Scent Gourmand

sinless pleasure for the perfume glutton

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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

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.

Designer, niche, artisan, indie, bespoke… Say what?

Perfume is categorized into types based on smell, and there are several ways to categorize those smells. Michael Edwards, for example, has defined 4 groups – florals, woody, fresh, and oriental – and he has subdivided into 14 categories. To further complicate things, there is another way to categorize fragrances, and that is by the fragrance house type, which is said to dictate the quality, cost, and pricing of a perfume. But not always, and the lines between these distinctions have become increasingly blurry over the years.

Designer

Designer fragrances are created by reputable noses (individual perfumers or perfume institutions) commissioned for the job. They are the mainstream brands and are often part of larger fashion houses, crystal makers, or even furniture or luxury hotel companies.  They are the fragrances you will most commonly find in department stores, stores owned by the brand itself, and duty free shops in airports. Designer fragrances permit the average Jane and Joe access to a world of luxury that is otherwise not affordable. I’d splash out on a bottle of Chanel perfume, for example, but I’d have to sell my condo in order to afford a Chanel bag. Note that alongside designer fragrances, it is also easy to find cheaper drugstore fragrances and increasingly higher-end brands (which often translates into “niche”) as well.

Niche

Niche is a word that is thrown around often to designate anything that is not mainstream. The term originally applied to fragrances not found in or different from those of department stores, but that is no longer the case. Indeed, since the niche market has exploded, so-called niche fragrances are as ubiquitous as the Sephora outlets (Ulta, Bluemercury, and other such beauty retailers) in which they are now housed. I believe L’ Artisan Parfumeur was one of if not the first house to be designated as niche, and it’s interesting to me that the brand name contains the term “artisan” and is also much more widely available now. The term niche is ceasing to become meaningful as a descriptor. Still, niche production does tend to be on a much smaller scale, and niche perfume presence in mainstream retail stores is not pervasive by any stretch.

Indie

The term indie is often ascribed to brands that are niche but smaller and independently owned. However, these days even many indie companies are fairly large. I feel the term is a clever marketing buzzword that seems to be applied to brands with a very zany, whimsical, alternative feel. A brand I feel represents the indie genre well is Imaginary Authors.

Artisan

People disagree on the usage of niche and indie, but the term artisan engenders even more debate. Artisan brands create artisan-made products, meaning handmade and in-house as opposed to factory-produced. Artisan is therefore a  subset of indie. But here again, many companies have their perfumes batched and bottled in labs rather than doing it by hand, removing them from the strict definition of artisan. And the artisan label is not a guarantee of quality, as some people might suggest. They do tend, however, to be creative, original, and very personal (to the creator, at least). The lack of mass production means that the quantity may be limited and the products hard to get one’s hands on. Costs for artisan brands are higher. This is due to the need for increased labor and more expensive ingredients and packaging ( since they must be purchased in smaller quantities).

Bespoke

For those who have both the money and the desire for supreme originality, bespoke is now considered the preferred method. To some consumers, a bespoke perfume is the ultimate luxury fragrance. Bespoke perfume takes the world of personalization to an entirely new level. According to Joanne Lam, “The process offers individuals a chance to not only convert emotions and memories into a unique scent, but also to create new emotions and memories to be associated with the fragrance.” Perfumer at Jean Patou, Thomas Fontaine, said it could cost someone $30,000 to $50,000 to create a personal scent. Famous perfumers that charge such a premium include the likes of Roja Dove, Francis Kurkdjian, Mathilde Laurent (of Cartier), Lyn Harris (of Miller Harris), Blaise Mautin, and Mandy Aftel (of Aftelier Perfumes). Because of the time and effort involved, these perfumers tend not to take on many clients seeking bespoke services. The waiting list can be years long. There are several companies who offer bespoke services as part of their brand, or even as their main service, and not all of them charge pinnacle-of-luxury prices. DYI bespoke fragrance workshops have also become popular, but I wouldn’t expect to create a masterpiece after one experience. It could be a lot of fun, though. Find a list of bespoke services and DYI companies at the bottom of my links page.

Drugstore

This is my own category, though I’m certain others use it, too. Drugstore is a term used by the makeup and skincare social media community to describe not necessarily cheap quality products, but those with cheaper prices that are commonly sold in “drugstore” retailers. Maybeline, Revlon, Bourgois, L’Oréal, CoverGirl, E.L.F. etc. are all drugstore makeup brands, and they are sold in Target, Walgreens, Wal Mart, Rite Aid, Sams Club, Shopper’s Drug Mart, etc. These lie in contrast to designer makeup, like Dior, Giorgio Armani, Tom Ford, Chanel, Estée Lauder, Burberry, YSL, etc., which are sold in department stores and stores run by the brand. Mostly obviously then, perfume sold at drugstores is drugstore perfume. Note, however, that many a designer perfume is also sold at major drugstores, especially perfumes that have been around for a decade or more and are still popular. For the most part, though, drugstore perfume consists of non-designer fare, perhaps some beauty brand perfume (see below), older designer releases, and the “lesser” designer brands and celebrity perfumes. They are sold at very accessible price points.

Beauty Brand

When I use the term beauty brand perfume, I refer to perfumes that are sold, sometimes exclusively, at the global beauty brand branches of the chain that owns them. L’Occitane, the Body Shop, Yves Rocher, Aveda, Bath and Body Works, Lush, Origins, Jurlique, Kiehl’s, and Philosophy come to my mind. I believe that the quality and pricing is similar to those of drugstore perfumes (perhaps a tad higher), but you might find some real gems (Eau des Beaux and from l’Occitane comes to mind, and Kiehl’s musk is classic). I don’t know if anyone else other than me has defined this category or finds it useful.


For things like the FIFI award categories, perfumery classification terminology is important. But ultimately these categories should not matter to consumers, who buy what they like and can afford. Sadly, there are status-related and emotional factors that also drive consumer behavior. Someone may not adore their custom-made bespoke scent as much as they say they do; they are more in love with the idea of owning a bespoke fragrance and what they perceive that does for their social status and/or the way they feel as a result.

Pia Long of Volatile Fiction, in addressing types of perfumers,  claims that distinctions represent a semantic nightmare:

“Indie perfumer, self-taught; indie perfumer, not-really-a-perfumer; indie perfumer, ex-industry…

If a self-taught indie perfumer says “I’m a perfumer” to a functional fragrance industry perfumer; they’ll be met with a blank stare. If an industry perfumer says “I’m a perfumer” to a member of the general public, it might evoke romantic scenes of sniffing roses and vanilla pods all day long, when the daily reality for that perfumer could be figuring out a cheap but still attractive scent which doesn’t fall apart in a new type of detergent product.”

What do you think about the way perfumes are categorized in terms of house? Are you swayed in any way by such categorization?

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