Here in the bonny isles of the United Kingdom, the weather is flirting with us. For the last couple of weeks, Mother Nature has been coquettishly winking at us, flashing days of sunlight and pure bliss on to these green and pleasant lands. Of course, we’re in that definite transitionary period between seasons. Spring is here, and Summer is waiting in the wings, but the cold and grey of winter is persistent on some days, meaning that the weather’s dalliance with summer love hasn’t quite taken hold – but soon, it will.
I don’t know about you, but these short flashes of summer and glimpses of warmth, and vitamin-enriched days of halcyon make me reach for the lighter things in my fragrance wardrobe (and there are some hidden amongst my show-stopping sillage bombs, as hard as that may be to believe). At this time one craves bracing citrus, the sweet headiness of flowers and the airiness of musk, all of which lead one to think of one perfume genre in particular, a genre that is one of the industry’s oldest and most classic styles – the humble Eau de Cologne.
Eau de Colognes speak of lighter, fresher and more vibrant signatures. They are lighter, usually boasting a concentration between 2%-5% and utilise fresh citrus notes (mandarin, lemon and bergamot etc.) alongside herbs (rosemary and thyme) and florals (neroli, lavender, jasmine, orange blossom). The Eau de Cologne is ephemeral and designed to be splashed on at multiple times throughout the day in order to re-awaken, revitalise and refresh the sense. In short, they are an olfactory jolt to the system.
To celebrate the changing of the seasons, I’ve collected together six of my favourite Eau de Colognes for your reading pleasure. They range from the classics, which really are light and traditional, to more modern and contemporary twists on the genre, that manage to smell both unique and long-lasting. So brace yourself, folks, for ‘The Eau de Cologne Edit’ – six scents that will get your nose positively aching for summer.
4711 wasn’t the very first Eau de Cologne (that title is held by Jean-Marie Farina) but it is the most famous of the old school colognes, and if most people were asked to describe the smell of a traditional cologne, this is what they’d come up with. 4711 is the blueprint for all colognes – mouthwatering citrus and rich herbs up top, neroli and orange blossom at the heart and a delicate base of musk and woods. 4711 is simple, impossibly light (it lasts all of about 10 minutes on the skin) and undeniably classic. There’s a reason why it’s been around for so long.
4711 is available in 100ml, 200ml, 400ml and 800ml Eau de Cologne. Prices start at £17.
I blooming love Aqua di Parma’s Colonia. It’s such a nuanced and complex take on cologne that one really can’t help but find it fascinating. It has lots of hespiridic citrus – the bitterness of lemon, the warmth of grapefruit and the smoothness of bergamot – over a pungent floral heart, that is awash with rose, orange blossom and iris. The base is a funky blend of leather and musk that is masculine, robust and almost dirty, channelling the clovey urinal cakes of YSL’s Kouros. Spray this dose of Italian sunshine on and you’ll feel like the sharpest guy/gal in the room.
Colonia is available in 50ml, 100ml and 180ml Eau de Cologne. Prices start at £57.
As far as neroli-based perfumes go, Tom Ford’s iconic Neroli Portofino is one of the best. For Ford’s first cologne, perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux was able to marry citrus and white flowers perfectly, displaying a neroli notes that glistens with lemon and heaves with wisps of clean cotton caught on the summer breeze. Neroli Portofino feels luxurious and opulent for a cologne. It lasts a decent amount of time and whilst it doesn’t change the world of perfumery through innovation it does play a familiar tune very well. This is the cologne for those that want something modern, fresh and classy.
Neroli Portofino is available in 50ml, 100ml and 250ml Eau de Parfum. Prices start at £142.
Smelling Mugler’s celestial body of work, one is surprised to find Cologne amongst the nuclear-scent bombs that are Angel, Alien, A*Men and Womanity, but it’s there and, as one would expect, Mugler’s Cologne is not your conventional Eau de Cologne. This cologne adds a contemporary twist to the genre, playing with sharp fruits, intense green notes and a whole heap of shower-fresh laundry musks. The whole thing feels cleaner than clean, smelling airy and green with just a hint of human warmth underneath (it famously boasts an ‘S’ note that is rumoured to evoke sperm) to give the impression of stepping into a hot steamy shower to join a loved one. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination…
Mugler Cologne is available in 100ml and 300ml Eau de Toilette. Prices start at £31.
Etat Libre d’Orange are famed for olfactory punchlines. They’re the people that bottled the body’s most base secretions and created fragrances inspired by courtesans, homoerotic artists and Tilda Swinton, to name just a few. Perhaps the biggest trick they’ve pulled on us perfume punters is their Cologne. The joke here is that there is in fact, no joke at all. Cologne is an extremely well put together Eau de Cologne that pairs a sticky, marmalade-like orange note, with white flowers and musk. The result is a simple, yet elegant cologne that pops with bright colours. Sure, there’s nothing weird, wacky or even wild here, but when the fragrance smells this good, what does it matter?
Cologne is available in 100ml Eau de Cologne for €100.
I’m not going to go into too much detail about Cologne Indélébile here because I hope to review it in full either later this week, or early next week. What I will say is that Dominique Ropion’s latest creation for Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle feels about as perfect as an Eau de Cologne can be. The citrus is large, long-lasting and golden, and the floral heart is rich, pollen-filled and intense. Not to mention the base of steamy musks that not only give the fragrance longevity and size, but also give it a floaty and effervescent air. I don’t feel I am giving in to hyperbole when I say it’s really, really good.
Cologne Indélébile is available in 50ml and 100ml Eau de Parfum. Prices start at £110.
Join the Discussion!
What are your favourite Eau de Colognes?
Image 1 via Etat Libre d’Orange [edited]. Image 2 via flaconi.de. Image 3 via perfumesociety.org. Image 4 myperfumesamples.com. Image 5 via fragranceheaven.com.au. Image 6 via circa75sydney.com. Image 7 via Les Senteurs.