Eau de Nose

Recently I was researching the aftershave that was used by barbers in the West for a story I’m working on and ran across a ton of interesting things.

Of course, I already knew that barbers used a soap cake that was round and hard. They put it in a mug, added some water, and whipped it into a lather with a brush. I watched my daddy do the same thing in the 50’s and apply the lathery cream to his face with a soft bristle brush. And I can’t think of Old Spice aftershave today without him coming to mind. As a little girl I loved the smell of Old Spice. I related that smell to love and a feeling of security.

In the West the most common aftershave was probably Bay Rum. Other than that, maybe simple lilac water. I couldn’t find a lot of references to the different types. I’m sure it depended on what part of the country the barber shop was in and what was available. And I think the barber might’ve made his own most of the time. It was easy to soak bay or mint leaves in rum, water and oils and let it sit for a few weeks or so.

Then one thing led to another in my research. You know how it goes.

Before long I was deep in the history of the perfumes. The very first form of perfumes was about 4,000 years ago in the form of incense. Shortly after, ancient cultures began soaking fragrant woods and resins in water or oil and rubbed the liquid on their bodies. Perfumes were also used by the Egyptians in the embalming process.

By the way, did you know that the pharaohs, queens, and wealthy Egyptians took several baths a day? They liked cleanliness I guess.

France quickly became the European center of the perfume industry and they took it to another level. Perfumes were needed to mask body odors resulting from the lack of hygiene practices of the day. In the 18th century, King Louis XV demanded a different fragrance for his apartment every day. Napoleon had two quarts of violet cologne delivered to him each week and it’s reported that he used 60 bottles of double extract of jasmine every month. I wonder if he drank the stuff. That’s a heck of a lot! Josephine had stronger perfume preferences. Musk was her choice and she used it so heavily that the scent lingered in her bedroom 60 years later. Can you imagine how that must’ve overwhelmed?

In the West, rose water was the preference of most women. It was very easy to make.

All it took was putting rose petals in a pot, covering with water and boiling until it reached the fragrant stage desired. Then it was strained and put into some type of container with an airtight lid. Of course, if roses weren’t available, any type of flower worked. Women were resourceful in the West and learned to make do with anything. They also were known to dab household vanilla and other flavorings behind their ears.

When I was young, I had Blue Waltz perfume. Does anyone remember that? Five and dime stores sold it for around fifteen or twenty cents. I thought I was really grown up to have a bottle of Blue Waltz. It was sweet and floral and if memory serves it didn’t smell all that bad. Unless you used too much. Then it was awful.

In doing my research, I learned there were different classifications.

Single Floral – used only one type of flower
Floral Bouquet – used a combination of flowers
Ambery – came from animals (musks)
Woody – from trees like sandalwood and cedar
Leather – family of fragrances using honey, tobacco, wood, and wood tars to try to reproduce the smell of leather

Do you have a special perfume or cologne that you like and if so, what kind? Or is there a scent that reminds you of times past and holds pleasant memories?

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!
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40 thoughts on “Eau de Nose”

  1. Wow, smell is such a strong sense. I can smell things that immediately bring back to an exact time, place, person and/or conversation. Funny you mention Old Spice. My father also wore that after shave, and every time I smell it. it brings me right back to Sunday mornings, getting ready for church, coming home and eating pancakes. There are other smells like lilac, fresh cut grass and wood burning fires that put an immediate smile on my face no matter what.

  2. Old Spice is the one that reminds me of my grandfather. And he used the same method of shaving…I can’t even see the bottle without thinking of him, and remembering his sense of humor, and laughter.

  3. Hi Linda!

    Incredible and interesting research. You know, in the old days they used natural ingredients in their perfumes — which don’t have a reaction with me. But our world has changed and I have become very allergic to the chemical kinds of perfumes that not only women wear but men wear. I can actually get asthma from them.

    Once a car company (very nice people) did me a favor by cleaning the inside of my car. When I picked it up, within minutes, I was wheezing. It was the perfume (chemical perfume) in their cleaner. It took me 1 entire month to get the effects of that perfume out of my car — it was dead winter and there I was riding with all my windows down constantly.

    I don’t know what they’re putting in these perfumes anymore, but whatever the chemicals, I am very allergic to them. To the point where I feel sometimes as if I should go up to people who seem to bathe in these scents and tell them that they might be damaging their bodies by using these new chemical perfumes.

    Sometimes I wish for the old days when essential oils were used — these essential oils give me no reaction whatsoever.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading about the history of the perfume. Thanks for a wonderful post.

  4. This was really interesting. It’s amazing how memories and smells can be linked. I remember going to take a final for one of my college courses and the guy behind me wore the same kind of deoderant as my ex-boyfriend and I had a hard time concentrating! Thankfully I passed.

