so many interpretations by the more famous brands.
The contents of a modern eau de cologne
The creative’s imagination finds the structure of a cologne to be an ideal source for an endless array of variants on the theme of a basic assembly of components of this kind:
- Essence of bergamot, lemon and orange, pressed from the peel of the fruits that are the pride of Calabria and of Sicily;
- Essence of petit grain, extracted by distilling the leaves and twigs of citrus trees.
- Essence of bitter orange, distilled from orange blossom. Essential lavender oil from distilled stalks and flowers.
- Musk blend, a combination of synthetic molecules isolated in the analysis of animal musk.