Hungary water, often called the Queen of Hungary's Water or Spirits of Rosemary, is the earliest known alcohol-based perfume, and one of the most widely used and long-lived perfumes / medical tinctures in Western history.

The origins of Hungary water are lost in time, although the queen in question may be Queen Elisabeth of Poland (1305–1380), who married Charles I of Hungary; the primary argument for this is that the name and timing fit. Hungary water became popular in the late 1300s, when it was used as cure for headaches and to protect against miasmas -- something that was much in demand during the plague years. Throughout the years it has been claimed to cure virtually any ailment, from a nebulous ability to "clean the organs" to curing toothaches and hearing loss.

While there are many recipes, the core ingredients are fresh rosemary and thyme distilled in brandy or wine. Common additions include, but are not limited to, lavender, mint, sage, marjoram, costus (previously known as hellenia), orange blossom, bergamot, and lemon. Recipes, both ancient and modern, can be quite elaborate.

The concoction remained popular into the late 1700s, when it was used both as a perfume and a sort of fancy folk remedy; the scent could be inhaled, or the liquid could be applied topically or sipped, as was deemed necessary. In 1709 Eau de Cologne was invented, dropping the rosemary in favor of doubling-down on the citrus, and over the course of the century slowly pushed Hungary water out of the top spot, both as a perfume and as a medicinal snake oil.


Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.