We have all seen it, heard about it and maybe even smelt it, but do we really appreciate this elixir of life, this magic potion all wrapped up in the ubiquitous gold and blue bottle which it was said Napoleon doused himself in a bottle every day!
Long before eau de cologne became a plethora of anything in a bottle that was weaker than eau de toilette, there was 4711! This is a scent like none other that includes various elements of a man of God, Royalty, Popes and pop stars.
Legend has it that a Carthusian monk who because of persecution had taken refuge with one of Cologne’s wealthiest families (the Mulheses) and as a token of gratitude gave their son a wedding gift of a parchment scroll inscribed with the recipe for an elixir known as Aqua Mirabilis because of its healing powers. And miracle water it is! Thanks to the French occupation of Cologne in 1794 and a new street numbering system we now have 4711.
Napoleon was not the only one was aware of this miracle water; Goethe, Wagner and Dostoyevsky were avid wearers. It won awards from Moscow to Melbourne, and the bottle has been de rigueur on dressing tables ever since.
In an era when we have seen the rise and fall of everything from Brut 33 to Old Spice this one is a stayer. This could be due to fact that not only is it a perfume but a refresher. Feeling wan? A few drops on a handkerchief will instantly revive you. Hot summer’s day outside a few spritzes of this and you can face the world. Need an antiseptic in a hurry? You guessed it, 4711. Each year I participate in a bike rally that cycles 600kms between Toronto to Montreal, and you guessed it! In my repair kit with my spanners, tubes and pump is a bottle of 4711! A couple of sprays and instant refreshment takes over!
The ingredients are still top secret over 200 years later, but I can tell you that Bergamot, Lemon, Neroli, Orange, Petigrain, Rosemary, Rose and Musk all play a part. Read any herb book and most of these are known for their healing and refreshing properties.
So all stock up summer is on its way! Don’t leave it on your dressing table or bathroom shelf! Carry it with you, spritz frequently and know that you and Napoleon have something in common!