Visiting Grasse – the Perfume Capital of the World

Just eleven miles north of Cannes and a really short twenty minute drive, we found Grasse to be a world away from the buzz of the coast. It is known as the capital of the world’s perfume industry and was once a famous resort attracting the likes of Queen Victoria, Napoleon’s sister and Edith Piaff. Nowadays three quarters of the world’s essences are produced here from thousands of tonnes of petals including violets, daffodils, wild lavender and jasmine.

05.25.016 - Grasse

Getting there was super easy and Grasse is still surrounded by jasmine, mimosa, orange blossom and violet fields. Coco Chanel first set up shop in Cannes but when she wanted to create her classic “No 5” fragrance she headed to Grasse – endorsement if ever it was needed.

05.25.017 - Grasse

We had wanted to take a factory tour of a perfumerie. There are over 30 in the little town and a few of the larger ones offer tours. We picked Fragonard, no other reason except it was the first we stumbled upon driving into Grasse.

05.25.002 - Fragonard

The laboratories where the great blends are produced are off limits to visitors, Fragonard and the others though create simple blends and demonstrate some of the industry’s production techniques. You also get a peek into scent extraction and perfume and essential oil production.

05.25.003 - Fragonard

We arrived at the same time as a bus tour of English pensioners. Actually this turned out to be a lucky thing, a tour was already arranged for them, we were asked to tag along. A very nice lady showed us round, but to our (and especially Son’s) disappointment nothing was actually being produced that day as it was a Bank Holiday.

05.25.005 - Fragonard

05.25.006 - Fragonard

We did get a great explanation of the process and how it all worked, just not quite the same as seeing it in action.

05.25.007 - Fragonard

05.25.008 - Fragonard

The desk of the “Nose” particularly intrigued me – look at the view beyond the window. The Nose is a special person who can recognise thousands of fragrances, apparently a normal person can only manage a couple of hundred at best. We heard about this job and the 9 year training process.

05.25.010 - The nose's desk

05.25.011 - Fragonard

The old fashioned method of putting petals in wax daily to extract their scent was beautiful and fascinating.

05.25.012 - Fragonard

05.25.013 - Fragonard

Our tour, probably needless to say, ended up in the shop where our tour guide transformed into a sales person and attempted to sell us their fragrances. Not so much of a hard sell though I have to say and definitely worth it for the very interesting (and free) tour she provided.

05.25.014 - Fragonard

41 thoughts on “Visiting Grasse – the Perfume Capital of the World

  1. I have t been to Grasse, but we did go to a large Fragonard shop in Eze! The “Nose” person is intriguing, 9 years of training…wow! Thanks for taking me for a close-up of the world of fragrance!

  2. Glad you enjoyed it. It’s in a lovely part of Frsnce. I visited a perfume factory in Grasse 21 years ago, which triggered a horrible headache and I have been bothered by perfumes ever since. Not the flowers but whatever the base is.

    • That sounds pretty nasty, I can imagine it happening though, sometimes those base scents do bother me too and lead to queasy feelings. Horrible too that it lasted all this time! Maybe just as well they weren’t producing during our visit!

  3. I would love Grasse Joy! I once saw a TV show about visiting the parfumeries and it was fascinating – the fragrances must smell divine! I do recall them mentioning the “Nose” – obviously a highly skilled profession! I would definitely not have left empty handed either – I love scents have so many candles, oil burners and my own perfumes around the place. I would love the petals and the old production technique too! 🙂

    • It was so interesting and right up my street Rosemary, I love diffusers, candles, scent and all that stuff too so this was my idea of a great place to visit. Just a shame we didn’t see them all in action but still a great day out!

  4. The first thought I had was “head ache” 😀 But this visit sounds more interesting than just strong odors 🙂

    This is out of the topic but has your son has grown to love history and geography? He must have seen and experienced so much with you! What an awesome gift to him.

  5. Such an interesting visit Joy! Wow nine years of training, imagine failing in your 8th year, that would be a disaster!! Such lovely photos 💕

  6. Oh it must have been amazing to lean how to make perfume and visit such a place ! I’m always amazed at these “nez”, the people who created perfume, how do they manage to do it !! After smelling perfume for 5 minutes I cannot smell things clearly… 😀

  7. I don’t wear perfume, but I’ve still always wanted to visit a perfume factory because I’m so intrigued by the concept of the “Nose.” I reckon that with my schnoz, it could be the perfect job for me, but I don’t think my nose is refined enough! Looks like an interesting place though!

    • Lots of people have wondered about the smell but it was fine, not overwhelming or even that strong really. Maybe different if the production process is underway I don’t know. It was so interesting though.

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