grasse: 9 posts

Jean Carles on Olfactory Training and Perfumer’s Organ

“Perfumery is an art, not a science, as many seem to believe. A scientific background is not necessary for the perfumer; scientific knowledge may even sometimes prove an obstacle to the freedom required in perfume creation,” wrote Jean Carles (1892-1966), the perfumer whose fingerprint is on Miss Dior, Carven Ma Griffe, Dana Tabu, Schiaparelli Shocking, and my absolute favorite, Elle… Elle by Lucien Lelong.

“The creative perfumer should use odorous materials in the same way that a painter uses colors and give them opportunity for maximum development and effect, although it is understood that potential reactions such as discoloration within the ultimate formulation and also the stability of the perfume should be given due consideration. This is about the only use the perfumer will be able to make of his scientific training, if any.”

Today many would disagree with Carles’s dismissal of a scientific background, especially when a perfumer is expected to create fragrances for a variety of products, from laundry detergents to candles. Carles himself approached perfumery in a scientific manner, laying out the techniques in his influential “A Method of Creation and Perfumery” published in 1961. All perfumer trainees, myself included, studied according to his theories of smelling and composition.

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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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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.

The Art of Perfume in Grasse : The Course Program

The aim of my Provence class this spring is threefold: to explain how to smell like perfumers, to introduce the landmarks that changed perfume history and to offer a basic technical understanding of perfume composition. With this knowledge you can appreciate fragrances on a deeper level as well as fine-tune your senses in general. The class will take place on April 5-9th in Provence, France. Below is the course program.

WEDNESDAY, April 5
A welcome meeting.

THURSDAY, April 6
Day 1: Inside A Perfumer’s Garden and A Visit to the Perfume Lab

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My Perfumery Course in Grasse and Edmond Roudnitska’s Garden

I’m happy to share that I’m going to teach another perfumery course in Provence this spring. It will take place from April 5-9th in Grasse, while the guests shall be staying near the Cap d’Antibes. Located between Nice and Cannes, it’s ideal for exploring the area that gave rise to modern perfumery as we know it today. Moreover, spring in Provence is the best season: mild, warm and richly scented.

roses5

My course will cover the principles of fragrance construction and perfume history. It requires no prior knowledge of perfumery, and my goal at the end of the long weekend is to leave you with greater knowledge of scents and ways to enjoy them. We will also smell the original versions of classical fragrances and learn about quality and what makes perfume great, rather than merely pleasant. We will also do exercises to sharpen our sense of smell and use professional techniques to help us memorize and describe aromas. It will be a longer and more intensive course than the one I gave in October, with an emphasis on learning the fundamentals of perfumery and the perfumer’s palette.

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Latest Comments

  • ETHEL PARKER in Perfume Decants and Samples Giveaway: I recommend Rose Nacree du Desert(discontinued) ! It was the first time I was able to fully enjoy a fragrance with Oud! The blending of saffron and rose is exquisite,… May 29, 2017 at 3:56pm

  • Hera in Perfume Decants and Samples Giveaway: Thank you for the giveaway. I would like to receive samples and decants for sure. My favorite roses are FM Une Rose and Guerlain Nahema. May 29, 2017 at 12:28pm

  • Aurora in Perfume Decants and Samples Giveaway: Don’t enter me into the draw, I can get hold of samples if I am tempted to discover the Malle perfumes. May 29, 2017 at 10:18am

  • Maria in Perfume Decants and Samples Giveaway: Thank you for sharing with us, Monica! Have you tried Montale Red Flowers, it’s a beautiful spicy rose. Even if I am not in roses I wear it sometimes and… May 29, 2017 at 4:38am

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