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Welcome to Grasse,
the Perfume Capital of the World

Walking the ancient streets of Grasse, a quaint stone town in the hills just north of Cannes, you can’t help but delight in the aromas of jasmine, iris and mimosa floating in the air. You’re in the epicenter of the perfume industry, and the locals are not afraid to show off their specialty. This is the place where the most advanced techniques and hottest formulas in fragrance are developed— a town where you can imagine school children announcing dreams to grow up and become a “nose.”

For the people of Grasse, fragrance is understood as not only an economic powerhouse (600 million Euros a year) and a longstanding tradition, but an art form. And why shouldn’t it be? Smell is one of our deepest senses, connected to our breath, our memory and our subconscious. Humans have known for millennia that the olfactory environment has a major impact on our wellbeing. So there’s no doubt—perfume is powerful.

Whether it’s by lighting a scented candle or starting your day with a misting of eau de toilette, being enveloped in a scent you love is one of the easiest ways to raise your vibration. So of course while en Provence, we were curious to take a closer look at this land of flower fields and laboratories, distillation vats and reclusive fragrance gurus. Join us as we get the full story of Les Parfums de Provence.

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Since the Dawn of
Civilization

par-1Almost all human cultures have developed their own version of perfume, using herbs, woods and flowers in ingenious ways to scent their environment—think incenses, resins and natural potpourri. In Europe, the technique for creating a liquid fragrance had been lost since the fall of Rome. For centuries medieval court ladies made do with little sachets of dried herbs and flowers, until the knowledge of distillation returned during the Renaissance and perfume became the new royal must-have.

 

The Rise of Grasse

Grasse came to the perfume industry by way of the leather industry and fortunate geography. Leather production had been big there since the 12th century and unfortunately, it was a par-2stinky business. Up until the Renaissance people put up with the foul odors of their belts, bags and wallets, but now they expected better. The Grasse leather manufacturers looked to the jasmine and lavender growing in abundance around town and came up with an idea that would soon be all the rage among European royalty—perfumed gloves.

Since the Dawn of
Civilization

par-1Almost all human cultures have developed their own version of perfume, using herbs, woods and flowers in ingenious ways to scent their environment—think incenses, resins and natural potpourri. In Europe, the technique for creating a liquid fragrance had been lost since the fall of Rome. For centuries medieval court ladies made do with little sachets of dried herbs and flowers, until the knowledge of distillation returned during the Renaissance and perfume became the new royal must-have.

 

The Rise of Grasse

Grasse came to the perfume industry by way of the leather industry and fortunate geography. Leather production had been big there since the 12th century and unfortunately, it was a stinky business. Up until the Renaissance people put up with the foul odors of their belts, bags and wallets, but now they expected better. The Grasse leather manufacturers looked to the jasmine and lavender growing in abundance around town and came up with an idea that would soon be all the rage among European royalty—perfumed gloves.

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The Factories

GaliMard
Established 1747
The third oldest perfume company in the world, established by Jean de Galimard, who provided the Royal Court with perfumes, ointments and apothecary products.

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Molinard
Established 1849
Once upon a time every bottle that came from this factory (in a building designed by Gustave Eiffel, by the way) was made of Baccarat or Lalique crystal.

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Fragonard
Established 1926
The fabulous museum here covers 5000 years of perfumery, while a workshop will teach you ancient techniques for making your own cologne or orange blossom eau de toilette.

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Endless Fields of Flowers

Warm, sunny and sheltered from the sea, Grasse has the ideal climate to grow plenty of big, beautiful, fragrant flowers—a fact that has propelled perfume dominance for hundreds of years. However, while the global perfume industry has grown, flower exports have plummeted. In the 1940s, fields were producing five thousand tons a year. Today that number is just 30 tons. While some luxury brands like Chanel and Dior still have their own fields in Grasse, the industry is moving toward synthetics. And more importantly, in the age of globalization, flowers are grown more cheaply elsewhere—and it can take over 600 roses to make just one little bottle.
 
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Who are “Les Nez”?

While Grasse no longer provides the bulk of the flowers that perfume the planet, it remains the creative leader of the industry. The most exquisite, popular, life-changing p4fragrances are concocted here in intimate laboratories by the rare and interesting breed of artist known as a “nez”—French for “nose.” Noses study and train (in Grasse, typically) for 10 years or more to be capable chemists who can identify over 2000 scents. Their highly-dedicated, often Monkish lives demand that they refrain from anything that might interfere with their sense of smell—including drinking, smoking and eating spicy food. Noses not only develop fragrances for high-end perfumes, their work may be intended for things like glass cleaner, dish soap, yogurt, or shampoo.

 

 

Who are “Les Nez”?

While Grasse no longer provides the bulk of the flowers that perfume the planet, it remains the creative leader of the industry. The most exquisite, popular, life-changing fragrances are concocted here in intimate laboratories by the rare and interesting breed of artist known as a “nez”—French for “nose.” Noses study and train (in Grasse, typically) for 10 years or more to be capable chemists who can identify over 2000 scents. Their highly-dedicated, often Monkish lives demand that they refrain from anything that might interfere with their sense of smell—including drinking, smoking and eating spicy food. Noses not only develop fragrances for high-end perfumes, their work may be intended for things like glass cleaner, dish soap, yogurt, or shampoo.

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Iconic Scents
in the History of Perfume
Fleurs de Bulgarie

Creed — 1845
A best-seller to this day, this blend of rose, musk, ambergris and bergamot was created for Queen Victoria and worn throughout her UK reign. Thanks to the Queen’s approval, the Mayfair brand was soon favored by the rulers of France, Spain and Austria-Hungary as well.

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Fougère Royale

House of Houbigant — 1882
One of the oldest perfume houses in France created this innovative blend in 1882, which introduced a new category of men’s perfume, “the Fougère” (meaning: fern). A template for hundreds of new colognes developed since, it remains a popular classic to this day.

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Jicky

Guerlain — 1889
Aimé Guerlain, the second generation in the Guerlain dynasty of noses, was inspired by the art of La Belle Epoque to create this revolutionary fragrance. Jicky was one of the first perfumes to blend precious naturals with the synthetic “Guerlinade,” which would become the brand’s subtle signature.

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No. 5

Chanel — 1921
Chanel enlisted Grasse-based nose Ernst Beaux to develop her first perfume. She envisioned something totally fresh and modern: “A perfume like nothing else.” The result was an abstract blend of 80 notes, none particularly dominant, and a rush of bright, synthetic aldehydes that changed perfume forever.

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