Grasse and its perfumes

Smells have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odour cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally.
Patrick Süskind. Perfume.

Grasse, the perfume capital of the world

Imagine fields of roses, jasmine or violmets as far as the eye can see! The amazing colours and light. Now, close your eyes and … breathe in!

Thanks to its climate, our region offers each season its batches of sweet-smelling flowers, trees and plants. Violets and mimosa in winter, roses and jasmine in the springtime, lavender in summer and many other plants, such as sage, pine and orange tree, verbena and thyme… All you have to do is walk around with your nose and heart wide open to pick the subtle fragrances as you go.


The Pays de Grasse in the Alpes–Maritimes is a generous land with an exceptional microclimate and the ideal geographic and historical situation. It has become a reference in the field. It was from the leather tanning activity, and making perfumed gloves (which had to be perfumed to rid them of their smell) that the town of Grasse progressed towards perfumery. With its many advantages (a wide variety of plants, an opening onto the East with great ports such as Marseille, and guaranteed trade outlets …), it became the perfume capital of the world at the beginning of the last century. Today, Grasse is still a very active place, always at the forefront of the search for natural raw materials which are the basis of its subtle fragrances.

Manufacturing process

There are many ways of extracting perfume:

  • Distillation – this uses stills in the same way as for alcohol,
  • Enfleurage – a process which consists of making a decoction of flowers by placing them on a fatty substance which absorbs their fragrance and is then dissolved in alcohol.
  • Maceration – the flowers are macerated in solvents. When they have evaporated they leave a solid perfume which is a mixture of wax and perfume. Absolute, obtained from the solid perfume represents 40% of its volume and is the last stage in extraction.

Today revolutionary processes are used to capture the extremely subtle volatile components. Each perfume is made up of an impressive quantity of elements which are full of an infinite variety of molecules bearing olfactory messages.

The perfumeries

The prestigious perfumers of the Côte d’Azur also offer guided tours: you can discover the different methods of perfume manufacture through the centuries, the essences of the greatest perfumers and a very beautiful collection of antique perfume bottles. These perfumeries now focus on the manufacture of the raw material (the components of the perfume) and food flavouring; some of the great perfumeries, such as Fragonard, Galimard and Molinard perpetuate traditional methods.

To visit one of these magical places is an experience you must not miss. The different methods of extraction of the subtle fragrances of flowers are explained in detail along with the extraordinary and meticulous work of the “noses”, the men and women who juggle with the memory of around 1500 components to create real works of art which will travel all over the world!


The “Domaine des Fontaines Parfumées”

Right in the middle of Grasse, the Domaine des Fontaines Parfumées is home to a terracotta-walled house which was purchased and restored in 2012, and also a garden made up of more than 300 species of flowers. It is now home to the laboratories of the master perfumers of Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior.

The rotunda of the main building has a fountain decorated with mosaics and whose water is scented. In 1920, in what was at the time one of the first perfumeries open to the public, privileged clients could come and fill their bottles from the perfumed fountain…

Do you know the legend of the perfumed fountains? Spikes of lavender were thrown into the stream of the La Foux source which feeds the Domaine’s fountains. The water which gushes from it has a delicate smell of lavender, which fuelled the legend of the site’s naturally perfumed fountains. When Émile André Pélissier set up the “Les Fontaines Parfumées” brand he started by selling visitors the water from the Domaine’s fountains.