The town of Grasse in France is considered the world’s capital of perfume, and was made “Ville d’Art et d’Histoire” (town of art and history).
Grasse has had a prospering perfume industry since the end of the 18th century. It is the centre of the French perfume industry and is known as the world’s perfume capital (la capitale mondiale des parfums). Many “noses” are trained or have spent time in Grasse to distinguish over 2,000 kinds of scent. Grasse produces over two-thirds of France’s natural aromas (for perfume and for food flavourings). Grasse’s particular microclimate encouraged the flower farming industry. It is warm and sufficiently inland to be sheltered from the sea air. There is an abundance of water, thanks to its situation in the hills and the 1860 construction of the Siagne canal for irrigation purposes. Jasmine, a key ingredient of many perfumes, was brought to southern France by the Moors in the 16th century. Twenty-seven tonnes of jasmine is harvested in Grasse annually. There are numerous old ‘perfumeries’ in Grasse, such as Galimard, Molinard and Fragonard.
The trade in leather and tanning work developed during the twelfth century around the small canal that runs through the city. This activity produced a strong unpleasant odour. At the time of the Renaissance perfume manufacturers began production of gloves, handbags and belt (clothing), to meet the new fashion from Italy with the entourage of Queen Catherine de Medici.
The countryside around the city began to grow fields of flowers, offering new scents from the city. In 1614, the king recognized the new corporation of “glovers perfumers”. In the middle of the eighteenth century, the perfumery was experiencing a very important development. Leading companies dating from this period includes oldest French perfumery and third oldest perfumery in Europe Galimard established in 1747. Introduction of new production methods turned perfume making into a real industry that could adapt to new market demands.