    My favorite perfume was discontinued years ago, Xia Xiang. I occasionally still find it but I only wear it occasionally.

  5. Wonderful post, Linda. I learn something new every day at the junction.

    I do remember buying little cheapie bottles of “perfume” at the dime store, too. It wasn’t Blue Waltz though. Mostly my mom bought tons of Avon from my aunts who sold it. Cotillion?

    I have loved and worn the fragrance Giorgio for many years, but in the summer months, I lighten up with lavender. It relaxes me, smells great, and is so refreshing.

  6. Hi Marissa,

    I’m glad I’m not the only one whose memories are evoked by certain smells. And how neat that your dad also wore Old Spice! Of course, back then there weren’t many choices especially for low income families such as mine were. It must’ve been fairly cheap for us to have afforded it.

    I too love the smell of wood burning. Makes me feel warm and satisfied for some reason.

    Thanks for dropping by to comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Hi Lee,

    Glad you stopped by to comment today. I see you have the same memories. When I wrote this blog I wondered if anyone would remember Old Spice. It was around so long ago. Keep those memories of your grandfather alive.

    Have a great day!

  8. Hi Linda,

    Oh, I loved your post today! What great memories I have of my dad dipping his brush into a mug filled with bar soap and lathering up. When he passed, I took all that stuff and keep it with me. There were many times, I would help, grab the brush and lather up his face.

    I love Vanderbilt now. I’ve been wearing it for a few years. Before that I used Georgio. But I like the lighter scents too, like Gardenia and Plumeria from Bath and Body Works.

    For men, HUGO is it! It’s a real turn on. I love when my hubby puts it on. And before that, he wore English Leather, in our earlier years!

  9. Good morning, Kay!

    I totally agree with you. I can’t wear these perfumes they make today. Always gives me a headache. My husband had asthma real bad so I quit trying after we were married. I was happy to give it up.

    I think we should try to make us some rose water. It’s real simple and would probably not cause any ill effects. If only I had some rose bushes. Now, there’s the problem.

    Hope things are going well for you in Florida. Bet you’re anxious to get back home. Watch out for Hurricane Hanna!

  10. Hi Lynn/Elsandra!

    A funny story about you being distracted from your test by the guy behind you. I’m glad you passed the test. It must’ve been a struggle though. lol

    My mother didn’t wear perfume, but she always dusted liberally with powder after she bathed. It was called Cashmere Bouquet. I can close my eyes and still smell the pleasant fragrance. Sometimes I can even feel her arms around me hugging me tight. There’s nothing like a mother’s hug.

    Wishing you a fun day!

  11. What a great post, Linda! I love the smell of bay rum. Had a bottle of it years ago–didn’t wear it, just smelled it. I hate heavy cologne on a man, but just a whiff of that and I’m gone.
    And I remember Blue Waltz. It was SO sweet smelling. Growing up I remember Tweed–got some when I went off to college. Wish I could find more.
    My longtime current favorite is Ralph Lauren’s “Safari.” Was pulled in by the “Out of Africa” commercials, then discovered I really did like the scent. Have a great day!
    ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Hi, Linda!

    I really enjoyed your images–especially the one of Bay Rum. It’s a cologne many of our heroes wear in our books. There just wasn’t much of anything else for them at the time.

    I remember Ambush (dang, can’t remember who made it) but I wore that for years. Charlie was another favorite. But my current is Beautiful by Estee Lauder. Expensive, but I justify it by the fact it lasts longer, so I don’t use as much.

    I also remember my grandmother wearing rose water!

  13. Hi Tanya,

    I’m so glad you like what the Fillies bring to P&P. We do try to make it interesting.

    I remember Cotillion by Avon. I also used to wear a lot of Here’s My Heart. Man, that was years ago!

    I never was able to wear Giorgio. It a little strong for me. Now, lavender is a wonderful scent. Love driving by fields of it and inhaling the fragrance. It does relax you. I have a lavender scented candle that I burn.

    Thank you for being such a loyal subscriber of ours. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Hello Linda!

    Hope you had a nice long weekend!

    I remember my grandfather shaving that way too–soap in a cup with a soft brush to put the lather on!I always thought that was so neat!

    I remember a perfume that I use to always wear-it was what I wore when I met my husband!He loved it too..it was called “Tribe”!

    Other scents besides perfumes bring back memories for me..I have always been that way too-smelling something in particular and remembering moments that I associate with that smell!

  15. Hi Charlene,

    I still have my dad’s mug and brush too. Can’t bear to think of getting rid of them. The cup is all cracked and everything but it’s a treasure.

    I’m like Kay and not much on perfumes now. Almost all of them give me a headache and stop me up. I have to be careful of scented candles too. I’ve never tried Vanderbilt but it sounds expensive. Bet it has a nice fragrance that’s not too overpowering. I like the Plumeria scent. I have a candle of it.

