Florida Water, anyone?


Last weekend I found myself volunteering near the finish line at a local crosscountry meet. As teens crossed the finish line, they were exhausted, and some collapsed. Even so, my hat is off to them — running multiple miles in the best of conditions is grueling, but doing so in Louisiana’s heat and humidity is mind boggling to me.
Midway through the fifth and final race of the day, two men connected to St. Thomas More High School came to the finish line area, their arms full of faded pink strips of damp looking towels. They were clearly excited and were discussing their girls finishing the race strong. In fact, one of their girls won the race. When she did, one of the men handed her a light pink piece of towel and said, “Put that around your neck. It will feel good and cool you down.”
The exchange occurred less than four feet from me. I wasn’t sure what those towels had been soaked in, but I knew it was something that these fellows considered special and seemed to help the worn out runners. I asked one of them, “What are those towels soaked in?”
One of the gentlemen said, “Florida Water,” in a manner that assured me I was the only one around who had no idea what Florida Water was.
In perfect timing, a lady standing beside me said, “I thought that’s what it was. My grandmother always used it.”
Having spent 12 years in Cajunland, I’ve learned when to keep my mouth shut and when to ask questions. Something about the way they were acting made me think this was some really old something, and for some reason the smell reminded me of my grandmother. I suspected whatever Florida Water was that I’d be better off learning in the privacy of my laptop. The distinctive and mysterious aroma of the towels stayed with me. When I got home, I did some research.
Turns out, there was much to learn about Florida Water. It was, according to Lanman and Kemp, the makers of Florida Water, first produced way back in 1808. In fact, it’s the oldest American cologne still being sold. Florida Water is the American version of Eau de Cologne or Cologne Water. “It has the same citrus basis as Cologne Water, but shifts the emphasis to sweet orange (rather than the lemon and neroli of the original Cologne Water) and adds spicy notes including lavender and clove. The name refers to the fabled Fountain of Youth, which was said to be located in Florida, as well as the ‘flowery’ nature of the scent,” according to Wikipedia.
I wondered where one might find Florida Water, and it turns out that it’s at most every pharmacy. In fact, it’s in a box right on the counter by the register at the one I visited — less than $4 a bottle. The packaging and label are the same design they used back in 1808 (other than the bottle being plastic). I bought some. If it could help the crosscountry runners, I figured I could use some refreshing myself.
In my opinon, it’s heavier on the clove aroma than the floral.
The Internet was full of references to baseball teams in the South using small coolers of ice water with a couple of capfuls of Florida Water to soak towels. They then apply the towels to their pulse points and necks to refresh and cool down — just like they did at the crosscountry meet.
But wait there’s more.
A little more research reveals that Florida Water is also used as a cleanser, as in spirit cleanser. As in, voodoo and other magical practices “spiritual perfume” and in practices of lighting it in a fireproof container and allowing the flame to warm hands to “call money.”
I did not see that coming.
I asked an array of friends if they knew or had used Florida Water. Many of them are big believers in the Florida Water in a cooler with ice water and towels to cool down after tennis, soccer or baseball.
Thankfully, not a one of them mentioned voodoo.

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