A brand 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 Cologne has seen the trends come and go, but has always remained true to itself:
Strong, elegant, unaltered.
Fragrances which defy time, like the gravel in each bottle. Read the rich history of one of the oldest still existing American perfume brands its creator.
Michael B. Knudsen, the creator of Gravel Cologne started working on his first fragrance in the 1950’s. His scents reflect his extraordinary journey through life. Born in 1911 in Scandinavia, Michael Knudsen travelled Across the Ocean in the 1920’s and emigrated into the USA. A young man, pursuing the American Dream. It was the golden era of Hollywood and Knudsen was seduced by the promises of the dream factory. The 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. He connected with many illustrious personalities and members of the high society.
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 something from the classic and elegant era, without denying the upheaval of the late 1950’s. Impelled by his vision and supported by Hazel Guggenheim, the concept for his first creation 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.
He dedicated his life until his death at the age of 98 to Gravel. Thanks to Knudsen Gravel Cologne 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. Until this day, every bottle is filled by hand and becomes unique by adding gravel from the Hudson River. Since the first bottle ever was sold in New York’s 46th street in 1957, Michael B. Knudsen lives on, through enthusiasts wearing of his perfumes.
The First Fragrance
In the early 1950’s the usage of perfume was rather uncommon in the USA. But Knudsen would not be denied his dream. He had set his sights high, wanting to create a fragrance whose scent, design and name created a product so exceptional that it could overcome the prejudices towards perfumes. 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.
The outcome was a perfume 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 was already a niche fragrance, when the term didn’t exist. It’s Knudsen’s personal achievement, that Gravel Cologne has enjoyed many years of continuing popularity. Thanks to his impressive demeanour and his eventful life, Gravel is one of the oldest still available fragrances of the USA and has given the world numerous classic fragrances.
The Early Years
Knudsen wanted to bring the first three bottles ever produced to a befriended editor at NBC, hoping to expose his brand. On the way he happened to pass by F.R. Tripler at 46th street and Madison Avenue. Founded in 1886, Tripler was one of the finest destinations in Manhattan for 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 his perfume could just be included to their assortment two weeks prior to Christmas. Fortune favors 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 immediately, Gravel 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, Johnny Carson and many more entertainers introduced the product on their shows. Over the years, a group of loyal enthusiasts developed including numerous stars and actors. Gravel’s success was often called responsible for the boom of fragrances in the USA in the 1960’s.
The New Beginning
After Knudsen‘s death, the fragrances disappeared for several years. GRAVEL perfumes thus became rare and sought-after vintage fragrances, available only in private remainders. Georg and Christian Blessing, both Gravel-enthusiasts were in the same situation. The fascination for the fragrances and the brand’s eventful history had infected father and son. So, basically the idea to remarket Gravel, is based on the wish to wear the scents again. The search for the heirs to the trademark and the subsequent persuasion to buy a piece of American perfume history dragged on for years. At all times, the desire to transfer Gravel Cologne back into a family owned environment that corresponded to Knudsen‘s ideals and the values of the brand was in the foreground. Finally, after years of absence, Georg and Christian Blessing succeeded in marketing Gravel Cologne again and continuing the business in the spirit of Knudsen. Today, as then, the fragrances are only available in the most exquisite establishments.