Geo. F. Trumper: Not Your Grandfather’s Cologne
by Martin Green
Fortunately, in this fast-paced world there are still institutions in which time seems to have stood still. One of them is Geo. F. Trumper.
Geo. F. Trumper was founded in 1875 by George Trumper and is still at the same address where it all started: 9 Curzon Street, Mayfair, London.
Geo. F. Trumper offers variety of barber services for which gentlemen can retreat to one of the mahogany-paneled private cubicles. The company also has a large selection of shaving creams, body washes, and fragrances for sale, all of which are made by Geo. F. Trumper.
Many of these fragrances have been around for decades and over the years have accumulated a loyal yet discreet following. My guess is men are usually not in the habit of talking about the scents that they wear.
In popular culture there is one important reference to Geo. F. Trumper’s scents: the literary James Bond uses Geo. F. Trumper Eucris, a scent launched in 1912 that tops a steady base of sandalwood, musk, and oakmoss with lighter tones such as jasmine, black currant, caraway, and lily of the valley.
The result is most certainly sophisticated enough to wear in a Bentley. Another notable difference between the literary James Bond and his silver-screen counterpart.
Geo. F. Trumper: the city of scents
Among its fragrances, Geo. F. Trumper has quite a large selection of colognes, which in this age is quite remarkable. A few of us can probably flash back to younger years in which our grandmothers carried handkerchiefs drenched in the stuff.
Chances are that the cologne that they were using (particularly if they were European) was 4711, which is where this type of scent started. The category was named for the famous German city Cologne, where in 1792 young merchant Wilhelm Mülhens got the original recipe from a Carthusian monk.
It most likely originated in Italy as an aqua mirabilis – “miracle water” – which people would drink, either undiluted or perhaps mixed with wine, for its presumed health benefits. Mülhens figured he could make money by producing colognes on a larger scale and set up shop in Cologne’s Glockengasse.
He did brisk business and, two years later, French troops occupying Cologne were not able to make heads or tails of all the street names, so the commanding officer ordered all houses to be numbered. Mülhens’ place of business ended up with number 4711, and that’s how his miracle water got its name.
That 4711 would turn into a scent was also due to the French: in 1810 Napoleon ordered that all recipes for medications and remedies used internally must be be made public. Mülhens didn’t want to reveal the recipe that had made him a very wealthy man, so he started to market his Kölnisch Wasser (“Water from Cologne”) as a fragrance rather than a medicine.
You better believe that 4711 is still around and over the years has come to define a category of scent. Most people are familiar with eau de parfum and eau de toilette. Both usually offered in the same scent, the difference between them is the concentration of oil in alcohol and water.
Eau de parfum typically has between 15 and 20 percent of oil diluted, while with eau de toilette it is usually between 5 and 15 percent. Eau de Cologne, or more simply cologne as it is called in English-speaking countries, is even lower than that, with a bottle containing in general 2-4 percent oil.
This results in a rather subtle scent that stays with the person wearing it for about two hours.
Geo. F. Trumper: the scent of a gentleman
The beauty of cologne is that it is never overpowering yet provides a subtle, pleasant, and refreshing scent. It will get noticed when somebody is in very close proximity to you, for example when you kiss the lady in your life, but won’t even in the slightest interfere with the gourmet dinner you are treating her to.
Cologne can be a natural choice for a gentleman, and it’s no surprise that Geo. F. Trumper still sells plenty of them.
Some of Geo. F. Trumper’s colognes are very pure, allowing a single ingredient to take the main stage. A great example of this is Sandalwood. This type of wood, some of the best quality can be found in the mountainous region of Mysore, was already known in Egypt as early as 1700 BCE and was traditionally used during religious rites.
Sandalwood oil is retrieved from the heartwood of the tree, and Trumper balances it out with, among others, a dash of vanilla and some citrus notes. The result is a light yet particularly masculine scent with the same elegance as a sharply cut suit from Savile Row or the lines of a Jaguar E-type.
Some of Geo. F. Trumper’s scents have become benchmarks in their category; one of these is Spanish Leather, which doesn’t get its name from what’s in it, but rather because Spanish leather, usually tanned chamois or kid, was soaked in a special perfume that scented it.
Again, the focus is on the main ingredient, yet by adding rose and patchouli the scent gains a lot more depth; the mix also makes for a great synergy of warm, woody, and lusciously rich.
Here is another advantage that cologne has over an eau de toilette or eau de parfum: the way it is diluted. Its low concentration ensures a modest scent that isn’t overpowering and dominating – not too much of a good thing, in other words.
Geo. F. Trumper knows how to play with the subtleties of cologne, highlighted by San Remo, a more modern scent launched in 2016.
San Remo cologne was inspired by the Italian city of San Remo, a city famous for both its sub-tropical climate and for its many flowers. Ingredients such as roses, begonias, and carnations will probably have most men frowning before they even smell it. Yet balanced out with palm tree and cactus you get an utterly refined creation, which no one will mistake for a ladies’ perfume.
While often overlooked by the general public, colognes have quite a lot to offer and deliver in a subtle way. That is probably also why they aren’t more popular: instead of wearing a scent for somebody else, you truly wear a cologne for yourself, which is often so modest that only you can smell it.
That makes cologne the choice of gentlemen, many who count themselves fortunate that Geo. F. Trumper not only keeps such scents alive but also adds the occasional gem to its collection.
For more information, please visit www.trumpers.com.
Disclaimer: the author has no association with Geo. F. Trumper and paid full retail price for his scents.