It has been a few years since I have been to France but I’m certain that Graçais was not quite the way to say ‘thank you’. After a couple of days I was acing the lingo in McDonalds (of all places) with ‘petit Coca-Cola s’il vous plaît?’. Well I was proud of myself. I had a lovely time in Nice, France with sightseeing (yes I made it further than McDonalds), architecture and I even managed to find some new tea infusions! But there was part of my trip that I wanted to share with you; Fragonard Perfumerie Museum in Grasse.
The historic perfume factory is in the heart of the Old Town and one of the oldest in Grasse. I went on a free guided tour (available in all European languages) to discover the various procedures involved in creating and producing the Fragonard products. Firstly, did you know that perfume has a shorter life in a glass bottle than an aluminium bottle? 3 years difference in fact!
Essences are mixed with alcohol and soaked for 3 weeks in order to reach the best olfactory quality. However, if you only require a small amount of the perfume you would filter it like you would coffee, just of course the filter is much bigger! Wouldn’t want to get those confused first thing in the morning.
In order to extract the oils from the flower a technique using fat was created and perfected in Grasse, cold extraction. It uses the property of the fats to absorb and perfume material from the flowers. These scents are then washes in alcohol to produce absolutes.
Did you know?
Chanel No. 5 only uses Jasmine and may roses from Grasse and not anywhere else. The location of the flowers is important, otherwise it will affect the end result of the perfume, could you imagine Chanel No. 5 not smelling the way it should?
But Grasse didn’t always set out to be famous for it’s perfumes. During the Middle Ages the town was infamous for high-quality but unpleasant smelling leather goods. Local flower essences were used to mask the aroma and soon scented gloves were popular. Unfortunately the leather industry declined from new taxes, however, the perfumeries that created the scents continued to flourish. Grasse soon became known as the perfume capital of the world. Today, there are less perfume houses in Grasse but Fragonard is worth a visit but don’t expect to become a professional in perfume, especially not one that the call ‘the nose’. It takes 9 years to become a perfume nose, that 2 years study and 7 years of experience – I don’t think I’ll be changing career track anytime soon…
Grasse is one of those towns which is cute and full of history and frankly I think they might just be my favourites (and some perfect spots to practice some architectural photography tips I learnt recently at Le Méridien Piccadilly). If you are in the French Riviera you should make a visit to this small Provençal town tucked away in the hilltops to discover the wonders of perfume.