Updated: Oct 4, 2021
Turkish cologne is high in alcohol, which gives it the power to destroy 80 percent of germs, including the deadly coronavirus. We trace its 150-year-old history, originating from the Ottoman Empire.
As Covid-19 pandemic infection rate reaches almost two million people worldwide, various forms of hand-sanitizers have become popular with hand washing one of the most potent measures to keep the virus at bay. Among them is Turkish cologne, or kolonya, in local vernacular, which has been in much demand.
Kolonya has long been a staple household product for the majority of the country. People from all walks of life possess one or two bottles of Turkish cologne; in homes, shops, offices and cabs. One should feel welcomed if offered a few drops of the scented spirit, as it's one of the essential features of Turkish hospitality.
Although the scientific consensus is that hand washing with soap destroys coronavirus, Turkish colognes are considered equally effective as they have 80 percent alcohol rate, a solution that burns the virus and makes it vanish into thin air.
Dating back to the 1600s, the ethanol-based scents and sanitizers were first produced by a German cleaner named Paolo de Feminis in Germany’s Cologne province. His aim was to get rid of malodor and it worked well and became a much-needed product across the world. That’s why it's also known as Cologne Water (Kölnisch Wasser) in German and ‘Eau de Cologne’ in French.
Prior to its mass commercialization, cologne was used by doctors and paramedics as an antiseptic.
The European bourgeois did not recognize it initially as they were so used to buying strong and expensive bespoke fragrances that they considered anything else as an aberration.
The cologne made its entry into Ottoman-Turkey during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II between 1876 and 1909, and it soon became an irreplaceable personal care product for Turks. When Ahmet Faruki set up the first perfumery in 1882, producing cologne, it became an indispensable product in Turkish hospitality.
The Turks added their own ingredients, including lemon, rosemary, orange blossom and bergamot extracts. The product has remained in demand ever since and Turkey became a leading player in the cologne-making industry. Turkey’s Duzce province is well known for the quality of its cologne, which has tobacco extracts, while Antalya’s contains orange blossom and Trabzon's products are filled with hazelnut and anchovy extracts.
With the spread of coronavirus, the Turkish cologne industry has received a major boost. The export rate of this product increased manifold and the Turkish government has had to step in to put in place some limits and ensure local needs are met first in these times of pandemic.