Scent Gourmand

sinless pleasure for the perfume glutton

Category: Tips (page 1 of 4)

Samples from Rancé 1795 – Joséphine & Eau de la Couronne

Rancé 1795

Rancé 1795 is an old French perfume house from the Rancé family of the 1600s, famous for producing perfumed gloves for the French Aristocracy in Grasse. At that time Europe was a pretty stinky place to be, and gloves, fans and handkerchiefs were used by upper class ladies to disguise the putrid and pungent stenches around them (mostly of humanity; people rarely bathed).

In creating “Le Vainqueur”, “Triomphe” and “L’Eau de Austerliz” for Napolean, François Rancé was held in high esteem. Rancé also created a perfume for Joséphine Bonaparte called “l’Impératrice” the bottle of which is still a treasure of the house. Since that period, the house of Rancé has dedicated many of its perfumes to the heroes and heroines of the Napoleonic era. Rancé’s philosophy embraces tradition, innovation, and naturalness – an interesting combination that likely has something to do with the brand’s long life. Granddaughter Jeanne Sandra Rancé with her son Jean Maurice Alexandre Rancé today run the company.

Perfume writer Donna Hathaway:

Napoleon approached master perfumer Francois Rancé before his coronation in 1804 to commission him to make two perfumes – one for himself [Le Vanquer Napoleon] and one for his love Joséphine [Joséphine]. Rancé designed the fragrances such that hers would dominate if both she and Napoleon were in the same room, However, should they be in close proximity, the two perfumes would merge to create a new unique fragrance. In 2004 the house of Rancé relaunched these two perfumes. They could not have done so earlier, as Napoleon made the house promise not to release the perfumes until 200 years after the coronation.


Joséphine is part of the Collection Impériale, and it is a joyous perfume – brilliant, sensuous and charming, like Joséphine herself (Napoleon’s most loved). It’s an oriental floral created by Jeanne Sandra Rancé, and the top notes are orris, black currant, galbanum, violet leaf, cloves and white peach; middle notes are jasmine, hiacynth and ylang-ylang; base notes are amber, sandalwood, bourbon vanilla and white musk.

This scent is definitely not dated in any way; it’s to fresh and smooth not to have been created sometime in the past two decades. It’s a fruity and tarte composition with a fair bit of complexity, and did not go sour on me when tested. It lingered close to my skin and stayed demure and elegant throughout it’s life. Beautiful, classy, and feminine – yes, but way too polite for me. Josephine bears semblance to Lancome’s  Miracle, Donna Karan’s Gold, and Lalique’s Flora Bella according to some Fragrantica reviewers, but I cannot speak to this. I cannot recall Lancome’s Miracle (not that miraculous if I can’t remember it!) and have yet to get my nose on the other two.

Eau de la Couronne

Jean Rancé dedicated this one to Napoleon’s sister Paolina, and the fragrance was recreated around 2009. It’s from the Rue Rancé collection. The formulae endeavors to come as close as possible to the originals from centuries past. Although I have read some reviews compare this with Dior’s J’Adore, I did not catch a strong resemblance, although the composition is indeed a fruity, shimmery, golden floral. If you love freesia, you will love this this breezy, perfumey composition. There is a beguiling innocence to the scent – I picture a delicate, quiet girl coming of age. I admit, however, that I was disappointed – the main reason being that it dissipated far too quickly. Sad, as the fragrance is in fact intriguing, fresh, and sensual.


20 uses for old or unwanted perfume

Do you have perfume bottles that serve no other purpose than collecting dust or taking up space? Did you fall out of love with a fragrance mid-way through the bottle and now have the remains to deal with? Too many perfumes, too little time? Fragrance that has gone off?

You could simply toss your juice, but there are better options. Indeed, many ideas on the list below do not have to be reserved just to fragrance that you are keen to use up. Perfume is not ideally applied only to skin, after all.

1) Give it away.

This is the obvious thing to do. Donate or re-gift in any way possible – friends, family, women’s shelters, Good Will, nursing homes, students… There will be someone out there who will appreciate your no-longer-desired perfume more than you do.

2) Spritz on stationary.

Letters, of the romantic variety or not, are all the lovelier when scented. This is another obvious use, yet we sadly do not write like we used to. However, we still use memos, notes, agendas, note paper…

3) Use it when carpet cleaning.

