Mäurer & Wirtz perfumer Alexandra Kalle explains how 4711 has stayed in the game for 225 years:
“Just before he got married in the fall of 1792, German merchant Wilhelm Muelhens received a bottle of aqua mirabilis from a Carthusian monk as a wedding gift. Back then, aqua mirabilis was a tonic, made with extracts of bergamot, lemon, and orange, that was believed to have healing powers — but above all, it smelled amazing. Muelhens decided to make his own aqua mirabilis in his home on the Glockengasse in Cologne.
In 1794 Napoleon’s forces swept through. One of the lesser-known side effects of an invasion by a notorious French general soon to be emperor: His forces numbered all the buildings in the city, effectively giving them addresses. Muelhens lived at what was marked 4711, which later inspired the name of the scent. As ruler, Napoleon demanded that all internal medicinal recipes be made public, and Muelhens, to protect his secret potion, declared it Echt Kölnisch Wasser (literally ‘Original Cologne Water’) and said it was a fragrance for external application. Napoleon himself became a customer and had a holder for the bottle made for his riding boots.
A few decades later, the bracing scent had become a far more populist perfume. And the word ‘cologne,’ from the city where it was created, has come to be associated with light citrus fragrances. By the 1900s, you could find 4711, produced by Mäurer & Wirtz, in pharmacies throughout Europe, often in the men’s shaving section, though it was also loved by women. Truman Capote even made it Holly Golightly’s fragrance in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Today it’s sold everywhere all the time — one bottle of 4711 sells every five seconds.”
$12.99 for 2 oz. (Shop Now)