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The Perfect Road Trip

The Perfect Road Trip
Runners Up Award- Ambipur Contest

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Fragrance of Grasse

(The pretty hills of Grasse)
The bus number 500 left the station at Nice as the thin traffic appeared on the Promenade des Anglais the street that overlooks the beautiful pebbled beach spread for mile along the Mediterranean coast. The heart was longing to reach the world’s perfume capital, Grasse. The drive along the sea initially till the Nice airport, soon ends for a gradual climb through a dense foliage in hills. The scenic beauty is breathtaking and soon the fragrance of the plants and sight of flowers greeted us. The aroma of fresh fragrant air enters the bus as the door opens on the wayside small stops. During the summer months the sight of Lavenders, Jasmines, Centifolia Rose , Iris pallida, Roses greets the onlookers. The biodiversity of the region aids in the growth of the most spectacular flowers in the world here.  The town was once known for tanneries and over the time people learned the fine art of making the perfumes. Most of the world’s renowned perfumes like Christian Dior, Estee Lauder, YSL( Yves Saint Laurent),Nina Ricci, Givenchy, Lancome and more come from France and their share is 30% of the world’s output.
Major Parfumeries in Grasse
Soon one can see the lovely factories that have been here in existence for more than a century , doting the landscape. Galimard, Molinard, and Fragongard are one of the biggest names that make perfumes here and it is possible to do a free tour followed with a workshop for two hours and prepare your own brand of perfume with the help of ‘Nose’ and their assistants.
The facilities of Fragongard

During the guided tour, it was fascinating to see the traditional process of extraction of ‘essential oils’ by the process of ‘Maceration’ ( soaking the flowers in a liquid that will absorb their fragrance) or by distillation. Next, the extracted oil is blended into the perfume as per the formula worked out by the ‘Nose’. 
The process of Maceration
With a lively and entertaining approach, the ‘Nose’ explains the architecture of a good perfume that is the ‘Top Note’( Peak), Middle Note(heart note) and Base Note(Fond Note).  ‘Nose’ is the expert with highly developed olfactory sense that develops new perfumes. There are about a thousand ‘Noses’ in the world and of these only 50 that are masters in the trade. The majority of them work with the perfumeries in Grasse. There could be as many as 800 ingredients in a formula developed by the experts and each formula is patented. Next, the scent is mixed with alcohol, the percentage of which varies depending on the usage. The perfumes have 10-20% content of essential oil whereas the colognes have just 3-5% of the essential oil content.
An office of the 'Nose'
Fine perfumes are then aged for periods ranging from 15 days to a few months. The quality control is very strict and the final product is bottled in very enticing packaged fancy bottles. All the perfumeries use the fatty acids / oils to make special soaps that are equally ‘alluring’.
An enticiing display of perfumes
An experience of creating ‘your own perfume’ is a huge learning experience besides creating your own perfume and the formula is registered in the name of the creator( You)!So the beautiful 100ml of perfume in the specially packaged bottle can be carried as a souvenir along with a diploma certifying completion of seminar.
International Museum of Perfumes at Grasse
There is also a beautiful  International Museum of Perfume’ in Grasse that can be visited to learn more about perfumes and the history. It was a rewarding day which will remain etched in memory forever. The return trip through the fascinating city of Cannes deserves another post.

16 comments:

  1. I always enjoy watching the blue sky in France. Your photos brought back those memories.
    Heaven with fragrance at Grasse.

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    1. Thank you, Kaustabh and fully agree with you that the blue sky of France is appealing indeed. Welcome to my blog.

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  2. What a makeover,from tanneries to perfumes.We take a perfume casually,but look what goes on in it's making!

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    1. Thanks for reading, Induji. It is a revelation to see how perfumes are made in the pristine environs of Grasse.

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  3. Grasse sounds like the perfume capital. Is it?
    This sounds like a very, very interesting trip. :)

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    1. Indeed it is the perfume capital, Divya and the trip ia a memorable one.

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  4. I get to visit provinces, towns, cities that I have not even heard of through your blogposts.

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    1. I am happy that I can share these travel stories to fascinating places with esteemed writers/readers like you, through my humble blog posts, Purba:)

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  5. Creating ‘your own perfume’!! Wow! That's amazing. This has been such a fascinating and insightful travelogue.

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    1. Thanks Shilpa, for reading. It was great fun to visit this unusual place

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  6. Grasse sounds like a place I would love to visit. Thanks for sharing about your trips and the photographs are lovely. I travel the world through your blog, Rahul :)

    I am sure you would have visited most of the countries by now :)

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    1. It is a lovely destination Rachna! I am happy to take you on virtual tour, and I have been fortunate to visit a bit of the world:)

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  7. The idea of creating your own perfume for free is so enticing. Moreover, letting you take the bottle as a souvenir is such a lovely act on their part...it is the best memory one can take from there!

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  8. True and fascinating is'nt it? Thanks for reading Alok!

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