Perfume & Museum

General view of the International Perfume Museum’s gardens in Grasse. “The same rose or the same jasmine grown in Egypt or Morocco, it will be different from the rose grown in Grasse,” head gardener Christophe Meze says. “It’s like wine, you can have the same type of grape, but you won’t have the same wine because of the sun, because of the soil, because of the terroir.” Bénédicte Desrus for NPR

Perfume appeared early in our pages mostly due to their botanical intrigue–but has only been an occasional topic since then. This story of how the perfume trade developed (if the topic is of greater interest see Chandler Burr’s The Emperor of Scent) in Grasse is a fine fit with our interest in unusual museums and the intersection of farming and innovation:

In France’s Perfume Capital Of The World, There’s A World Of Beautiful Fragrance

Perfume flower grower Pierre Chiarla picks jasmine flowers in his field in Grasse, France. Bénédicte Desrus for NPR

GRASSE, France — The town of Grasse sits in the hills above the more famous French Riviera city of Cannes, and it doesn’t have the Mediterranean Sea at its doorstep. What it does have is fields of flowers — jasmine, May rose, tuberose, lavender. It is known as the perfume capital of the world.

It wasn’t always this way. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, the industry took off in Grasse in part because this was an absolutely putrid-smelling town.

“Grasse, in the Middle Ages and especially in the 16th century, is well known all over Europe for leather, not for perfume,” says Laurent Pouppeville, the director of Grasse’s perfume museum.

Thanks to its tanneries, the town reeked of dead animals and lye. It was the glove makers who first tried to make their product smell better, using a technique called maceration.

“They used animal fat and they’re going to put flowers in this fat and so the fat is going to take the perfume of the flowers,” Pouppeville explains. “And they’re going to obtain after two months a perfume pomade. And they’re going to perfume the leather gloves with these perfume pomades.”…

Read the whole article here.

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