Grasse

The town is considered the world’s capital of perfume. It is 350 m (1,148.29 ft) above sea level and 20 km (12 mi) from the Côte d’Azur

Three perfume factories offer daily tours and demonstrations, which draw in many of the region’s visitors. In addition to the perfumeries, Grasse’s other main attraction is the Cathedral, dedicated to Notre Dame du Puy and founded in the 11th century.

Grasse has had a prospering perfume industry since the end of the 18th century and it is the centre of the French perfume industry. It produces over two-thirds of France’s natural aromas (for perfume and for food flavourings). Its particular microclimate encouraged the flower farming industry. It is warm and sufficiently inland to be sheltered from the sea air. There is an abundance of water, thanks to its situation in the hills and the 1860 construction of the Siagne canal for irrigation purposes. Jasmine, a key ingredient of many perfumes, was brought to southern France by the Arabs of North Africa in the 16th century. Twenty-seven tonnes of jasmine are now harvested in Grasse annually. There are numerous old ‘parfumeries’ , such as Galimard, Molinard and Fragonard, each with tours and a museum.

The countryside around the city began to grow fields of flowers, offering new scents from the city. In the middle of the eighteenth century, the perfumery was experiencing a very important development. Leading companies dating from this period includes oldest French perfumerie and third oldest parfumerie in Europe Galimard established in 1747.

In the Middle Ages, Grasse specialized in leather tanning. Once tanned, the hides were often exported to Genoa or Pisa, cities that shared a commercial alliance with Grasse. Several centuries of this intense activity witnessed many technological advances within tanning industries. The hides of the town acquired a reputation for high quality. But the leather smelled badly, something that did not please the glove wearing nobility. This is when Galimard, a tanner came up with the idea of scented leather gloves. He offered a pair of scented gloves to Catherine de Medici who was seduced by the gift. Thereafter, the product spread through the Royal Court and high society, and this made a worldwide reputation for Grasse. The seventeenth century became the heyday of “Glovers Perfumers’. The rare scents from this town’s (lavender, myrtle, jasmine, rose, orange blossom and wild mimosa) did win the title for the Grasse as the perfume capital of the world.

A network of sixty companies employs 3,500 people in the city and surrounding area. Additionally about 10,000 residents are indirectly employed by the perfume industry. The main activity of perfumery is in the production of natural raw materials (essential oils, concretes, absolutes, resinoids and molecular distillation) and the production of concentrate, also called the juice. A concentrate is the main product that when diluted in at least 80% alcohol provides a perfume. Also food flavorings, which developed since the 1970s, account for over half of production output today.

The Fragonard Perfumery was established in 1926 in one of the oldest factories in the city. Its museum Fragonard Musée du Parfum displays rare objects that explain the history of perfumery, covering 5,000 years.
International Perfume Museum. Opened in 1989, the museum traces the evolution of techniques during the 5,000 year history of perfumery and the large contribution of the Grasse area to perfume making.

These are some pics I took of the old town. And there is a 5mn long video through the old streets.