Grasse: The Cradle of
It is no coincidence that this city, a very old commercial center, has become the cradle of perfumery. Indeed, this region benefits from privileged conditions for the cultivation of flowers: firstly, a very favorable climate with mild temperatures, long sunshine, and low rainfall, secondly, a soil rich in alluvium, with soil of great fertility, and thirdly, the specific qualities of its inhabitants, who are both hard workers and gifted with creative imagination.
At first, the main plants that were used to create fragrances were jasmine, rose, and tuberose. Throughout the years this activity got more lucrative and became a real business, an industry. But it is at the very beginning of the 20th century that Grasse will really acquire an international influence in this field, thanks to the talent and know-how of a few large industrial families. These factories were responsible for the processing of floral production, imported raw materials, and essences or concretes already processed, often by their subsidiaries, on the production sites. The local plants used in perfumery are mainly: jasmine, rose, orange blossom and leaf, tuberose, daffodil, violet, mimosa, lavender, and lavandin.
In addition to these, there are also imported products in raw form:
roots: such as iris from Tuscany, vetiver from Haiti or Java, etc...
lichens: like the oakmoss of the Balkans.
seeds: ambrette, Martinique or Seychelles seeds, pepper, carrot, cumin or coriander seeds
woods: sandalwood, cedar
leaves: patchouli, geranium, violet
barks: cinnamon, styrax
gums: rockrose, frankincense, opoponax
There are four different ways to proceed with the extraction. The enfleurage or extraction by fixed solvents, it is the oldest technique, almost abandoned today. It avoids any alteration and allows to capture the perfume of fragile flowers, such as jasmine, tuberose, or mimosa. Distillation produces essential oils coming from the secretory and storage organs of these oils that plants such as lavender, patchouli, vetiver, geranium possess. It does not, however, extract the perfume of delicate flowers. The expression is meant for essential oils of citrus fruits (lemon, orange, bergamot, mandarin) that are sensitive to temperature and chemical agents. And finally, the extraction by volatile solvents, it is carried out using a low-boiling solvent (petroleum ether, benzene, alcohol, acetone, etc.), which makes it possible to obtain the concretes from fresh plants and the resinoids from dry plants.
A lot of luxury brands produce their fragrances at Grasse, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Maison Francis Kurkidjan, Chanel, and this is only to name a few.