Douse a small cotton ball/pad on the carpet when you want to vacuum. When you suck it up, it will give a faint smell of perfume. You can also douse some baking soda, sprinkle it all over your carpet, and vacuum that up the next day. (the soda will suck up the exchange the bad smells on your carpet in exchange for your perfume. You could also spray clean carpets or rugs directly. And do try it on your bathmat.

4) Spray the bases of clothing drawers.

OR recycle any kind of porous bag by filling it with perfume-doused cotton balls and chucking them in your drawers, and also linen closets, on clothes hangers, etc.

5) Spray curtains.

This is my favourite method. In fact, I do so with perfume I still apply to my person!

6) Spray bedding.

Pillows, sheets, covers – yes. Try the actual mattress when changing the bedding!

7) Spritz toilet paper rolls.

Every trip to the lou will be a pleasant one when the paper rolls off. Appropriate for the bathroom (double doo-ty).

8) Use as an air freshener.

Baking soda or powder is the ultimate deodorizer. People typically up the ante by putting aroma or essential oils into jars of baking power and leave them around the home, but why not use perfume instead?

9) Create a personalize “Poopourri”.

Poopourri is a product that is sprayed into the bowl before one lets loose a chocolate caboose. It creates a film on the water’s surface and when you unload an A-bomb, it is encased with this film, and the odours that typically accompany one’s royal rump roast are trapped away from the world above by the Poopourri coating. Well, no need to purchase this uni-tasker. Make your own!

10) Use it as room spray.

A more direct approach to freshening up the air. Particularly useful in the bathroom.

11) Steam the air with scent.

Putting perfume into boiling water with infuse the air with fragrance when the steam comes off. The smell will infiltrate far and wide in your home. Just know that you probably won’t be able to use the same pot for cooking… Perhaps scenting a humidifier could work for better.

12) Spray lamp shades

The warmth from the heat of the light will help disperse it. However, be careful not to stain the fabric! Use fragrances that are transparent in colour. You can also dab/spray a few drops on the light bulb itself (but not when hot!). The heat will diffuse it. Don’t use an oil based scent for this.

13) Put a scented handkie in the wash.

If you spritz (5+ sprays) a handkerchief with fragrance and then chuck it in half way through the dryer cycle with your clothes, the laundry will be lightly scented as a result. You can also spray the fabric softener sheet. Use that handkerchief afterwards to fulfill other purposes: stick it in a purse, storage containers, drawers, etc.

14) Perfume tissue paper for storage and travel.

Spritz perfume on tissue paper and keep stored clothes and other items smelling nice by putting the perfumed tissues in sleeves, handbags, pant legs, etc. This is great for suitcases, too.

15) Scent up the car.

Yes, you can spray the fabric of car seats and car flooring. How about spraying some old cardboard, business cards, maps, documents, etc. with scent and keeping them in the car’s side pockets? You can awaken old hanging cardboard car fragrance decorations (like the infamous pine tree) by spraying on your perfume (or just make your own from scratch). You can also make use of your car’s ventilation system. There are plenty of gadgets made for this purpose, and you can replenish them with your perfume once depleted. There are many options for coming up with your own, too. If you have a lot of perfume samples you’d like to properly suss out, you can open them slightly and stick them in the car’s aircon fan. This will allow you more time to get to know the perfume without have to spray it on yourself.

16) Spray in bath steam.

When preparing a bath, spritz perfume into the steam coming off at the tap. Spray into the air right before a hot shower, too. You would essentially be creating an aromatherapy chamber.  Light florals,  citrus, and fresh, crisp scents are recommended rather than overbearing scents here.

17) Go DYI.

Fragrance sets including creams, shower gels, or creams in addition to a bottle of scent are very popular. If you like these companion products, you probably find that the perfume outlasts the scented creams. Save money and layer your scent the DYI way by adding perfume to scent free creams and gels. You can also re-purpose fragrance to make powder or solid perfume to use as gifts.

18) Scent your fans.

If you live in Asia you may use handheld fans in the summer (uchiwa or sensu here in Japan). Try spraying these with your perfume. When wiping dust off ceiling or standing electric fans, spritz perfume onto the tissue or cloth you are using when cleaning the blades. It will gently fragrance the air when in use. Speaking of blades, try this as well if you have plastic or wooden blinds instead of curtains.

19) Scent the garbage.

There are probably more effective things to use to deodorize, but I admit I’ve sprayed perfume on top of my garbage before closing the lid. I have yet to use it in my shoes, but it might prove a good option for some cheesy feet owners.

