Grasse is a significant town for French perfume industry. Since 12th century, it was a place for tanning business. The warm weather and rich soil in southern France, especially Provence area, however also served to grow flower. Later on, perfumed leather products became a fashion and the flowers were used for extracting fragrances to scent the leather goods.
At the end of the 18th century. Grasse propered perfume business. After French revolution, leather goods were taxed heavily and local residents complained about the stench of tanning, so the industry gradually lost its charm. However, spice and essential oil businesses took over, and Grasse became known as "capital of perfume." Many "noses," the artists who learn the skills to differentiate more than a thousand smells and mix and match various aroma notes, are trained or working here.
Grasse is also the place where Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, the protagonist in Patrick Suskind’s novle–"Perfume," pursued his quest of "gathering scents" from beautiful girls.
The 3 old perfume factories still exist in Grasse today–Fragonard, Galimard, and Molinard–and are still producing modern perfume. For example, the notes of luxurious "Chanel No.5" and playful "Clinique Happy" came from Fragonard lab.
It takes about 1 hour to drive from Nice to Grasse. Grasse is a city built on hills:
I did not spend much time here because I needed to go to my next destination in the late afternoon. I wish I have another chance to visit here again; I will make sure to explore the town a bit more. I’ve heard that during the summer time when the flowers fully bloom, this town will be filled with wonderful aroma.
I went to one of the 3 perfume factories–Fragonard:
I noticed something unusual about the black car on the left……
It’s a California license plate!!! I don’t know how this person drove all the way down here, but I know she/he must love Fragonard a lot!
Fragonard serves as a factory and museum on the 1st floor and offers free guided tour. There are "noses" working in Fragonard lab to create new perfume. Fragonard make perfume notes for some well-known cosmetics brands, but it also produces and sells their own Fragonard branded perfume, soap, and skin-care products.
This is a chart showing the plants and flowers used in making perfume: (It uses "Cintronnelle" from Taiwan~~)
Some natural perfume ingredients are shown in the glass cabinets:
Fragonard offers free guides in different languages. My guide was beautiful Sandra who spoke English; there were also guides who spoke Chinese.
This is the lab inside. There are normally people working here, but the day I went was a holiday–"Labor Day." The lab was empty and the machines that produced soap were not operating. It should have been fun to see how the soap was made~ Fragonard is very proud of its perfumed soap. Sandra proudly said that the scent of Fragonard-produced soap lasted for a long time and could certainly be used to scent your clothes in the closets and drawers.
There are different methods to obtain perfume from different materials: extract (壓榨), distill (蒸餾), enfleurage a l’huile (油萃), enfleurage a froid (冷萃 ), enfleurage a chaud (熱萃).
"Extract" is used mostly on orange, lemon, tangerine… for those that are only required to be sliced in thin pieces and from which extracted out the essential oil.
"Distill" is used on lavender, sandalwood…by putting these material into a special distilling machine and cooking them for a while, then cooling the vapor to obtain the scent.
"Enfleurage a l’huile" is French, meaning to extract with ordorless fatty oil gathered from cows or pigs. First, a piece of cotton clothes is soaked in clean fatty oil. Flowers are placed on this clothes until the clothes absorbs the scent of the flowers. The oil is squeezed out of the clothes and the scent is extracted by dissolving the fatty oil into alcohol. "enfleurage a froid" is similar to "enfleurage a l’huile," except by using a piece of clothes, the fatty oil is placed on a piece of glass. These methods are used for delicate flowers like violets and jasmines.
"Enfleurage a chaud" is mixing flowers into warm fatty oil, and the fatty oil is also disolved into alcohol to obtain the fragrance. This is often used on mimosa.
Grenouille 在小說"香水"中就是用"enfleurage a l’huile" (油萃法) 來得到美麗女生的香氣… (看過電影或小說的人應該知道我在說什麼…) (電影是2006年上映的, 英文叫: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. 演員有Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman. The movie was really well-made.)
This is "enfleurage a froid." The flowers on the fatty oil are jasmins.
Fragonard’s shop is on the 2nd floor; it sells pure perfume, bath/body care products, solid perfume, perfumed soap, lotion, etc.
這愛心型的肥皂超大顆, 裝在一個麻布袋, 是jasmine的味道.
其實Fragonard很利害的, 參觀跟guide是免費的, 可是它知道你最後一定也會買些東西. 不過它的東西還不錯, 價錢也公道, 而且就是自己工廠的新鮮貨. 還有我注意到了, 你買東西的業績就算你guide的喔, 嘿嘿!
這是我的午餐, 是一家小餐廳. 它叫pizza喔, 可是跟我們一般吃的pizza不太一樣. 那個一大片的硬麵包上有蕃茄, cheese, 鮪魚(?)醬, 葡萄乾, 燻鮭魚. 右上角有一塊小小的麵包上好像是鴨肝醬. 配菜有olive, 蕃茄, 甜菜, 綠綠的一堆菜, 中間好像是小米做的不知名東西, 還有一片超甜的cantaloupe. 很奇妙的組合.
To be continued~~