Travel: 69 posts

Searching for scents and sensory traditions around the world.

The Art of Perfume Course : Marie-Antoinette’s Travel Case

What would you pack if you had to flee for your life? If you were Marie-Antoinette, you would commission a case that would allow you to write, sew, picnic, and perfume yourself with ease. At the International Perfume Museum (Musée International de la Parfumerie) in Grasse, you can see the very item made to the queen’s specifications before she fled to Varennes in 1791. Legend has it that she was given away by the scent of her rich perfume, but if this travel case is any indication, the royal couple didn’t travel light.

After we visited Edmond Roudnitska’s house as part of my Art of Perfume course, we headed to Grasse. Once upon a time, Grasse used to grow the bulk of the flowers used in the fragrance industry, but today it plays a mainly symbolic role. Its environs produce the famous rose de mai, jasmine, lavender and tuberose, but the combination of high real estate value, steep labor costs and climatic change has affected aromatic agriculture in the region. Nevertheless, it’s a charming town located in one of the most beautiful areas of Provence. It also boasts the best perfume museum in the world.

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The Art of Perfume Course : Grasse and Gardens

The first day of our perfumery course started at the Edmond Roudnitska garden and the Art et Parfum studios. I intended to give an overview of perfume techniques and to analyze some of the greatest perfume masterpieces, and this corner of Provence was the perfect start. Roudnitska founded Art et Parfum a year after the end of WWII, and this 70 year old enterprise is still thriving under the guidance of Michel Roudnitska, Edmond’s son and student.

Roudnitska’s garden is a beautiful place to visit, especially during the spring months when every leaf looks fresh and dewy and every blossom seems like a gem, but it’s not a museum to the great master. Besides Michel, three other perfumers work out of the studio–Céline Ellena and Eric and Jean-Claude Gigodot. Céline Ellena moves her hands when she talks as if conducting an invisible orchestra, and she’s utterly spellbinding. She shared her thoughts on perfumery and what makes her work as an independent creator both challenging and exciting.

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Under the Wisteria : The Art of Perfume

Provence is awash in wisteria. It cascades down every arbor and hugs every stone arch. Its racemes ranging in color from crushed Concord grapes to lavender ice cream tumble from the roofs and hang like Christmas ornaments from the cypress trees. Wisteria smells of orange blossoms, honey and tangerine peel. It leaves me intoxicated. Or perhaps, it’s simply Provence at springtime.

Wisteria and Provence by Anna Kozlova, a marvelous photographer who captured the experience of The Art of Perfume course. More stories and photos to come.

Edmond Roudnitska’s Perfumed Garden

I’m in Provence this week teaching the Art of Perfume course. One of the sessions will take place in the garden created by the legendary perfumer Edmond Roudnitska. Situated in Cabris, it’s maintained by his son Michel Roudnitska, the creator of Parfums DelRae Bois de Paradis and Frédéric Malle Noir Épices who also keeps the tradition alive by running Roudnitska’s Art et Parfum lab and studio.

It’s a marvelous place to visit for anyone interested in modern perfumery, fragrant gardens and history. Above you can see the view from Edmond Roudnitska’s office. How could anyone not have created masterpieces in front of such a splendid view.

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In The Rose Capital of Iran

“The ancient Iranian city of Kashan is sometimes eclipsed by its more famous neighbour, Isfahan, but as I wander around Bagh-e Fin – a vast garden turned into an architectural jewel by the 16th-century Shah Abbas I – I fall under a spell that only Kashan could conjure, with its sandy beige Agha Bozorg mosque, winding streets and remarkable rose plantations. Indeed, roses are the main reason for my trip.” The rose capital of Iran, Kashan, inspired the latest article for my FT column, Radiant Rose Perfumes.

I visited Kashan during the off season for flowers, but nevertheless I had a chance to meet rose distillers and sample perfumes and fragrant waters. The aroma is sweeter, fruitier and warmer than that of Bulgarian or Turkish essences with which I usually work. I’m not the only one who found Iranian rose essence extraordinary, and I discovered that Émilie Coppermann and Francis Kurkdjian were among the perfumers who were fascinated by this material.

In my article, I describe the roses of Kashan and fragrances that remind me of my visit. To read the full piece, please click here.

If you were to do a scent trip anywhere in the world, which places would you have liked to visit? (Let’s dream and pretend that neither time, money nor visas are an issue in our trip planning.)

Photography via FT, a rose distillery in Kashan

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