20) Reduce purchasing.

No, this is not directly a way to deal with unwanted perfume, but it is a way to dictate your future fragrance situation. If you have find yourself with old or unwanted perfume before, perhaps it’s time to become a more selective consumer. This can be hard for scent hoarders, particularly those with loose budgets… But life is actually a whole lot easier when it is simple and there are fewer choices.  At the very least, buy smaller bottles. You may not get that dresser bottle look you are after, and per volume it is usually more expensive, but you can collect more actual perfume variety that you will actually be able to use. This means less waste and reduced chances of finding yourself with a half-full bottle of juice you no longer like. If having beautiful bottles is your thing, then limit the quantity to only those you absolutely adour. Check out my perfume de-clutter post for more information.

And that’s it! Have you thought of any other ways to use old/unwanted perfume? Share in a comment.

Procuring perfume samples

Well, if you’re like me, you probably want to get your nose on absolutely everything there is out there, but unless your pockets are extremely deep, that will unlikely happen, especially when you consider that the market throws out hundreds of new fragrances every year!

The best way to try a scent, short of going to a department or specialty store every day to try on that one scent to get familiar with it, is to procure a sample. Free is best, of course, and if you live near a store like Sephora or Nordstrom, that is indeed possible, but limiting if you’re into less commercial delights. Other brick and mortar stores in your area, such as Bloomingdales or Neiman Marcus, might occasionally have a carded sample upon request, but it’s generally not policy. I’ve never seen anything for free here in fancy Tokyo department stores, sadly.

In my opinion, you do need time to get to know a fragrance well enough to properly decide if it is something you want to invest in, and a typical sample size is sometimes not big enough to get the job done, but you can always get more than one. A sample size vial (between .03oz – .08oz (average 1.5 ml) of fragrance) is enough for one day, or two days at a stretch, depending on the scent’s longevity. Luckily, there are lots of online options to whet your nose’s appetite. A decant is when fragrance is sprayed, poured, or pipette-ed from its original larger bottle into a smaller bottle or vial. Few online retailers practice this, and interestingly the practice has been banned on eBay. I guess there is an issue of quality control and/or trust?

Many brands bypass the bottle concept altogether and offer samples in paper packets, though I find this potentially messy, and obviously only good for a one shot. The same goes for fashion magazine samples – the old “open, rub, and sniff” concept. Both of these sampling concepts are limited to fashion fragrances. If you already know you want a full bottle of something, head over to the online retailers page to explore some options, but in the meantime I’ve compiled these sites for your sampling pleasure. You have my apologies in advance if you find faulty or outdated links. There’s a lot to keep up with, so kindly let me know if a link doesn’t work!

Subscription services

With the popularity of subscription services rising in recent years, it was bound to happen with scent. With a fragrance subscription service (see my post on the topic), you get to sample scents from a wide range of companies without any hassle, and therefore is my favorite method of procuring trial size vials of perfume. The main subscription services offering sample sizes that are currently active are Scent Trunk (I used for a while) Olfactif (niche) and Perfumes for a Buck (designer). A New York company called Scent Bird offered larger 8 ml sizes, which would appeal to those who want more time to get to know a perfume.

Websites specializing in sample sizes and decants

Just like larger retailers, several of these offer shopping incentives, such as reward programs, coupon cards, reduced shipping, and seasonal specials.

  • Aedes (7 samples for $15, 7 free with order of larger item)
  • Decant Shop (US, niche decants, good shipping deals for North America)
  • Fragrance Vials (US, individually priced)
  • My Perfume Samples (US, designer scent decants, miniatures and sets available, individually priced)
  • Scent Samples (UK, decants of designer and some niche scents, gift sets, wedding and party favors)
  • Scent Split (US, hand-decanted niche samples, free international shipping over US$150)
  • Surrender to Chance (US, individually priced)
  • The Perfume Society (US, curated exploration boxes, publications, subscriptions for discounts)
  • The Perfumed Court (US, niche decants, individually priced, incremental discounts, rewards)
  • The Posh Peasant (US, decants and sampler sets, individually priced)


Online fragrance boutiques offering samples

These stores generally send carded samples when in stock, and if not, you may get a decanted sample vial. A few of those listed below actually specialize in making their own wee decants. Many stores may ask that you provide one or two alternates in case they don’t have your requested fragrance(s). I’ve included the country in which the retailers are based, but most below will provide international shipping.