    My husband used Artemis if he wore any cologne at all. Most of it aggravated his asthma. I’ve never smelled Hugo. I’m willing to wager that scent evokes powerful memories in you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Hi Elizabeth,

    I hate heavy scents on both men and women. I think they should be light and subtle, not overpowering. How neat that you had a bottle of Bay Rum! You have to really look but they do still make it. And surprisingly, they still make Blue Waltz. It seems you’re the only one who remembers that perfume. You’re right, it was really sweet. But, being a young girl I didn’t mind because it made me feel so grown up.

    Oh, I bet Safari smells wonderful. Is it made from African plants? I should’ve known you’d prefer something exotic, my dear Filly sister. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Hi Pam,

    Glad you liked my blog and the images. It was fun research.

    I’ve never tried Beautiful by Estee Lauder, but I bet it smells very womanly. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much something costs. We have to splurge a bit on ourselves every once in a while. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Oh my gosh, I can’t believe your grandmother used rose water! That’s really neat.

  18. Hi Melissa D!

    Yes, I had a great long weekend. Just took the opportunity to be lazy and relaxed. Hope yours was good also. Did you do anything special?

    It seems all of our fathers or grandfathers shaved using a mug and brush. But then if you think about it, shaving cream in a can didn’t come along until the late 50’s or 60’s. And it probably was too expensive for most families.

    I don’t remember Tribe but then I’m not really a big perfume connoisseur. I mostly pick some nice smelling deoderant and skip perfume altogether. Tribe must’ve smelled wonderful though for your hubby to like it too. Men have picky preferences for the most part.

    Hope you have a wonderful day! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. I have that exact bottle of Old Spice on a shelf in my bathroom. My dad died two years ago, and my mom asked me to take handle everything. My hubby helped me remove all of his things from the care facility, and I kept that bottle. I only opened it once, because smelling it brings back too many memories.

    I don’t remember Blue Waltz. I had little indigo bottles of Evening in Paris. A friend gave me one a while back, and it’s on my dresser. I love vintage containers like that.

    My grandma used Cotillion, so I remember it well. I’m another one who can’t use or smell perfumes without getting a headache and a stuffy nose. I can use a musk scent because it comes from an oil. Even flowery candles make me ill.

    Great blog today, Linda!

  20. One more thing: I can’t stand the smell of purchased potpourri either, so I have two burners in which I place cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and orange peel. Then I add water and enjoy the aroma.

  21. Cheryl,

    What a treasure your Old Spice bottle is! I’m glad you kept it to remember your dad by. Those memories are too precious to lose.

    Oh my gosh! I remember Evening in Paris. I’d forgotten it until you mentioned it. That was another perfume sold in the five and dime stores. Loved the dark blue bottle it came in. And I felt so pretty when I dabbed some behind my ears. A lot of kids felt grown up smoking cigarettes but I felt grown up using perfume. lol Didn’t take much for this gal to satisfy a craving to feel older.

    I’m with you on potpourri. Can’t stand the stuff. I love the smell of cinnamon and vanilla. And I like those candles that smell like chocolate chip cookies baking. Great fragrance without the calories! ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Hi Linda! I’ve never heard of Bay Rum. Wonder why? But now I have. ๐Ÿ™‚ I heard in the news recently that Lavendar aroma is supposed to help a person fall asleep. They recommend a few drops of lavendar oil on a pillow. (I noticed Tanya said it relaxes her.) I haven’t tried it myself–not yet anyway. I used to love perfume, especially this little bottle of Lily of the Valley I had when I was a kid. But the last 15 yrs or so, I’ve developed an allergy to perfumes. They give me an instant headache. Not if it’s very mild, but I’m sure Josephine’s musk, even 60 yrs later, would’ve knocked me over!

    Smells evoke the strongest memories for me, you’re right about their power. Thanks for the post!

  23. Hi Kate,

    I remember Lily of the Valley, but not until you mentioned it. It was another inexpensive perfume and smelled rather nice if I recall.

    Yeah, I wonder why we developed an allergic response to fragrances in our later years. That’s kinda strange. I guess our allergies change with age. I wonder if a scientist ever did a study on that? They should.

    I can only imagine how powerful Josephine’s musk was for her apartment to smell after 60 years. My word! She must’ve drenched herself in the stuff. I’m sure being near her would’ve made my eyes water something awful. If only they would’ve bathed regular instead of trying to cover body odor with perfume. At least the Egyptians had it right. They were ahead of everyone on a lot of things.

    To my knowlege (and I could be wrong) Bay Rum was about the only aftershave in regular use in the West unless the barber used a homemade concoction. It came from the West Indies.

