Creating 88 Chestnut Street Eau de Cologne was like walking a tightrope between tradition and modernity. This isn’t wholly unfamiliar territory because that is the entire idea behind Chatillon Lux Provisions, however, but this was an extreme case.
First of all, the history of Farina’s Eau de Cologne is a big part of 88 Chestnut Street’s story. The original mass-market fragrance, Eau de Cologne was a bright, citrusy personal fragrance. I say personal fragrance instead of perfume because at that time it was a hygienic product as much as anything else. Literally, people would bathe in the stuff instead of a proper bath. In the early 18th century, drawing a bath without running water was a chore. So the light, fresh and clean citrus scent of personal fragrances was not meant to be long-lasting like today’s perfumes, but rather a fleeting, refreshing treatment.
Side note: for more information on the difference between eau de cologne, eau de toilette, and eau de parfum, check out the previous entry in Scent Notes.
The aftershave products reflected that idea, as they were inspired by Clamorgans (originally located at 88 Chesntut Street, then moved to Fourth Ave and Pine in Downtown Saint Louis), a gentlemen’s grooming parlor and bathhouse and one of the first places in America to carry Farina’s monumental creation. While they are not the same scent by any means, 88 Chestnut Street was originally inspired by a similar idea: the type of refreshing personal hygiene product that a well-to-do Saint Louisan like Ulysses S. Grant or Stephen Douglas might find at Clamorgans.
At the same time, I simply did not find it well-suited in its current formulation for use in a personal fragrance. It was made to be a personal hygiene product. 88 Chestnut Street was already a popular scent in the aftershave line, and many were highly anticipating the eau de cologne release. The problem is that we do not live in the 18th century, and in the present day, we have vastly different expectations for our scents.
So I decided to try to walk the tightrope between tradition and modernity, as well as personal hygiene and personal fragrance.
The 88 Chestnut Street Eau de Cologne still begins with the neroli and lemon opening, much like the aftershave, but with a more complex and nuanced citrus accord. With contrasting lemon essential oils, a neroli that balances the bitter and sweet of one of my favorite scent notes, and a mélange of citrus, this takes the structure of 88 Chestnut Street but makes it suitable for an evolution, not a sudden drop off of the cliff.
In the heart of the scent, the lavender joins with jasmine and geranium to form a floral accord that melds into the citrus top notes, finding commonalities that are used to bridge the two worlds. That jasmine and orange, as well as geranium and lemon, fortify each other, while the lavender creates a stability and earthiness that leads to the base notes, created just for this accord.
The longevity of a scent is a requisite for the modern audience, and so I wanted to take this idea and move it past a traditional, fast-burning cologne. I searched for base notes that would complement and even exalt the top and middle notes while still acting as a supporting cast.
The Haitian vetiver in the base works well with the woody nuances of neroli and petitgrain while eschewing the fruit and patchouli combination that is so often used. In this same vein, I employed tonka bean to add a creaminess that would underly the citrus peel notes that can create a strong bitterness. When peeling an orange or grapefruit, there is something inside there, in the membrane and the flesh of the fruit, that makes it more than just the bitter blood of the fruit found in the peel, and the tonka bean plays that role in the accord.
With all of this in mind, I strove to create something that would please both the old and the new, both in the fragrance world and within the Chatillon Lux universe. It is what I consider a fully enhanced 88 Chestnut Street: one that takes us deeper down into the nuances of a citrus fragrance, what it can be and what we can do with it to respect tradition but while finding a new way to honor it.