provence: 4 posts

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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Marius Fabre Soaps : Provence at Home

French guidebooks often highlight local specialties, be it an Orléanais crayfish flan or Alsatian elderflower wine. That’s how I discovered the Provencal soap maker Marius Fabre.  While fantasizing of a vacation, I leafed through a book on the South of France and spotted a mention of Savon de Marseille, Marseille soap, produced according to traditional methods. Duly noted, Marius Fabre went onto my list of things to try.

marius-fabre1

Ever since I made my own scented soap as a first year perfumery trainee, I’ve been fascinated by the transformation that happens when fats, lye and perfume come together. One wrong ingredient, and a bar of snow white soap turns dirty yellow.  One more mistake–and the whole thing smells rancid, rather than delicious. So, when I stood with my nose pressed against a creamy bar of Marius Fabre’s jasmine soap, I knew that I had discovered something special.

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