Smells Like an Emperor

I’ve always loved a little bit of intriguing story behind a brand. It’s nice to read something about a particular brand whose products you love, with stories that capture your heart. It’s a clever marketing trick too, of course, because usually when you love the story behind the brand, you’ll most likely want to keep using the products in order to make you feel a part of that story. Am I right?

Anyway, I’m even particularly more intrigued when that story goes way way back. Like, the 16th century in French revolution era. The brand I’m talking about is a fragrance house called Rancé (pronounced “run-say”). Some of you have probably never heard of it, but let me tell you the story. I promise you, it’s an interesting one.

Since the beginning of 1600s the Rancé family became famous for producing perfumed gloves for the French Aristocracy in Grasse (France). In 1795 François Rancé turned entirely to perfumery. His innovative spirit led him to create extremely refined and modern perfumes, which secured him the favour of Napoleon I, also known as Napoleon Bonaparte, Yep, that guy :D So Napoleon called Rance, not just to order him to create perfumes for him and his family, but to take him as an apprentice. Apparently, Napoleon loved to learn more about the art of perfumery! So François then started teaching Napoleon about mixing all the different notes to create beautiful composition of perfumes. So together, they created a number of fragrances exclusively for the royal family and inspired by each of the family member.

Le Vainqueur was launched in 1795 and was created for Napolen himself. The top notes are nutmeg, ginger, melon, citruses and watermelon; middle notes are lavender, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley and geranium; base notes are leather, orris, amber and musk.

Laetitia was an homage to Napoleon’s mother with notes of Bergamot, neroli, Bulgarian rose, magnolia, patchouli and citrus labdanum. The perfume is composed of the finest, rare and pricy essences mixed in a traditional way of the house of Rance. This edition is particularly interesting since highest quality ingredients were chosen and combined from the best harvests.

Josephine was created for his beloved wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais. 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.

Eugenie created for Empress Euginie, the wife of Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon I. Top notes are passionfruit, melon, mandarin orange, lily-of-the-valley and bergamot; middle notes are magnolia, orange blossom, peach, jasmine and rose; base notes are orris, sandalwood, amber, vanilla, oakmoss and vetiver.

Triomphe – Napoleon’s immense glory inspired François Rancé to create this fragrance. Napoleon loved the fragrances of his native island, Corsica and  drew inspiration from these: the light perfume of citrus fruit merges with the fragrance of roses and orange blossom, adorned with Grasse jasmine and Florentine iris. Cedar wood and musk, with hints of vanilla Reunion, give the fragrance intensity.

Francois Charles – François Rancé’s son Jean devoted this perfume to François Charles, Napoleonʹs only son. It was hoped that the young Prince could repeat his majestic fatherʹs feats, and like him, bring the great ideals Franceʹs victories had introduced throughout Europe to triumph.

I’ve sampled some of these fragrances. Because they have been reformulated to suit modern taste, I find them to be surprisingly accessible. When I heard the history of Rance, I imagine that the fragrances must have smelled really strong and dated. But no, they’re all the kinds of fragrances that a non-emperor or empress like me would wear everyday. I particularly love Josephine. It’s elegant, warm and crisp. It opens with a hint of spiciness but settles down to pretty and feminine floral and finally leaving a trail of musk.

Anyway, generations after generations of perfumers in Rancé family had lived and thankfully continued the legacy of François Rancé. The family has moved the business from Grasse to Milan and continued operating from there till today. The perfumer in the house who was responsible for creating Rancé’s recent launches is Jeanne Sandra Rancé. In their office in Milan, you could even see some of the mementos from the emperor and empress, like this enchanting porcelain box that used to house Josephine’s fragrance!

If you would like a taste of this rich history, you won’t have to travel far. Rancé perfumes are now available major department stores in Jakarta, such as Glow Living Beauty Plaza Indonesia or Seibu Grand Indonesia.

Has anyone tried them and what do you think?