Attractions in Grasse focus on its celebrated perfume industry, a refreshing change from traditional sights and activities.
It can take months for a nez (nose or perfumer who, after 10 years’ training, can identify up to 3000 smells) to create a perfume. And you’ll understand why the instant you plant yourself in front of a nose’s organ – a line-up of miniature ginger-glass bottles containing 127 ‘notes’ ranging from green amber, vanilla, hyacinth, lily of the valley and civet (nose shock or what) to hare, rose petals and sandalwood. The fact that many bottles contain not one but several essences pre-mixed only adds to the olfactory bewilderment. The number of combinations is dizzying.
Perfume workshops won’t turn you into a perfumer overnight, but the olfactory education they offer is fascinating – and great fun for adults and kids alike. Molinard runs several different workshops, ranging in length from 20-minute sessions to two-hour epics, during which you get to create your own custom perfume from the essences on offer; you get to take it home with you at the end.
Several well-known perfumeries run free guided tours of their modern, out-of-town facilities. Tours take visitors through every stage of perfume production, from extraction and distillation to the work of the ‘nose.’ Tours leave every 15 to 30 minutes and are available in a number of languages. Visits end in the factory shops, where you can buy fragrances (much cheaper than couture perfumes, where some 60% of what you pay is packaging). Grasse's tourist office can help with reservations.