On arrival in Cologne, I was instantly greeted by the imposing and formidable cathedral. But when I entered the beautiful building, it was not the visual splendor but the smell that hit me first – that all-too-familiar fragrance of frankincense that instantly thrust me back into my childhood. A tidal wave of nostalgia enveloped me and I felt overwhelmed with emotion. Isn’t it incredible, what power a single scent can possess?
Coincidentally, I was planning to visit the Farina House (Eau de Cologne museum) that day, where the same phenomenon was expressed and explained. During the guided tour, the ability of scent being able to evoke memories and emotions was a core theme, as this was revealed to be the founding motivator behind the creation of Eau de Cologne. It was extremely enlightening and interesting to learn that Johann Maria Farina, the inventor of the original Eau de Cologne, missed the smell of his Italian home when he moved to Cologne, which fuelled him to create the exact fragrance that reminded him of “a spring morning in Italy, of mountain narcissus, orange blossom just after rain”. After my experience in the cathedral earlier that day, I completely understood this motivation.
The tour took us underground to the original rooms where Farina would work, the rest of the house having been destroyed in both world wars. The evolution of the design of the bottle was mapped out, ever bearing Farina’s signature and tulip stamp. Impressively, the 300 year old original recipe still used today is kept secret and locked away. Even more so, Farina actually wrote this recipe in code to ensure it was properly protected.
Due to living in Cologne at the time and because of the affluence associated with the French language, Farina named the fragrance Eau de Cologne. Of course, the most incredible thing about the story was the fact that this smell, so personal to Farina, has since become the most iconic fragrance and name worldwide.