General cosmetics and beauty boutiques offering samples

This list represents the bigger beauty brand companies whose focus is more general. Perfume samples are to be had!

Survey sites

This is one of those sites where you get pressie for doing a survey, although I’m not sure which comes first. This one seems legitimate (don’t trust my word, though). Watch out for so-called freebie websites that promise something for nothing – that nothing may turn out to be a whole lot of spam and a whole lot of hassle!

eBay & Amazon

Though I admit I don’t use it often, I’ve had good luck on eBay, and this is considering that many retailers will not ship to my country of residence. I imagine this is a great option particularly for those who are US-based, although there are many who would prefer to purchase through a “proper” store, not feeling safe in their retail experience. Sure enough, scams and the like have occurred and do still exist, but they are rare. I think it’s a shame decanting is no longer allowed. Amazon is also a good source for niche scents, especially since individuals can now sell through this mega store.


Mercari is now the place I go to in Japan. It’s the major competitor for direct second-hand sales from individual to individual, and it has expanded outside Japan to the UK and the US, with plans for more. I’ve gotten a lot of great deals in Japan through this service, but that might be because according to the Wall Street Journal  Japan is 90% less likely to encounter fraud issues.

Houses that respond to requests

Although the websites of these brands have no obvious sample policy, they will offer samples, but only if you sound like you intend to buy when you call or email them. Frederic Malle Phone the NY store, and they will send you three samples of your choice for a handling fee of 20 USD. Serge Lutens If you email, write, or phone them, they will send you a Petit Livre des Salons (a pamphlet of their wax samples) and possibly a spray sample of a current scent. Robert Piguet If you email them, they will send you any samples of your choice for $3 each + $15 shipping. HermesSend them a thoughtful email, and they may send you any sample you ask for, though this may depend on the representative with whom you speak.

Brands or houses selling sample sizes directly from their site

This makes good business scents (ha!) for brands who often do not have big marketing expense accounts and as a result the huge potential market of consumers. Yet many of the perfume houses below also have a tendency to use more expensive materials, and add to this their relatively higher overhead, you can understand why the end product ends up being a bigger investment for the consumer. They may also produce more unique scents that are not for every nose. Selling samples is a great way to tease would-be customers into falling in love and coming back for a bigger bottle. It has worked for me! This list is long, growing, but far from complete. A lot of these ship internationally, but there are also probably a lot that don’t.

Sample swap & split groups

From what I can gather from perfumista online activity, many people actively participate in swapping decants of their own stock with others via a variety of venues, the ones I know of being the forum-based Basenotes and Makeup Alley – the largest online swapping platform. You can also try Facebook Fragrance Friends, which has thousands of members. There are benefits to this activity in addition to the obvious, such as community building and sharing. Check out the post from Now Smell This on swapping for more “how-to” information. I don’t and probably will never participate in this kind of activity, and here is why:

  1. First and foremost, for me it’s the shipping costs (also why I rarely purchase from eBay or Amazon, as mentioned). Living in a country where there is not an active perfume community (in my language, to boot), voids the endeavor, as I can likely get samples more cheaply from sources listed above.
  2. It takes time and energy to find the swaps you’re looking for and get connections going, and personally I’d rather be blogging.
  3. I don’t anticipate that the quantity of people dying to have whatever I’m willing to part with (which incidentally is not that much compared to many fume heads out there) is not that large, or people may not have anything I want (though that is less likely).
  4. I think it would be ultimately very difficult to ascertain what, exactly, is a fair swap! Research (=time) is needed. See #2.
  5. Sadly, there is also the quality control issue, as mentioned with eBay.
  6. It is actually illegal to send alcohol-based perfumes by mail, although it is very obvious that both individuals and companies indeed do this. Companies (like Strawberry Net) seemed to have found loopholes for dealing with this, but individuals can get caught. I was! I sent a Christmas package home one year containing some perfume and it came back to me a few days later. The mail carrier actually came to my door with the package, and watched me take out the perfume. Yes, I did label “perfume” on the package, as international packages sent to Canada have very strict laws requiring senders to do so. I could have purposefully “forgotten” to write the full contents of the parcel, but I have had packages opened by Canadian customs before. I wouldn’t want to risk confiscation, which I have also experienced, albeit at airport customs.

Do you know of any other means of procuring samples? Anything I forgot to list? Share in a comment!

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