It is the abundance of water in the hills that helped turn Grasse into a perfume centre. Tanners, who needed reliable water supplies to clean their hides, first settled here in the Middle Ages. With the advent of perfumed gloves in the 1500s, the art of perfumery took shape. Glove makers split from the tanners and set up lucrative perfumeries. New irrigation techniques allowed flower growing to boom, sealing Grasse’s reputation as the world fragrance capital.
Today, Grasse is still surrounded by jasmine, centifolia roses, mimosa, orange blossom and violet fields, but the industry, which counts some 30 perfumeries, is rather discreet, with only a handful offering tours of their facilities.