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  The Eagle Parfum

The Eagle of Victory

02 October 2014

La "Victoire", the famous victory at Wagram against the Austrian Empire, made Napoleon Boneparte in 1809 master over all Europe. Once again his genius prevailed over a numerous, well-armed enemy led by expert generals, and coming after resounding French victories from 1805 to 1807, spelled disaster for the latest Austrian and British-led alliance against France. Napoleon, in his defence (and export) of France's revolutionary ideals, had once again prevailed 'victoriously'.

Jean Rancé, son of the master perfumer François Rancé (see family tree here) and like his father a great admirer of Napoleon, dedicated in 1809 to the Emperor a new perfume, intensely masculine, in which the liveliness of bergamot contrasts with the intensity of laurel and thyme.

This was to be no ordinary fragrance. Since ancient Greece, laurel wreaths had been awarded to victors and during the Roman Empire (upon which France was now modelling itself) the laurel wreath became symbolic of martial victory, crowning a successful commander during his triumph. The use of laurel leaves in this perfume is intensely symbolic.

If one of Napoleon's strategic advantages lie in the use of surprise (as in crossing the Alps, in imitation of Hannibal, to take Italy in 1799), Jean Rancé has here taken a leaf from Napoleon's book of tactics. L'Aigle (the Eagle) of Victory is one of the most original and surprising scents ever made. Blending laurel, with its overtones of bay leaf and eucalyptus, with thyme and birch tar, produces one of the most aromatic and unusual scents ever made - an olfactory triumph worthy of its own wreath of glory.

And, as another historical footnote, given the recent proliferation of derivative scents, we tend to view the ingredient 'oud' as an on-trend, modern, Arabic note that almost every perfume house now needs in its range. It is of course, nothing of the kind. Under its traditional name of aloes-wood, oud oil has been used in perfumery for over three hundred years. We find it listed here in Rance's 1809 creation, but even earlier examples can be found - not least in Louise XIV's favourite fabric conditioner Aqua Angeli, used by the Sun King to scent his shirts one hundred years earlier still !

View more of the Eagle of Victory.

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Since discovering Woodforde & Co in Sidmouth, I know where to go to find my perfect perfume. This charming emporium is located in Church Street and is run by husband and wife, Jon and Jane Brewer, both of whom have an encyclopaedic knowledge and an enthusiastic passion for perfumery.

Devon Today