International Perfume Museum in Grasse

Scent can have an incredibly powerful influence on us; even the faintest whiff can evoke a long-forgotten memory, a certain place or even remind you of a certain wine or someone special. The art of perfumery dates back 4000 years. The cultivation of flowers for perfumes began in the 14th century in the south of France, which quickly became one of Europe’s top centres for perfume and cosmetics manufacture. Visiting the Perfume Museum Grasse is akin to treading hallowed ground as you waft through the sensual mist when entering the grand building designed by Frédéric Jung.

Cleverly guided through the main missions of perfume: communicate, cure and seduce; we see how embalming perfumes were used to communicate with the gods in the afterlife. The ancient vessels that traditionally carried this magic potion are gorgeous. The garden terrace shows you the “raw materials” where you can take in the basic essence of Patchouli, Star Anise, Bergamot and more. Large kettles and distillation flasks give you a good idea of the process and the interactive displays are lots of fun. And it’s got to be said … this is probably the only place in the world where you can legally sniff cocaine. Or rather, the essence of it. I can’t say I smelled anything, unlike the easily recognisable whiskey.

Isn’t the little box of essential oils gorgeous? Same idea as the “Le Nez du Vin” in the Mirabeau boutique, which helps wine-lovers identify aromas found in rosé wines. The toiletry travel kit for gents is very cool, as is the ornate travel chest commissioned by Marie-Antoinette for her sister. The story goes that the queen loved it so much, she had a second one made. Not sure which is which, but the “other” travel chest is in the Palace of Versailles.

We had planned to pop-in for an hour or two, but next time, we’ll make a day of it, also to include a visit to the perfume factory next door.

We enjoyed the audio guides that give a generous amount of information, and it’s also good to know that guided and group tours are available. I would check out the Grasse tourism website, however, to make sure that the museum is open, but having said that, Grasse itself is worth a visit …

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