Distilling Grasse to an Essence – A Study of Culture and Perfume

03/06/19 – Grasse, FR – Day 5

The Seminar I was in was a total of 3 days, (the three days that were in-between now and my last post), and each day I was able to do something different. My mornings are very peaceful, and in the past three days, I’ve developed a routine. Get up, get ready, eat breakfast on the terrace, and finally cab to the studios. The ride to the studios are brief, and the drivers are so incredibly sweet. Because Grasse is such a small town, I’ve already had some drivers more than once. All of them incredibly patient with my “learning” French, and willing to help me learn as much as I can about the area, the language, and the culture. Upon arriving at Galimard on the first day, I was a bit overwhelmed. I was a bit early and thus the first to arrive; therefore I was paranoid about whether or not I was at the right place and if I had enough euros in my bag to get to where I needed to go. Eventually, when people started showing up, and the classes started, I realized that the workshop that the rest of the people who came was different than mine, so I was the only person in my Seminar which mean that the entire Seminar was set and based on what I wanted to learn and accomplish.

A sheet for the absolute tests

The first day was the basic introduction. I learned about what goes into fragrance production, both the business and the chemical side, and about scent recognition. For a long time, I tested maybe over 70 scents, and my instructor (who was the principal perfumer at Galimard) told me to connect each and every scent to a memory or event in my life to help me remember which smell was what. She taught me how the absolute (the “soul of the flower”) is extracted. How essential oils are obtained, and how and why people confuse them when they are very different products. And finally I learned how a parfum (also an Eau de toilette, an Eau de parfum and cologne, but I worked only with parfum) is made, and how if I were to start my own company, the extensive tests and forms I would have to fill out and pass. After six long hours, with a lunch break at my hotel, it was time for me to leave. I went and had dinner in town, and promptly fell asleep.

How I determined to include a scent in my parfum or not

The second day, we focused on parfum composition, the three main parts (head [the scent you smell only within the first 2 hours], heart [what you smell for up to 4 hours] and body [ the smell that can stay up to and maybe more than 24 hours]), and which types of scents (floral, citrus, “oriental,” aromatics, woody, and spicy) go into those categories, and trying to figure out the category that I enjoyed, or which mix of these I enjoyed. After a blind test to test what I liked, which was powdery floral, I made my first scent, a feminine one. The whole time the perfumer was looking over me and making sure that the decisions I made for my scent didn’t clash, and that the final product was indeed feminine. While I was making my final decisions, she said that my tastes were extremely elegant and refined and that she didn’t expect such “expertise” from someone my age. I was so It took a little over than half a day, and by the time I finished, packaged and labeled my new scent the day was over.

A bit of the mixing process from my feminine scent

Today, the final day, I did a lot. I got to the studio about 45 minutes early and began to prep my station because I knew this morning I would be making two new scents, a masculine and a unisex, by myself. After about 4.5 hours, I went on a guided tour of the factory where I saw both the old and the new distilling process, and also the “scent room.” I learned the history of the company and also of the town.

Every day was different. However, one thing stayed consistent. These scents are so incredibly strong that after smelling about 5-7, you are recommended to go outside and take a minute break for fresh air. Even after doing that, in a couple of hours, everything starts to smell the same, and your nose starts to burn. In addition to a red nose, the amount of smells that your brain has to process makes you incredibly sleepy.

Tomorrow is my last day here. I’m despondent to leave, it is such a beautiful town rich with history and amazing scents, and I look forward to returning in the future.

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