Perfume Directory

Eau de Coty (1909)
by Coty


Eau de Coty information

Year of Launch1909
GenderShared / Unisex
Average Rating
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People and companies

PerfumerFrançois Coty
Parent CompanyBenckiser > Coty Inc > Coty Beauty
Parent Company at launchCoty Inc

About Eau de Coty

Eau de Coty is a shared / unisex perfume by Coty. The scent was launched in 1909 and the fragrance was created by perfumer François Coty

Reviews of Eau de Coty

There is one review of Eau de Coty.
For his first job in perfumery, François Coty was put to work to knock up a cologne for a small Paris pharmacy where he was employed as lab assistant. His boss was eventually so impressed with the results that he sent young François off to train at Chiris, a prestigious oils house in Grasse.

Years later, when he came to think about composing his own Eau de Cologne, Coty was already a master perfumer with ground breaking works such as La Rose Jacqueminot, L'Origan and Chypre under his belt. Coty was evidently not content to follow convention and present just another citrus eau to the market, he wanted to strike out in a new direction, and in composing his cologne he brought to it the same level of care and creativity as he had lavished on his celebrated perfumes.

To see what it was Coty produced that was so different from the competition I am going to compare Eau de Coty (1920) with three other venerable colognes that were around at the time and are still available today: 4711 (1792), Roger & Gallet Extra Vielle (1806) and Guerlain's Eau de Cologne du Coq (1894). Even though its impossible to know what the original formulae smelled like (vintage samples are extremely rare and anyway colognes are highly susceptible to decay) its still possible to compare Eau de Coty with the modern versions of the others.

Broadly summarising them, this is how they stack up. 4711 is largely bland sweet powder with a slight citrus tang; Extra Vielle is a pithy citrus of moderate strength over a pale and powdery bland body, and it has a little floral and some pronounced bitterness; and Eau de Cologne du Coq is a delightful sparkly citrus accord with a pinch of herbes de provence, set to sweet powder and florals. This 'good cologne with a drop of Jicky in it' as Luca Turin calls it is definitely the best of the three. In fact the Guerlain's finely wrought citrus head is better than that of the Coty but its base is inconsequential.

Eau de Coty on the other hand keeps its crackling mossy lemon and citrus verbena head largely intact as it transitions into a lovely floral heart not shy of expression. This then fades into the most ravishing sweet brown woody and long lasting base.

One of the strengths of Eau de Coty comes from the quality of its neroli oil, which to quote Wikipedia is sweet honeyed and somewhat metallic with green and spicy facets, and it is these notes which form the core of the profile. Add to this some jasmin absolute, an herbaceous verbena accord and top grade Sicilian lemon with mossy overtones, and you have - broadly speaking, the top half of Eau de Coty.

The real brilliance of Coty, however, was to pair this with a fully worked out base. By this bold move he took a good citrus cologne and turned it into a (more or less) fully worked out perfume structure with a wonderfully satisfying drydown. The base gives the composition the stability of an Eau de Toilette, and truly impressive longevity (several days on paper) while the second half still manages to release the odd whiff of citrus from time to time. This makes the structure logically coherent, but it pays the price for this intransigence - the crisp lemon citrus can feel a little bit out of place against the warm round notes of the base. Like certain other of Coty's works the quality is impeccable but it somehow lacks that final degree of perfection.

Before Coty, even great perfumers like Aime Guerlain were essentially rewriting their own versions of the Eau de Cologne. Each of the iterations referred to here was an improvement on the last but none of them sought to change the fresh and fleeting structure of the cologne. The reason for this reluctance was historical.

In an 18th century book the Manuel de Beauté, Louise d'Alcq asserted that the Eau de Cologne was 'universally accepted' (by polite society). "It bothers nobody" she wrote "its perfume pleases everyone" [quoted from Le Roman des Guerlain by perfumery historian Elisabeth de Feydeau]. The social convention of the time was that cologne was held to be the sillage of the chaste woman while patchouli marked the odour of the courtesan. It was in defiance of this, by then, rather dated idea that Coty dared to combine the wholesome citrus cologne with the dark animalic perfumes of the night. Until then, ne'er the twain had met and he evidently felt the time was right for a rapprochement.

Even though he became a powerful industrialist and one of the richest men in France, Coty always remained something of an outsider [François Coty by Ghislaine Sicard-Picchiottino, Albiana Press]. He seems to have shown an equally scant regard for received perfumery wisdom as high French society had for the arriviste; low born Corsican, merchant in a world of Old Money.

But Coty was self assured and forceful, as well as being a naturally gifted perfumer. The cologne form had ossified, it hadn't really changed since the days of Jean-Marie Farina and Coty was going to shake it up by showing how it could be developed after its initial burst of citrus. To this end he forged a beautiful base of vetiver, patchouli, vanillin, woods, moss, eugenol, and probably elemi resin (along with who knows what else) to complement the citrus and floral accords of the first half.

The resulting composition was Eau de Coty - the first Cologne de Toilette. With its revolutionary dark Perfume base it went way beyond the purview of any previous citrus composition. Not only is it revolutionary its also very beautiful. The further Eau de Coty goes into the depths of its resonant brown base the more ravishing it becomes; a veritable masterclass in base construction.

The innovative form of Eau de Coty, lemon centred citrus on a demerara vetiver base, turned up years later in Lubin's excellent Eau Neauve and the vintage version is a good substitute for those who would like to know what the Coty smells like.

Eau de Coty's influence spreads much further and wider than straight up copies however. It can also be felt in the many fresh cologne type flankers that appear in the summer. More significantly many original compositions have developed Coty's idea further. A few of the more notable examples are CK One, Pleasures for Men, Declaration Cologne and to a lesser extent 1881 for Men.

It is very sad that Coty's brilliantly original composition is no longer known and enjoyed today but it couldn't be made now - the amount of moss would disbar it from production.

This is not only a great perfume, it is historically important too. It represents the birth of a new chapter in the history of perfumery - the point where the Eau de Cologne hybridised into the Cologne de Toilette, which would later give rise to the modern Fresh Eau de Toilette genre. Every fresh summer flanker is genealogically a distant descendant of Coty's visionary work.

As the product of salutary colognes first encounter with the dark seductive perfume, Eau de Coty is Perfumery's missing link.

13th June, 2017

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