SPLASH ON some of Dr. Fred Hass’ cologne and you may be in for more than an olfactory experience. The cologne is a sniff into the past—the papal past, to be exact.
Hass has created “The Pope’s Cologne,” a fragrance based on the purported recipe of Pope Pius IX’s custom fragrance. When he’s not working as a general practitioner in Terra Linda, Hass ’60 spends his free time mixing batches of the cologne in his kitchen, researching potential markets, and filling online orders for the 2-ounce bottles.
This 20-hour-a-week endeavor came about accidentally after his sister gave him a vintage cookbook as a gift. Included in the cookbook was a fragrance recipe section, and one recipe in particular caught his eye: “The Pope’s Cologne.”
Said to have been passed down by the family of a French general in Pius’ Papal guard, the recipe intrigued Hass. After scouring local stores for the 11 essential oils and other ingredients called for, Hass mixed up the first batch. The result surprised him—a citrus and violet-tinged scent that he describes as clean, bright, and cheerful.
After making the initial batch, Hass spent about a year looking for information about popes and colognes, but found nothing. He then dived into research on fragrance creation and now makes the cologne at his kitchen table before bottling and storing it in his garage. He has sold some of the bottles for $24.99 each on his Web site and is pursuing retail outlets such as Catholic gift stores and department stores.
Hass follows the book’s recipe exactly, depending on the same oils used to make the cologne more than a century ago for the pope. Main ingredients include orange blossom, lemon verbena, lavender, violet, clove, and sweet orange. Unlike modern fragrances, Hass said, The Pope’s Cologne’s smells are natural.
“I love to watch people smell it for the first time,” Hass said. “They’re not used to smelling anything real. This is a more complex fragrance and it smells different than the synthetics made nowadays.”
Pope Pius IX’s reign, from 1846 until his death in 1878, is the longest in Church records since that of St. Peter. Pius IX is known for establishing the Immaculate Conception as Church dogma and for establishing the First Vatican Council.
With Hass’ help, Pope Pius IX may also become known for his cologne.