Grasse, world perfume capital, is just a few kilometers from Nice. So it is a must stop for lovers of perfume. For a long time I have wanted to play at “Apprentice Perfumer.”

Fragonard, one of the oldest and most prestigious perfumeries, offers its visitors a workshop for creation of an eau de Cologne. Thus in April I shared this experience with Shirley, one of my American students.

On the agenda at our workshop:

  • Perfume history and the origin of raw materials
  • Discovery of raw materials and essences (essential oils)
  • Awakening of our senses and olfactory memory; this is where things get complicated!!!

We had before us nine bottles of essential oils that we smelled one by one, while explaining to the other participants of the workshop what we were personally experiencing. As for me, the exercise was particularly difficult because after several minutes my sense of smell was completely saturated: Goodbye to my career as a perfumer. The job of “Nose” demands exceptional faculties including the ability to identify and memorize around 5,000 smells. Amazing, no?

Fortunately Diane, a professional leader, was there to guide us and explain to us the fundamental principals of composition in the creation of a perfume. To compose our own eau de Cologne we had at our disposal alcohol, of course, and the nine bottles of essential oils.

After having made a base composed of lemon, orange and bergamot essential oils, we launched ourselves into the subtle mixes, small hint by small hint. Add only a small drop and the mixture transforms straight away and steers you toward a scent that is not necessarily the one you were looking for.

You should know that in the composition of a simple eau de toilette hundreds of essential oils are combined. To create one’s own eau de Cologne is a very entertaining experience but much more difficult that one thinks. Shirley and I were left with our precious compositions, not totally convinced by our creation. But no matter, we managed to nudge open the door to the very secret world of Perfumery.