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German fragrance brands you need to know


Famous for its namesake eau de Cologne since the 18th century, Cologne is an ideal place to discover your new signature fragrance. From the historic Mäurer & Wirtz 4711 Eau de Cologne to the highly modern Escentric Molecules, these are the most luxurious fragrances to buy in Germany

Katie Muxworthy
Katie Muxworthy,

It was in the early 18th century that one of the most famous perfumes in the world was devised. Giovanni Maria Farina moved from Italy to Cologne, where he composed a fragrance he described as the essence of ‘an Italian spring morning, of mountain daffodils and orange blossoms after the rain.’ He named this perfume eau de Cologne and it soon became a byword for high-quality fragrance. Three centuries later, the city from which this fragrance takes its name is still associated with excellence in the world of perfumes, and offers the most luxurious German perfumes, from the proudly traditional to the supremely modern.

A timeless classic
There are a number of variations on Farina’s original eau de Cologne and one of the most venerable is the 4711 Eau de Cologne, in its distinctive blue and gold bottle. Wilhelm Mülhens, a young merchant in the city, received the recipe as a wedding gift in the 1790s, and eventually gave it the name 4711 as his premises were situated at 4711 Glockengasse in the city; it was registered as a brand in 1875 by the Mülhens family, and bears the official title of Original Eau de Cologne.

This classic, timeless scent was originally produced from a combination of citrus oils, rosemary and lavender. The formula has been perfected over the years and is today a closely guarded secret now owned by Mäurer & Wirtz, the German perfume company that acquired 4711 Eau de Cologne in 2006.

Perfect scents
The light aromas of bergamot, orange and lemon are revitalising and refreshing, while calming lavender creates a relaxed mood, alongside rosemary and neroli. The classic 4711 bottle is almost as distinctive as the fragrance it contains. Little changed for over two centuries, the opulent blue and gold bottle has won numerous awards for its intricate design, one of the smartest bottles on any dressing table. Visitors to the historic flagship can explore the full 4711 range, which includes soaps, shower gels and aftershaves.

A brand reborn
JF Schwarzlose is another historic perfume brand to discover in Cologne. It was founded over 150 years ago in Berlin and today is stocked all over Germany and beyond. The brand, revitalised in 2012, is known worldwide for its innovative and modern collection of scents. Its golden-topped bottles maintain the authenticity of its luxurious heritage, their minimalist design striking and distinctive. At the heart of the brand is the idea that emotions are evoked through its scents, and these are should guide you when choosing your perfect perfume. As creative director Lutz Herrmann notes, ‘Scents trigger memories – consciously or unconsciously, sometimes even from our early childhood – and these memories evoke emotions. This perception is something highly personal and individual; therefore I would always advise a customer to choose very intuitively, based on the feeling they get when smelling the scent.’

Especially for you
Leder 6, one of JF Schwarzlose’s most popular scents, comprises three layers of notes: Carnal Lust (leather and saffron flower), Fantasy Dream (milk and vanilla) and Dark Wildness (musky incense). ‘A scent, in a way, is like an invisible piece of clothing,’ muses Herrmann. ‘It should emphasise and convey the personality and can be used to deliberately make a statement.’ He stresses that a scent will smell differently on each wearer. ‘The user’s skin type gives the scent an individual twist – an effect that is only observable with high-quality fragrances containing a lot of natural essences,’ he explains. Picking a scent to suit your mood or the season, he says, is also highly advisable.

Modern magic
For the innovative and contemporary, look no further than Escentric Molecules, which takes a scientific approach to fragrance. Perfumer Geza Schoen’s works are based around specific aroma molecules, including the lab-created Iso E Super, which does not exist in nature. Launched just 10 years ago, the brand’s original approach has made it a global name.

Escentric Molecules presents its unisex fragrances in what it describes as three ‘binary pairs’; the Escentric fragrance in each pair focuses on one aroma molecule, amplified by complementary ingredients, while the Molecule fragrance is the single aroma molecule alone. 01, based on Iso E Super, is inspired by luxurious velvety sensations with notes of modern cedarwood; 02 is based around Ambroxan, chemically identical to sensual ambergris, with the freshness of green jasmine bud; and 03’s Vetiveryl Acetate reflects classic vetiver with bitter-fresh and ginger top notes. This season, Escentric Molecules introduced a new portable collection; 30ml versions of the distinctive fragrances in sleek, minimalist and – crucially – durable stainless steel cases, perfect for travelling.

Both JF Schwarzlose and Escentric Molecules are stocked at the Apropos concept store in Cologne. Whether you choose a contemporary creation here or visit the historic 4711 Glockengasse flagship to rediscover Cologne’s famous namesake perfume, don’t leave the city without picking up a new favourite fragrance.

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