Travel: 72 posts

Searching for scents and sensory traditions around the world.

The Art of Perfume Course : Workshop

Here is a recap of the three days of our Art of Perfume course: on Day 1 we visited the Edmond Roudnitska garden and explored the International Perfume Museum in Grasse, on Day 2 we learned about perfumes that influenced fragrance history and more, and on Day 3 we applied our newly learned skills to practical exercises.

As I mentioned before, my course was designed with all of the rigor of a professional training program, keeping in mind our time limitations. It takes years to learn how to make a perfume, but one can acquire basic knowledge of raw materials and try simple exercises to see how they interact together. All of this not only helps deepen one’s knowledge of perfumery, but also makes one’s perceptions sharper.

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Warmed by the Sun in Iza

Last month I visited Iza, a village in western Ukraine renowned for its grapevine weaving tradition. Tiny shops lining the roads offered a selection of baskets, boxes, furniture and toys. I walked from one store to another, admiring as much the intricate patterns of braids, stars and coiled loops as the scent of weaving warming in the spring sun.

The fragrance was sweet like vanilla biscuits, with a mellow accent reminiscent of an antique shop–wood shavings, dust and varnish. Have I smelled it before? It seemed familiar to the point of disturbing, like a half-remembered face in the crowd or a word sitting on the tip of the tongue.

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The Art of Perfume : Perfume Techniques and Stories

I already wrote about my most recent perfumery course, covering the first day of our activities, visiting the Edmond Roudnitska garden and exploring the International Perfume Museum in Grasse. Today I’m continuing with our second day, which covered perfume history and professional smelling techniques.

Whenever I hear the phrase “perfume history,” I think of the typical introductory chapter in books on fragrance that start with the Egyptians and the stuff researchers still find in the pyramids. Then a writer might continue with a short homage to the Romans, include a remark on the use of perfume by the bath fearing Europeans in the Middle Ages and with a clear conscience they skip to the brave new world of the 20th century and its Chanels and Guerlains. Perfume history is fascinating stuff, but why is it presented in such a dull manner? I want to do something different.

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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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  • Tania in Falling In, Falling Out : Autumn is for Rekindling Old Flames: Hello Elisa, I gave a lot of bottles away on a whim, the only one I regretted giving away is Oriental Express by Thierry Mugler. I agree with spe that… September 24, 2017 at 5:17am

  • Carla in 5 Ways to Transition Into Fall: Hello, yes I have been a fan since I timidly asked a pretty girl at the “Fac” during my year abroad what perfume she was wearing and she responded Hypnotic… September 23, 2017 at 10:31pm

  • Carla in 5 Ways to Transition Into Fall: Hi Aurora, I hope you enjoyed the introduction to the Prince in the Golden Bowl. I remember Toibin said you have to read James fast and not try to understand… September 23, 2017 at 10:28pm

  • Tara C in 5 Ways to Transition Into Fall: I just bought Close Up today! It has an apple note to my nose that goes well with the tobacco note, perfect for fall. September 23, 2017 at 8:33pm

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