The Scent of Empire

The French Revolution virtually brought the highly sophisticated French industries of fashion and perfume, which had grown and thrived under Louis XIV and his successors, to a halt. The new Directorate government marked a reawakening of the French love of luxury. Josephine introduced the young General Napoleon to bathing and perfumes. Napoleon's favorite scent was Eau de Cologne, a citrusy scented preparation in an alcohol base . Eau de Cologne is a mixture of citrus oils including oils of lemon, orange, tangerine, bergamot, lime, grapefruit and neroli with oils of lavender, rosemary, thyme, petitgrain (orange leaf), and jasmine in diluted ethanol (70-90%). In 1806, Jean Marie Joseph Farina, the heir to the founder of the legendary company, Giovanni Maria Farina (1685-1766), and its formula, settled in Paris where he opened the Paris perfumery business and became the official supplier to the Emperor Napoleon. Napoleon Bonaparte used eight quarts of cologne for rubdowns every month.

Josephine, with her West Indies background, preferred exotic scents like vanilla, clove, and cinnamon. In 1807, Houbigant, the perfumer to French royalty, was appointed personal perfumer to Napoleon and created a special perfume for Empress Josephine, which had strong notes of musk and civet. The Tsar of Russia also made Houbigant his royal perfumer. In 1812, Houbigant creates 'Quelques Fleurs', the first true multifloral scent ever made, which has been so popular that it is still on sale today. Napoleon was the trend setter for Europe and America throughout his rule of France.

Read more about the history of perfume: Perfume: Joy, Scandal, Sin - A Cultural History of Fragrance from 1750 to the Present
Try Napoleon's favorite scent: Eau De Cologne

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