When it comes to perfumery craft no other country is ranked as high as France. Many of the greatest names in the perfume industry like Christian Dior, Chanel or Estee Lauder are of French origin.
Perfumery craft in France
France is a leader in international perfume sales with 30% of the world market. French company LVMH is the greatest luxury-goods company in the world, and French perfumes and cosmetics are among its most important brands.
France was not the first country in the world to invent perfumes. The art of perfumery can be traced back to the origins of western civilization in Mesopotamia. Perfumes were used to hide odor and make people smell attractive instead. In times before bathing was a common activity, it was very important.
Perfumes became particularly popular in Europe at the time of the Renaissance period. Catherine de Medici, wife of King Henri II, is credited with having introduced a fashion for perfumes into France.
Nowadays the big names of the perfume industry are based in Paris and the Parisian perfumes are appreciated the most.
The heart of perfume industry
The heart of the French perfume industry is in the small town of Grasse, in the Alpes Maritimes department, northwest of Nice. 20 km from the coast and at an altitude of 350 meters, Grasse has a mild Mediterranean climate that is suited for the production of jasmine, one of the most important natural aromas used by the perfume industry. But Grasse is also famous for its production of many other natural fragrances, including lavender, myrtle, roses and mimosa.
International Perfume Museum
Grasse is also famous for its International Perfume Museum and Fragonard Perfume Museum. Several perfume houses in the city offer free guided tours. There are sixty perfume companies in the area which employ almost 3,500 people. The great art of perfumery is extracting the fragrances of flowers and concentrating them in forms from which they can be transformed into the perfumes that are eventually sold in little bottles. The historic methods of extracting fragrances from flowers are either by maceration (soaking the flowers in a liquid that will absorb their fragrances) or by distillation.