Perfume Holiday in Grasse – Review from Anu Lall

6Every wondered how your favourite perfume is created?  If you had visions of labs and factories in urban spaces you can forget them and read on to enjoy the beautiful description and first hand review from our customer Anu, who took one of our perfume courses in Grasse – France’s perfume capital….

“Discovered something interesting last year, in an itsy-bitsy town called GrassePerfume Making.  Not that choosing a perfume was ever easy,  with this new-found, half-baked knowledge, it just got tougher. Here goes…

Grasse is tucked away behind the caked-up, glitzy Cannes. With gentle slopes of white jasmine & yellow mimosa all around, its a fresh & clean delight. A population of 50,000 has over 30 perfumeries, thats about one perfumery to sixteen hundred odd people !! Wow!!! Interestingly, Grasse was a centre of leather tanning & glove production till 16th century and was equally famous for the stench from leather processing.  One day a pioneering entrepreneur started making “scented” gloves by rubbing the flowers growing around,  on animal hide. These gloves, targeted at the “opera going women” soon became a rage all over Europe. Overtime apothecaries set up & maestros started to settle down and the history of fragrance began…

As for myself, I enrolled for a “certificate” course, with lunch and a bottle of wine thrown in :)  i  mean just incase….least  something to fall back on. On entering the workshop, I was escorted to my “station” where I had an array of tiny bottles of fragrances, beakers, burettes, measures and stirrers spread out and the class rolled on..

Apparantly, every perfume in the world is a harmonious composition of 3 sets of Notes in a pyramid structure:

1. Top notes/ Head Notes: Light, volatile, fresh fragrances that evaporate fast & give a youthful touch to the perfume. It is the first fragrance you register when you open a bottle. Some of us wave our perfume testing sniffer wands to avoid these “sharp” notes. Grapefruit, Lemon, Lemongrass, Orange, Peppermint, Mandarin Orange, cinnamon are popular top notes

2. Middle notes/ Heart Note: Apparently they reach the heart :) and you buy a perfume based on these notes…Nutmeg, pine, rosemary… almost all the spicy ones. This is the fragrance remains on your wrists /ear lobes most part of the day

3. Base notes: Deep, rich, heavy, add the depth. You don’t smell it till almost an hour after spraying, and this is what remains on your collar/cuffs, when you take off your clothes at the end of the day. Jasmine, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Vanilla, Rose..

Lemme explain what we were told… for example, Dior J’adore  has  Bergamot fruit peel as the top note… Damascena rose as heart; jasmine as the base note, giving it a delicate balance. Ofcourse there might be trace elements of thousands others which is part of the secret formula !! A trained Olfactory maestro, “Nez”, is able to identify 3000 scents in a single whiff…phew !!

We were advised, “Close your eyes, and don’t let your education interfere with your fragrance. Sometimes we get biased by the name of the fragrance”

I think Most Indians would cringe a bit at Jasmine or “Chameli” :) :) Well,  I didnt know J’adore is predominantly jasmine.

I must have randomly dipped my paper sniffer into some 30 bottles to identify just a base note, which is 50% of a perfume. Initially, with a base of cedar, with orange & lemongrass being the predominant middle & top notes, the beaker smelt like a some yucky fruity jam (yikes!!!).  Very dexterously the trainer suggested I add earthy patchouli and floral geranium to recreate the harmony. Gardenia and tabac came next. While, I was partial towards Florals (jasmine, rose) and Orientals (orange, lemon); my partner preferred the Woody (cedar, sandal), and Fruity (mango, passion fruit) families.

The Notes bottles were marked with very cute identifiers… Men’s Hearts notes like musk identified with images of “Men’s shirt pockets” and  Women’s Heart notes had images of a “Women’s cleavage” . Base Notes bottles had images of “Women’s Skirts” and “Men’s Pants”. Hilarious representation, as literal as it can get !!

By the time we got to the 3rd or the 4th fragrance, all of us forgot the smell of the first note. As olfactory fatigue set in, Coffee breaks came in handy.  Interestingly while wine is part of the course, coffee is chargeable at 3 euro. Such is the French love for wine, but that’s the matter of another story!

After day long experimentation I was eventually, reasonably satisfied with my concoction. One can give it a name, and I called mine “Parfum de la vie”. The perfumery packed a take-away bottle of my precious formula. They also preserved it under my name so that I can re-order it anytime. That felt so terribly good!!  Almost feels like I have a patent to my name hehehhe :)

All in all, while most travels appeal to the eyes where we furiously click pictures, a trip to Grasse is purely an ode to sense of smell and a trip for the nose. One of the most prescribed experiences and a must do for all perfume lovers.”

1Anu took the Rose of May Perfumery Course to view the full details and other perfume courses in Grasse, check out the NotInTheGuideBookswebsite: Perfume holidays, give us a call to have a chat on +44 (0)208 144 5990 or email us [email protected]