January 11 2011
Partly out of impatience with the search for novelty, men tend to be more loyal than women when it comes to personal grooming products: when we find something we like, we stick with it. Such is my experience with Alvarez Gómez Agua de Colonia Concentrada, the signature fragrance of Madrid’s most prestigious perfumería. I would always far rather spend €13.50 on 400ml of this classic, classy cologne than €50 on a fancy flask of the latest designer fragrance.
The bottle is clunky, square-sided, more like a gin bottle than a perfume flask. That, and the price, lead you expect a much more ordinary fragrance than is in fact the case. The Alvarez Gómez recipe, combining essences of lemon, lavender, geranium, eucalyptus, rosemary, thyme and bergamot, produces a delightfully fresh, well-balanced and straightforward cologne. Many a well-to-do Spanish household keeps it in the downstairs bathroom for everyday family use, though it performs well even at the smartest evening do.
Founded in 1899 by two cousins from the province of León, Alvarez Gómez now has eight branches, all in modish madrileño zones such as the calles Lagasca and Serrano, Arturo Soria and the Paseo de la Castellana, not forgetting the original store at Calle Sevilla 2 (just off the Gran Via). Both Agua de Colonia Concentrada and its yellow label with red art-nouveau-ish lettering were invented in 1912; neither has changed in the intervening century.