Kölnisch Wasser 4711: Story Behind The German ‘Eau de Cologne’

Kölnisch Wasser 4711 is an over 200 year old invention. What makes up the world famous fragrance is still a secret. But who gave it’s name 4711 and why is it home to the German city of Cologne? This is the story behind the famous brand!


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To Cologne (known as Köln in German) — came an Italian pharmacist named Johann Maria Farina in the early 1700s. And she was carrying a special recipe with her.. with it, she produced a scent of water. The substance consisted of different ethereal oils and herbs. Soon people started to call Farina’s water as Eau de Cologne, literally the water of Cologne.

According to the legend — in 1792 a monk gave a store owner called Wilhem Mühlens a wedding present which was the secret recipe “aqua mirabilis”. Soon the store owner opened a factory in his house in Cologne. This miracle water was produced according to the recipe he received. And he started to spread rumors that it would help with all kinds of ailments, both internally and externally.

Order from Napoleon

Two years after the wedding of Mühlens, the French invasion started in 1794. The order from Napoleon was that they should monitor how medicine is produced and sold. But Mühlens was a cunning man. He proclaimed, that Eau de Cologne is not medicine but used as a refreshment. In this way, he could keep his recipe in secret.

The brand 4711 started one hundred years later. The basic water was then produced at the store owners family house. Because the french military easily got lost in the big city, they also decided the order in which each house got it’s number. The house of Mülhens became number 4711.

The producer of the perfume printed the number onto the label of the bottle. The world known water, Kölnisch Wasser 4711 started it’s quest to conquer the world. The fragrance fits for both sexes. It consists of a citrus-like orange smell and bergamot.

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David Abt

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