Stink of the Past: Historic Perfume

Kingly Fragrance

It’s truly amazing what a person can find on the Internet. There is a company in Northern NJ that claims to make historic fragrances and you really need to check this out.–FOR–MEN.html

They have concocted perfumes of all types and spanning all eras, naming them after famous  individuals. Some years ago, I found such a place in New Orleans onBourbon Street. Thing about this company was that it had existed for almost two  hundred years and they were still making the formulations they had from when the company first started and had formulations of perfumes that were over 300 years old.  As I sampled various fragrances, it was an intriguing experience to think that what I was smelling was actually worn three hundred years ago by someone who wanted to smell good.

We as reenactors concentrate on the authenticity of our accoutrements and apparel but perhaps it would be wise to think about how we smell as well. This company sells such interesting fragrances but should add more to their array. If one wears a Brit uniform, definitely George III perfume would be the thing to wear. I’m sure when Farmer George was peeing blue in a bowl, he probably appreciated the masking quality of jasimine and lemon notes covering the eau de toilet, so to speak.

The thing I want to know is who the heck would wear Benito Mussolini perfume or Kaiser Wilhelm (Achtung!) ? As Mussolini was hanging upside down on a hook, were his last thoughts something like” I made the trains run on time, anyway , and boy, does my shirt that’s  covering my head smell yummy!”

There’s a Napoleon perfume for all the less than tall men out there. I don’t think that the real Napoleon would have appreciated a “floral” note. This was a REAL man who told Josephine when he came back from a campaign not to wash. Gamey odors can be a powerful aphrodesiac; was body odor the first Viagra?  Ah, Eau de Josephine! Maybe Pepe la Peau!

For all you Civil War buffs, this company makes Abraham Lincoln, Grant and Lee perfumes. If you read the ingredients, the perfumes for Linclon and Lee would pretty much be complimentary if not very close in smell. Maybe they should have named Lincoln’s , the Jefferson Davis perfume. I bet you all of these guys would have been disappointed with their scents. Lincoln followed a mule for most of his young life and the two generals were certainly calvary guys before anything so the perfumiers should have mixed in a little horse, pony or mule or maybe the whole 6th Calvary Regiment, at least , for that little touch of  ‘je ne  sais quoi’.

For the ladies, there are all kinds of scents to add another dimension to the reenacting experience. I had to laugh when I saw one named after Queen Isabella of Spain. In her lifetime, she bragged of only having two baths, after birth and before her marriage . Now that has to be one powerful perfume to overcome that particular odor. The one I most identify with, myself, is the “Joan of Arc”. The perfume they make has a bit of cedar oil but I think liquid smoke and barbeque sauce would be more to the point. I don’t know what it is but  every time I go home from an event, I STINK of smoke. It’s in EVERYTHING and I don’t find it a pleasant smell . Sherry and I had a conversation lately about where all the people holed up during the Seige of Fort Watauga would have gone potty. Maybe what would be more authentic would be to mix a little burning rotten log smell with human earth and sweaty feet and a healthy dose of B.O. NOW THERE would be some authenticity! We could bottle that stuff and call it “The Seige” and maybe we could start a fortune!

In a culture that bathed infrequently or not at all and tried to mask the results with perfumes, maybe  there is a place for historic scents. It makes one wonder what people actually used to keep from smelling like carrion. It’s no accident that the French had the best perfume. Think about how some of their kings  smelled when  Henry IV’s second wife fainted from his stench on their wedding night and had to douse herself with perfume (first recorded “French bath” in history) to get enough moxie to have her wedding consumated!  Americans, today, have been accused of being the cleanest people on earth but Maybe we need to incorporate a little REAL historical scent if we want to be real living  historians.

Check these very entertaining links to find out what real historical scents could be:

The Senses in Late Medieval Europe

Daily Life in 18th Century Scotland

Thisis a really good article!!!

colonial bathing habits

Excellent overall resource for research:


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