grasse

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Formulated in London. Made in England. Let's go to Grasse!

Anywhere billing itself as the world capital of anything is worth treating with respect and caution.

Grasse operates a two-tier system with a gentle crossover. There's the tourist part (Fragonard etc.) and then there's the professional part (Mane etc.) I'm somewhere in the middle, part tourist and part professional.

I contacted a few of the heavyweight firms, cheerfully outlined my project and enquired if anyone would have half an hour to spare when I was in town. No one got back to me.

Undeterred, I turned up at the end of the season and was the last and only guest in a nice little hotel in the centre of town.

At the Fragonard facility on the outskirts of Grasse, a bit more industrial than their museum in town, I arrived just as a French tour was setting off. "Oui!" I said at what sounded like an invitation to join, hoping no one would ask any questions of us as I'd just expended my only word of French.

The very tourist end was a fascinating exercise in marketing, particularly one facility where we were told a few half-truths and some blatant untruths about natural ingredients and methods of production. I didn’t want to raise my objecting hand and be “that guy”.

It was a disappointing “exit through the gift shop” experience and what I found so stupid is the products in the gift shop were very nice and didn’t need all the bullshit to sell them.

For aspiring perfumers, the picture above shows what’s needed if you’re to succeed at Mollinard.