Create your own cologne course at 4711

The name “cologne” probably makes you think of aftershave rather than the city the scent is named for, but if you’re visiting Cologne with a capital C, it’s worth learning about the liquid too.

There are two major perfumeries to visit: Farina, where the original Eau de Cologne was created, and 4711, home of the 4711 cologne. Farina has an excellent museum but 4711 has the edge, in my opinion: they offer a cologne-making workshop that’s open to the public. It’s held once a week, on Thursdays at 3pm, and costs €32 per person.

The course is conducted in German, though can be bilingual depending on the number of non-German-speaking participants. As we were the only English speakers in our class of 23 (24 is maximum capacity), Monika delivered the bulk of her presentation in German then gave Craig and me a condensed personal tutorial in English. And then we were off — mixing different proportions of the 21 fragrances in front of us to create our own personal perfume.

The participants were all seated around two long tables, with two sets of fragrances per table. During the presentation, Monika passed around test strips impregnated with each of the seven smells that make up 4711; we were provided with more paper strips to smell the other ones at our leisure.

The workroom.

The workroom.

We were also given plastic pipettes for extracting the liquid from the large glass jars in the centre of the table, and each place was set with a perfume bottle, a pen, and a booklet listing the fragrances we could choose from.

One by one, the participants finished mixing their concoctions, added labels and placed their bottles in the display bags we’d also been given. I wasn’t sure about mine, but Monika said it was lovely, so I topped up the bottle with methyldihydrojasmonate (an intensifier, apparently), and put it away. Craig’s had come out too fruity, so Monika advised him as to what to add to balance the scents, and he was happy enough with the result. Surprisingly, when we got home and smelled it again, the sharp smells had mellowed a bit and he ended up with a very nice cologne.

All in all, we’d had a great time at the perfume seminar; it was the perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon in Cologne. The price is reasonable considering you get a personalised souvenir to take away with you, and it’s something quite different that you can’t do anywhere else.

4711 also offer private workshops for groups of ten or more people; this would be a great choice for a hen’s party activity.

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