Tried and tested: Jane from NotInTheGuideBookscreates her own perfume in Grasse

When it comes to holidays here at GoLearnTo, we bring you the quirky, the magnificent and the inspirational…. and my perfume making holiday in Grasse, France ticked all these boxes and more!

Read my thoughts on our perfume making break here. I’m only sorry I can’t spray this blog post with my newly created perfumes for you to try… one of the downsides of technology!

Was the perfume making holiday what you expected?

I’ve heard great things from our past guests about this perfume school so I couldn’t wait to see it for myself.

Working for NotInTheGuideBooksdoes make me slightly biased, as I love nothing more than to boast about our holidays, but this experience was one I’ll never forget.

I wear the perfume daily so it’s unlikely I will forget it either as every whiff takes me back to Grasse and holidaying in the sun!

How did you get to Grasse?

I took the bus from Cannes to Grasse which took about 40 minutes and only cost €1 – bargain! The bus stopped right outside of the hotel so we didn’t have to walk far.

On the journey back to Nice airport, I walked to Grasse train station which took about 15 minutes. Then we took the train to Nice St Augustin which took about an hour and cost €9. The train route was really scenic with views of the sparkling Cote-D’Azur.

What was the hotel like to stay in?

perfume making bottles on holiday in Grasse

The staff were so friendly and our room had a lovely view of Grasse which looked gorgeous lit up at night.

There’s also a large outdoor swimming pool (unheated so it wasn’t quite warm enough to use in Feb), but my favourite thing had to be the delicious buffet breakfast.

It was about a 10 minute walk to the perfume school so a really good location for this holiday, and then a 40 minute walk to Grasse centre.

What did you think of Grasse?

Well, it isn’t called the ‘perfume capital of the world’ for nothing. Everywhere you look, there are perfume shops, cosmetic stores, fresh flowers, and fragrant souvenirs.

The town itself is really quaint, with narrow winding streets and beautiful old stone buildings. Travelling in low season meant there wasn’t too much open in the town. There were still some lovely restaurants to eat at in the evenings though.

What was the perfume studio like?

As I walked into the studio, I was overwhelmed with delicious fragrances and had a wander around the gift shop before our class.

Everywhere you look there are bottles of essences ready to make perfume or ready-made perfumes and cosmetics from the school themselves. The studio looks really professional without being clinical.

What were the ‘Noses’ at the perfume school like?

We were taught by our perfume ‘Nose’, Nathalie, who took us around the perfume studio and introduced us to all things fragrant. Everyone sits at their own private work station in the studio and when I got to mine, I was surrounded by 140 different scents and essences, wondering where to begin.

Nathalie was so knowledgeable and funny that I didn’t need to worry; by the end of our class, I’d learnt skills to take with me back to the UK!

perfume making jaWhat are ‘notes’ in a perfume?

There are 3 different ‘notes’ within a perfume, which all serve very different purposes:
•    Peak/top notes – what you initially smell when you spray a perfume. This smell lasts for about 20 minutes, and is mainly fruity, citrusy scents
•    Heart notes – these notes last for between 6 to 8 hours and are more delicate and floral scents
•    Base/fond notes – the base scents are what you’ll smell on your clothes hours afterwards and usually into the next day. These notes tend to be earthy and woody, such as cedarwood

How did you create your perfume on the course?

Nathalie gave us about 14 scents to choose from initially and asked us to choose 3 or 4 that appealed to us.

She then talked us through the foundation of a perfume – base notes, heart notes, and top notes, so that we understood how to build up the layers, starting with the base notes.

Once we’d identified the 3 groups of scents we liked, we chose 3 out of 12 new essences that we liked to make up the base. Nathalie told us the quantities to use, explaining which scents would be more overpowering and after I measured and mixed these, the smell was delicious!

For the heart notes, again I chose 4 scents from a selection that appealed to me on their own from the initial groups I’d chosen. I then smelt these scents over my base notes using a paper perfume stick, to see how the smells all blended together before deciding for sure. Some that I thought would mix really well really didn’t so it’s a really important process.

This process was repeated for the top notes, with new essences in bottles and again we smelt the ones that appealed to us over the existing perfume to make sure they mixed well. Then it was time to mix it all together before smelling the finished product, settling on a name (I called mine ‘Exotic Nights’ because of the warm musky smell!) and choosing whether to have it in a gold or silver bottle.

What essences went into your ‘Exotic Nights’ perfume?

•    Top notes: Bergamot, green tea, English tea, blackcurrant
•    Heart notes: Peony, complex fruits, ylang, gardenia, pomegranate flower
•    Base notes: Amber, green amber, vanilla, soft musk

How did you make your room fragrance?

two perfume bottles of room fragrance

The process is similar to the perfume making as you mix the fragrances in stages and again smell each new scents with the ones you’ve already mixed to see if they agree together.

The concept is really interesting though, as there are 4 categories – childhood, summer, aromatic and exotic. You choose whichever bottle of these smells best to you, and then make the room fragrance in layers as if you were throwing a dinner party, with a starter, main course, palate cleanser and dessert (starting with the dessert).

What essences went into your ‘Fresh Air’ room fragrance?

•   Starter: Mint, lemon, basil, cucumber
•   Main course:  Carrot, Japanese lemon, ginger, pink fruits
•   Palate cleanser: Chef’s brandy, green tea
•   Dessert: Fig, prune, pear sorbet, white peach

Do you like the smell of your ‘Fresh Air’ fragrance?

YES! The initial scents that hit you when you spray it are mint, lemon, basil and cucumber so it reminds us all of a mojito cocktail – can’t ask for more than that!

After we made it, the perfume school gave us a glass of champagne – a perfect ending to the day.

champagne and biscuits at the perfume school

What would you say to anyone who was thinking about taking this holiday?

If you’re easily bored, curious to learn new things, and looking to do something refreshing and fulfilling on holiday then do it! Not only did I have a fantastic time with the team, but I learnt skills to last me a lifetime and brought back the ultimate souvenir – my own ‘Exotic Nights’ perfume and ‘Fresh Air’ room fragrance.


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