The south of France contains many indulgent wonders for those who are lucky enough to tread upon its luscious landscapes. Those who have not been able to wander through the beauty of the south of France have been enthralled and enchanted by the tales of the region. The warm caress of the waves and wind of the Mediterranean Sea, the majestic mountains and the charming villages - certainly, the south of France has something for everyone.
Nestled in the south of France is a little town with a big reputation to which it easily lives up. Grasse, a gateway town due to its ideal proximity to Nice and Cannes, has been known for centuries as the perfume capital of the world.
The perfume capital of the world acquired this title through a fascinating history which spans over several decades. Originally known for their specialty in leather tanning, Grasse was the location of many technological advances in this industry and thus produced high quality hides which were coveted by many. However, this high quality leather smelled bad, and this offended the nobility who purchased and wired leather gloves. A stroke of genius occurred to a tanner in Grasse named Galimard who gave rise to the concept of scented leather gloves which would retain the high quality leather while masking the unpleasant smell. His invention pleased Catherine de Medici, Queen of France, and it then became the must-have item in French high society.
The invention of scented leather gloves made Grasse internationally recognisable, and the 17th century was a prosperous time for the small mountain town in the south of France. However, the next century ushered in competition in leather goods from the nearby Nice and high taxes on leather. This put an end to the production of scented leather gloves in Grasse. However, one half of the successful product still had potential in providing a thriving industry in Grasse - the perfume industry.
Thanks to the favourable climate and abundant environment, Grasse was able to produce a number of delicate flowers such as rose, jasmine, orange blossom, lavender and wild mimosa. Transforming this into exotic and covetable scents was what gave Grasse its reputation as the perfume capital of the world, and that century saw the settling of a number of apothecaries and perfumers in Grasse.
Due to the eagerness of a number of multinational companies to drive down the cost of perfume production, modern fragrances now use synthetic chemicals and are manufactured in cheaper places abroad. However, Grasse has yet again proven to be resilient to changing times and processes, and continued to uphold its reputation as the perfume capital of the world even though the majority of perfumes are no longer produced there.
Grasse still represents nearly 10% of global perfume activity and nearly 50% of France's fragrance production - impressive for a town of just over 50,000 inhabitants. There is no place better to be trained in the art of perfumery than Grasse, so anyone who dreams of becoming an established 'nose' either trains or has spent time in Grasse.
Grasse is a lovely place to visit whether or not you are a perfume enthusiast. Certainly, the top must-dos of Grass are the free tours of Galimard, Molinard, and Fragonard, Grasse's oldest perfumeries. In fact, Galimard is the oldest perfumery in France and the third oldest in the world. In these tours, you can witness the process of making perfumes and even come out with your very own creation. For those who love flowers, take a stroll through one of Grasse's many flower fields. Additionally, the museums of Grasse are not to be missed.
So if you are on your way to the film festival in Cannes or to the Mediterranean, be sure to treat your sense of smell with a trip to the perfume capital of the world.