I don’t know if I’d truly classify myself as a “girly girl”, but when it comes to things like shoes, jewellery and perfume, well there is no such thing as too many! So when we were in Nice, being so close to the world’s capital of perfume, Grasse, I couldn’t resist making a signature fragrance of my very own!
Being a fan of celebrity scents from the likes of Lady Gaga and J.Lo, I figured if “they” can make their own perfume, why can’t I? Whilst I can’t classify myself as a celebrity (yet), the idea of mixing smells just to my liking and tastes was an opportunity too good to pass up. And, hey, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me!
After a lot of research, I had found that Fragonard, Galimard and Molinard, all world-class perfumeries, offer perfume workshops in Grasse. Here’s what they each offered:
Le Studio des Frangrances – 2-hour workshop with an assistant (‘nose’) to help create your very own personalised fragrance from a range of 127 notes. Take home your creation in a 100ml bottle. Your creation is also kept on file for future orders. – €45
L’atelier des Parfums – 60-minute workshop with 90 essences. The end product will be your very own 50ml fragrance – €69
Le Bar des Frangrances – 30-minute workshop with 3 bases, 6 essences. The end product will be your very own 30ml fragrance – €30
Le Petit Parfumeur – 40-minute workshop with 18 essences. The end product will be a 10ml bottle of your creation – €25
Perfumer’s Apprentice Workshop – 90-minute workshop followed by a guided tour of the factory. You create and take home 100mls of your unique fragrance – €65
Galimard certainly seems to provide the best value overall. This all sounded perfect! The only problem is that the perfumeries in Grasse are not the easiest places to get to.
Getting to Grasse
Getting to Grasse from Nice seems relatively easy enough. You can take a bus or train. Both methods take just over an hour to get from Nice to Grasse. Once in Grasse, you can walk or take a taxi to the perfumerie. When I wanted to go, I had my heart set on Galimard, but it was a 40-minute walk to the factory! Keeping in mind that there are only so many busses and trains to Grasse and the workshop times are set, it looked like we’d have to factor in close to two hours of travel time each way (as I try to avoid overpriced taxis where possible).
When I went to Guy with my findings, he wasn’t overly enthused, especially as there’s not a whole lot else to see or do in Grasse but make perfume. Don’t get me wrong, Grasse looks like a beautiful medieval city, but after seeing quite a few medieval cities up to this point, we had hit our quota. It was no surprise that sacrificing a gorgeous summer’s day at one of the lovely beaches on the French Riviera to hang out in another medieval city while I did a perfume workshop did not appeal to Guy. No matter how I tried to sell the idea, the answer was a resounding no. I could have gone on my own, sure, but I also wasn’t overly enthused on missing out on the better part of a day at the beach to sit on a bus for a few hours.
The ‘Nice’ Alternative
In the end Guy won out, but not before I did some further research. The thing is, when I get an idea or desire in my head, I become a little obsessed, and I wasn’t going to give up on my signature perfume so easily! So without further adieu, I went into the Molinard store in Nice and asked them if they were able to offer anything similar. To my utter delight, they did! The Nice boutique actually offer both L’atelier des Parfums (60-minute workshop and 50ml fragrance for €69) and Le Bar des Frangrances (the 30-minute workshop with a 30ml fragrance for €30). Whilst it’s not as comprehensive as the perfume workshops in Grasse, it certainly saved a full day of travelling (and our marital harmony).
After spending the morning in the picturesque village of Antibes, I went to the Molinard store and commenced my journey into the world of perfume production. Did you know that there are professional ‘Noses’, whose sole job is to smell scents and different combinations to determine the right levels of scents and notes? It’s more complex than it sounds, requiring an astute sense of smell an understanding of fragrance aesthetics and knowing how each fragrance and combination can affect the senses and moods. In fact, it takes years of study and an understanding of chemistry to become a professional nose (or perfumer).
Creating a perfume
Whilst I’m not sure if my assistant was a professional ‘nose’, she certainly set me off on the right track, explaining how the different notes and bases work. Presented with my ‘formula’ card and my 21 scents to choose from, I was left to my own devises to narrow them down to the ones I liked. It was a fun process picking out base notes, middle notes and top notes.
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I decided to make a personalised gift for my mum as well, so was able to select different scent combinations to suit her tastes and different combinations to match mine. Between every three or so scents, I had to ‘cleanse the palate’ by sniffing coffee beans. The theory behind this is that coffee beans are supposedly a good olfactory palate cleanser and help avoid olfactory fatigue. Hefty terminology huh? So what is Olfactory Fatigue?
Without getting to ‘sciencey’ on you all, olfactory fatigue (or Olfactory Habituation) basically happens when the olfactory system (the senses that detect smells and odours) is over-stimulated and becomes accustomed to the smells its been presented, at times to a point where it no longer can differentiate between or perceive the strengths of smells. Sniffing coffee beans between perfumes are thought to help ‘reset’ the palate and allow you to appreciate and distinguish different scents (otherwise all of the scents get lost and blended together).
After 20 minutes of sniffing scents, sniffing coffee beans and picking out my favourites, my assistant came over to check on the combination and whether the composition would work well. Apparently, I have quite the nose (yes, pun intended) for this. Hello future career as a perfume designer! Once the fragrances for each note were decided, I was given my bottle and eyedropper to start creating my perfumes! I felt like a scientist, carefully measuring out my scents and creating my potion, from the base notes to the top notes. I created both the perfume gift for my mum and my own fragrance, received my certificate and was advised to wait 48-hours before trying it, to allow the combination to settle. Well, it was the longest 48-hours I have experienced in a long while, but I’m happy to say that both scents smelt divine! (I’ve nicknamed mine LINGering Desire – get it?) When I finally presented my present to Mum, she was so excited to have her very own perfume, with carefully selected scents and notes, made just for her!
If we had more time, I would definitely make the trip out to Grasse or Eze (where there are comprehensive workshops available also), but sadly our days in Nice were limited and it was a struggle, even for me, to justify spending the day travelling for 3 – 4 hours to do a 2-hour workshop. So if you are inclined to have your very own perfume (or make one for a loved one), but don’t have the time (or energy) to go out to Grasse or Eze, you can do it right in the centre of Nice!
Fast Info: Boutique Molinard Nice: 20, rue St François de Paule – 06300 Nice. Mon – Sat: 10:00 – 13:00 & 14:00 – 18:00 L’atelier des Parfums (60-minute workshop + 50ml fragrance: €69); Le Bar des Frangrances (30-minute workshop + 30ml fragrance: €30).
It was during this process that got me thinking about ‘cleansing the palate’ for travel. “What is this crazy woman talking about?” you might be wondering. Read our next post: Wanderlust Fatigue here! (Hint: By subscribing to our email list, you’ll be the first to know when a new post is out!)
Have you designed your own perfume in France? Where did you do it and what was your experience like? What would your ideal fragrance smell like? Comment below!