The real story behind Napoleon's Cologne

Many people know the name Napoleon, but so few know what he was truly like. Much of the man's personal life is certainly shrouded in mystery, but we do know of his love for cologne.

Born in 1769 on the island of Corsica, Napoleon Bonaparte was a French political and military leader, who rose to greatness during the French Revolution. He led numerous successful campaigns during the Revolutionary Wars and changed history forever.

Napoleon was decisive, intelligent and a born leader. Here at Edenbridge, we’ve worked hard to find the perfect scent that encapsulates such a man.

What cologne did Napoleon wear?

It's unknown what the original fragrance was, but Napoleon had a standing order with perfume house Chardin to deliver 50 bottles of their signature Eau de Cologne every month.  

A substantial order to be sure, but fragrance bottles in the 19th century were significantly smaller and more fragile. In addition, formulas were roughly 2% concentration of perfume and essential oils which is up to 12x less than those we sell here at Edenbridge. 

While 50 bottles of cologne a month may sound extreme, it may not have been quite as lavish as some reports have made it out to be.

What did Napoleon’s chosen fragrance smell like?

It’s believed that Napoleon preferred his fragrance to have a strong citrus scent with notes of rosemary, lavender and thyme. The scent of rosemary, it's said, enabled him to remain calm during battle preparation as it emotionally transported him to his childhood home in Corsica.

While he particularly enjoyed rosemary, it’s also famously recorded that he loved his wife Josephine’s natural scent. He would even dispatch orders of “don’t bathe” when he was returning home to her after battle. 

While he loved his wife as she was, it’s also noted that he spent large amounts of money on scents like jasmine for her, which was one of her favourites.

What about Josephine?

Perfumer to French Royalty, Houbigant, created a perfume for Empress Josephine which had strong notes of musk and civet (animalic) of which she was incredibly fond.  Those notes were not in common usage at the time and earned her the nickname “the musk lover.”

How often did Napoleon use colonge?  

Napoleon splashed his neck and shoulders with Chardin's Eau de Cologne multiple times every day, but most thoroughly after bathing. While this may seem excessive, it’s now known that the fragrance he used was much less concentrated than what we’re used to today.

In Paris, Jean-Marie Farina created a special bottle for Napoleon’s Eau de Cologne so that he could easily slip it into his boots. In his line of work, it was extremely helpful to have a small and versatile bottle on him at all times.

 

Is it available today?

The company Jean-Marie founded, Farina, is still alive and well today producing outstanding fragrances.  Entitled 1709, it's available on their website, and is probably the closest we'll get to smelling what Napoleon's originally wore, but it is somewhat old-fashioned and un-refined when compared to the centuries of progress and discoveries made in the world of perfumery that came after it's formulation.

Another fragrance from around the same time that have a similar vibe are 4711, but we'll talk about that in a second.

 

I thought Napoleon wore 4711?

4711 is often attributed as being Napoleon's fragrance of choice, but this seems to be a common misnomer given that the fragrance was a copy of one of the more popular colognes from around at the time.  Originally entitled Acqua Mirabilis (or Miracle Water) and meant to be both used as a cologne and as a herbal medicinal drink, it's creator, the perfumers Gian Paolo Feminis and Jean-Marie Farina sold the fragrance in Germany in Cologne.  The recipe was eventually gifted to Wilhelm Muelhens as a wedding present.

The mixup was perhaps further perpetuated because it was originally intended for both internal and external use but when Napoleon decreed all internal medicines need to have their ingredients listed.  Not wanting to give away their closely guarded recipe, 4711 from then on was marketed exclusively as a cologne, and for a while encouraged the legend that Napoleon 'helped create' the fragrance.

Our tribute to Napoleon

Here at Edenbridge, we have created Corsica, a fragrance inspired by Napoleon and the fragrance he wore, but updated for modern sensibilities. We replaced thyme with brighter, less herbal notes of basil and deepened the cologne with leather and cedar wood.


We wanted to create something that evoked the image of a strong, intelligent and powerful man, using ingredients that originated from his birthplace. Corsica is hand blended, cruelty-free and vegan friendly.

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