The Story behind Gravel

A Man’s Cologne

A scent that has rolled through the decades, looking back on a vivid past and standing on the precipice of a brilliant future. Since its creation in 1957, Gravel A Man’s Cologne has seen the trends come and go, but has always remained true to itself: Strong, elegant, unaltered. A fragrance which defies time, like the gravel in its bottle. Read the rich history of a unique scent and its creator.

The Beginning

Michael B. Knudsen, the creator of Gravel Cologne, faced many challenges to make his dream of creating a true American cologne come true. In the early 1950’s men didn’t use perfumes. In this decade of work and vigor, perfume was regarded as too feminine.

But Knudsen would not be denied his dream. He had set his sights high, wanting to create a classic. His goal was a cologne that was so distinctively unmistakably unique, that it would become timeless. A fragrance whose scent, design and name created a product so exceptional, that it could overcome the prejudice towards scent for men. A cologne so notable that it should remain anchored in the memory of everyone who tried it.

These high goals and dedication to quality, with an attention to detail down to every level of production, lead to a time and energy consuming development process. Without a man like Knudsen at the wheel, the project would have gone off the rails, and never been heard of again.

The outcome of his effort and expertise was a scent that far exceeded everyone’s expectations. It was however of such a high quality that its production price exceeded market expectation by a long shot!

Knudsen now, saw himself confronted with the problem, that the regular marketing and sales approach was unfeasible. Refusing to compromise one iota of quality for quantity, Gravel was one of the first perfumes that was to be marketed directly and sold only at the most exclusive boutiques. It is one the first niche fragrances in the USA. Thanks to Knudsen, his resoluteness and his devotion to excellence, his dream, Gravel A Man’s Cologne has been realized and is still writing its success story, despite the years and any obstacles. It rolls on!

The Early Years

After having developed the scent, and being convinced of its potential, Knudsen wanted to bring the first three bottles to a befriended editor at NBC, hoping to expose his brand. On the way he happened to pass by F.R. Tripler. This haberdashery, founded in 1886, was the destinations in Manhattan for men’s finery, serving across generations. He entered the shop, to offer Gravel for their perusal. The salesmen didn’t take him seriously and asked him, what nerve he had! Hoping he could just saunter in and his perfume could just be included to their assortment with only two weeks prior to Christmas. Fortune favours the bold. As it happened, the buyer for toiletries was standing nearby and heard the brouhaha. The buyer (Mr. Borger) saw and sampled the scent and was sold, Gravel immediately became one of their best sellers.

Since that day Gravel is only available at the most exclusive boutiques.

The cologne quickly built up its legend, garnering numerous features in the media. Dave Garroway, then the host of NBC’s Today Show, Hermione Gingold, Jack Parr and Johnny Carson and many more entertainers introduced the product on their shows. Over the years, a group of loyal enthusiasts developed. They would often corner the market, buying out each run of the cologne as fast as it could be produced. Unlike other colognes, the supply of Gravel has always been truly exclusive, being limited due to a very time consuming production process and rare ingredients. Gravel’s success was often responsible for the boom of men-scents in the 1960’s.

Michael B. Knudsen

It’s Knudsen’s personal achievement, that Gravel A Man’s Cologne has enjoyed many years of continuing popularity. He himself picked every single stone for each flacon und surveyed production personally, until his death at the age of 98! Thanks to his impressive demeanor and his eventful life, Gravel is one of the oldest still available fragrances of the USA.

His scent reflects his extraordinary journey through life, across continents and eras.

Born in 1911, Michael Knudsen immigrated to America in the 1920’s. A young man like so many of his generation, pursuing the American Dream in the new world. It was the golden era of Hollywood and Knudsen was seduced by the promises of the dream factory. This charismatic, good looking young man, played parts in numerous productions and came under the spell of the glittering world of show business. This period deeply influenced his exquisite taste, his penchant for beauty and his extravagant lifestyle. In this phase he connected with many illustrious personalities, artists and members of the high society, each would influence his path of life later on.

Those experiences, his European roots and the resulting tension of the classics of style and elegance meeting the new modern forces of a dynamic post war society, inspired his wish to transport and preserve something from the classic and elegant era, without denying the upheaval of the late 1950’s. It was exactly this moment, when his idea for the scent took shape, that would unite all of those experiences, convictions and promises.
All the vitality, the tension, the new and the old –Elegance, yet toughness, the vibrance of youth influenced his idea of a fragrance! Impelled by his vision and supported by his close friend Hazel Guggenheim, the concept for Gravel A Man’s Cologne took shape in New York.

Of course, at this point neither Knudsen nor Hazel Guggenheim realized, how big the influence of Gravel would be on the American perfume industry. The cologne demanded Knudsen’s full attention, which lead him to spending his whole life producing and marketing Gravel. His full energy, charisma and all of his connections were put in the service of his fragrance.

Thanks to him Gravel became a legend.

A legend that walks among us to this day. One could say, that thanks to Michael Knudsen, Americas whole perfume industry benefited from his pioneer spirit and his visionary genius.
Every day Michael B. Knudsen lives on, through Gravel enthusiasts wearing his cologne.