Meaning “cologne”, kolonya has been a treasured symbol of Turkish hospitality and health since the Ottoman Empire, and it’s often described as Turkey’s national scent.
Traditionally, this sweetscented aroma made with fig blossoms, jasmine, rose or citrus ingredients is sprinkled on guests’ hands as they enter homes, hotels and hospitals; when they finish meals at restaurants; or as they gather for religious services. But unlike other natural scents, this ethanolbased concoction’s high alcohol content can kill more than 80% of germs and act as an effective hand disinfectant. Sales of kolonya, Turkey's "national scent", have soared since the start of the coronavirus pandemic because it is also antiseptic.
So, when Turkey’s Minister of Health championed kolonya’s capacity to fight the coronavirus, it not only inspired a wave of national media attention touting the cologne’s anti- Covid-19 powers, but also caused queues stretching nearly 100m to quickly form at chemists and stores across Turkey. In fact, since Turkey’s first confirmed coronavirus case in mid-March, some of the nation’s main kolonya producers have said that their sales have increased by at least fivefold.
To meet the fragrance’s surging demand, the Turkish government stopped requiring ethanol in petrol in order to boost the production of kolonya and other household disinfectants, specifically to fight coronavirus.