  24. I remember Laura Ingalls Wilder had lemon verbena.
    My dad used Mennan After Shave. That smell still reminds me of him.
    He also used the brush and whipped soap up to shave with.
    The perfume I had as a teen was Emeraude. Now a days I don’t even own perfume. Too many scene sensitive people in the world. It’s just not worth the trouble of worrying.
    But I love good smelling shampoo and soap. I’m a sucker for those Bath and Body works squirt soap bottles. Is it Burnt Brown Sugar maybe, that’s so, sooo good. That doesn’t sound quite right. Burnt Vanilla Sugar? Maybe? I love all of them though.

  25. Linda-
    I had a super busy weekend! Had out of town company stay the whole weekend (a family of 4)..along with my family of 4 (all in a 3 bedroom house..LOL)!! Sooo–we had a great time..but we are tired!

    I also do not wear perfume usually-but-like you, a nice deodorant! Heavy scents give me headaches!

  26. Scents have good and bad memories for me. Good memories include the “original” Old Spice that Honey wore when we met 49 years ago(the newer Old Spice is just terrible, Honey had to find something else because we didn’t like it!), the Brocade by Avon and Chanel #5 that I wore for years but not at the same time! The bad memories include the woman in our booster group who wore
    so much perfume that we could almost see the
    cloud of scent surrounding her! It literally made me ill to be around her. Her perfume caused my allergies and severe headaches to start up!

    Pat Cochran

  27. Like most of you, scents can bring events or people to mind for me. Jovan Musk-my dad, Jontue perfume-my mom. Honeysuckle reminds me of my grandparents house in the summer, apple and cinnamon always reminds me of the fall and apple butter making.

    When I was young, other than my parents scents, the big thing was Avon’s Sweet Honesty-I remember my older sisters ordering that (although I thought it stunk).

    I wear White Shoulders Body Powder-I use it instead of perfume. Very rarely do I use the cologne. And I love Stetson cologne for men, I could sit and sniff the bottle.

  28. Mary,

    I remember Emeraude but never was that fond of it. My tastes had changed by then or I’d gotten older don’t know which.

    Yes, I love Bath and Body Works! I think it’s Burnt Brown Sugar that smells heavenly. Right now, I’m using Black Raspberry Vanilla and it’s wonderful.

  29. Hi Estella, Pat, Terry and Kathleen!

    Estella, Blue Waltz must’ve been really popular among the young girls back then. But it was really inexpensive and that’s probably why so many used it.

    Pat, ah yes, I remember Brocade by Avon but I never wore it myself. I think it was too sweet or too strong. I agree about the inconsideration of people who poured it on. The woman you knew must’ve been kin to Josephine. Bet she made eyes water with her strong scent.

    Terry, Honeysuckle is a nice light fragrance. I used to wear that some. Apple and Cinnamon would be my preference. I like the ones that smell like food. lol Oh and I think White Shoulders was a nice scent.

    Kathleen, Old Spice was used a lot by men our fathers’ ages. I loved smelling that.

  30. Fantastic post Linda, thank you so much for the info.

    Scents I remember:

    My dad – Old Spice, Brut and Aqua Velva

    A younger me – Sweet Honesty (still love the smell)

    My all time favourite perfume/cologne however was a mail-order-only one called GAMBIT. I can’t remember the company although I’ve searched the net. I only remember something about ‘Metamorphasis’ and a butterfly insignia. I’d love to find some more…

  31. (I’m late I know)

    My mom talked about using Blue Waltz- in fact, she bought a very old bottle of it on ebay or something a while back, but she said it didn’t smell the same by any means…LOL

    For me there have been a lot of perfumes that set off memories- these take me back to my teens- Exclamation, Electric Youth, Lady Stetson(always gave me a headache), Emaurade, Love’s Baby Soft, Avon’s Pavi Elle, Trisha Yearwood’s Wild Heart, Priscilla Presley’s Moments, Heaven Sent.

    I associate Verve with my best friend’s mom, Jean Nate with my aunt, Charlie with my mom(when I was little).

    My favorites though nowadays(some old favorites some new)..Coty’s Wild Musk, Jovan Musk and Jovan White Musk, Cherry Vanilla, Davidoff’s Cool Water Woman, Frederick’s of Hollywood Signature Scent, Cotton Candy, Vanilla Fantasy.

    I would love to find some that have real lilac or honeysuckle scents though.

  32. Many scents evoke memories in me.
    Mom had Chanel No5; a bottle of it sitting on the dresser.
    I also remember Hears To My Heart from Avon.

    I used to love Avon’s Stetson for men and even bought a bottle for myself just to take a whiff every now and then.

    I, too, can’t wear perfume b/c of getting headaches.

  33. My father wore Old Spice too. I remember my grandmother used to have a small blue bottle with a tassel on it that I think was called “Evening in Paris” and it smelled so good. My mother wore Tabu which I always thought was so risque. Just the name of it was so unusual.

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