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August 2018

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I was here in Grasse two years ago and upon my arrival this August I noticed some changes.
This famous medieval town in southern Provence – the perfume capital of the world – is looking (at the first glance) same as ever, on the outside, especially in the old part of the city. Yes, Jasmine scented water is still sprayed above the streets in the old city…

Yes, this is the place of the genesis of the perfume industry, yes, the celebration of jasmine (Fete du Jasmin) still takes place at the end of the first weekend in August, yes, this closely knit community safeguards this amazing intangible cultural heritage, but there are some new things in town!

You will notice signs on all the main streets leading to city center pointing the way to the famous trio: Galimard-Fragonard-Molinard Perfumeries, and I suggest you do visit them: they have shops, museums and offer a glimpse into factories, with guided tours.

This time my stay in Grasse coincided with an event organized by Fragonard, a conference.

I also took my time to visit two relatively new boutiques on Place de La Aires square in the old town: 1000Flowers Perfumer, by Jessica Buchanan and Parfumes MMicaleff by Martine Micaleff.

 

1000 FLOWERS

Located at 4 Place aux Aires, opened just last year. Ms. Buchanan, a Canadian who grew up on seashores and in the countryside of western Canada is the owner and perfumer.
She sold her house in Canada, moved to Grasse and studied at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery (2007.).

Following the training, she did what naturally follows: apprenticeship and internship, in Robertet and Mane. Now she’s a very active member of the community in Grasse.

There are not that many small perfumers here and there are some really big names present, but she says that all involved, not only parfumeurs, feel like a big family. One that she became a part of: yes, the main players and game changers are mostly Grassoise, but once you prove your serious intentions, work hard, participate and put in some serious effort, you can become a fully recognized member of the community.

Once you’ve proven yourself as serious, they accept you.

It was really a pleasure to talk to Jessica: she found time to talk to me about her fragrances, tell me what she plans to do (regarding Narcotic Flowers perfume) and we chatted about perfumes, naturals, men, rose fields and how it is to live and work in Grasse.

Besides her perfume lines, Jessica offers personalized perfume creation and consulting services. That’s another benefit of being based in Grasse: you do have direct access to expertise and experience in all areas of production.

I was also pleasantly surprised by her project „Perfume for Purists“ – back to Mother Nature botanicals, single note extracts in a neutral base of certified organic French grain alcohol. No additives! I hope this collection will grow, too.

Her Original Collection represents earliest fragrances she created.

I must say that I was really overwhelmed by Narcotic Flowers Perfume! Inspired by tuberose fields near Grasse, launched in 2011. I felt orange blossom, jasmine, rose and oh! tuberose! swirling around in a misty, intoxicating cloud around my head! Wow!

Narcotic it is indeed! You can feel finely blended, first-grade ingredients wildly dancing in this rhapsody of a perfume! As much as I was on my knees after inhaling this tuberose miracle, I do understand that some people, not to tuberose happy, would definitely call this perfume crazy.
I say: if you don’t fancy tuberose, stay away from it and alles wird gut…:-D

Jessica told me that she will announce and present in a couple of days (which she did by now) the new, reformulated Narcotic Flowers! I think that this reformulation won’t make you shed too many tears, on the contrary. Check it out, this is what she says: “Narcotic Flowers has been reformulated, and is all about tuberose, orange blossom, and ylang-ylang. I cut all the other flowers, and added lots of freshness to the top notes, no it’s now a fresh white floral with a carnal under current. It is, after all, a tuberose fragrance!”

When Jessica asked me whether I liked Narcotic Flowers, I told her my honest opinion: yes, I love it, it is truly tuberose narcotic…but. I am not sure I would wear it. It is just too much to handle, overwhelming for me. It really needs a special feeling, mood, atmosphere… She nodded and smiled, I guess this really was the issue with this mighty perfume all along.

Another one, rather controversial as well: Reglise Noire. Now, this is licorice! And I must say again: if you don’t like licorice, well, take a sniff at this one.

This perfume is not licorice only(at least for me)! You will surely appreciate it’s complexity: I find it very addictive.

There are spices, a hint of anise, vanilla, ginger and musk. A very beautiful, warm-under-a-blanket-on-a chilly-day perfume, but I also see that it is also one of those love or hate perfumes, no compromises…Quite interesting.

The Blue Collection perfumes feature flower extracts from local French producers and each bottle contains 5% organic Damascena rose water from a small producer in Grasse. Talking about terroir, hm? Well, Jessica surely covers that requirement! The most interesting one for me is Rose Casis Paradis (2016.): lovers of rose-themed perfumes, rejoice!

There’s a story behind this perfume: it is inspired by the Line Renauld Rose. Sweet, fruity, lush rose accord coming from a very special, award-winning rose – developed in Provence and named after the French singer and actress. Oh, sweet blackcurrant, pear, mango, and raspberry! This is Summer in a small bottle!

Thank you Jessica! I think that your creativity, dedication and grit will make a difference: Grasse is really lucky to have you!

 

PARFUMS M MICALLEF /MAISON MICALLEF

Founded in Grasse in 2006., quite successful. Very high-end luxury, uniting passions: Geoffrey Nejman (finance and banking), Jean Clause Astier (the Nose) and Martine Micallef (Artist).

The perfumes? Liquid luxury. Placed in beautifully decorated bottles, featuring old techniques and methods – are amazing.

Well, if you visit the shop in Grasse, located at Place aux Aires 14. you will see for yourself what their „Creative Desk“ looks like: customization workshop is right here!

You can create your bespoke scent and design, add initials, personal messages, engravings – right here, in the boutique.
I’m sure that most of you are already familiar with MM collections, an impressive line up of perfumes and I must say I am very impressed by Jacaranda Limited Editon (2017), featuring rose, spices and sandalwood.

Mon Parfum Pearl as well, a new 2018. flanker – Centifolia based, soft, powdery mist…My guess is that it is targeting Millennials…Yet, these perfumes have an incredible smoothness to them, like a signature style.

A difference can be felt: Jessica, an Artisan Parfumeur, is there for you (on a very short notice), passion for perfumes oozing out of her eyes. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to meet Martina Micallef in Grasse (I did send a mail prior to arrival).

I like to meet perfumers/owners of houses in person: after all, one part of their personality is always present in perfumes they make. Next time, maybe.

Maison Micallef has approximately 900 selling points, yet they seem somehow hard to get (I think their site is the easiest way): I guess that is a part of high-end luxury branding.

I was received by most friendly, beautiful SA Karima and we did a video together – check my IGTV account! Now, that was fun!

Karima is very helpful, fast moving, quick thinking and kind SA. Karima, you are great! :-*

Parfum Baby’s Collection is really something to stop by: my son is into „serious“ perfumes now, but these! Little baby perfumes! Awwww!

One more thing: I did put on Martine Micallef’s apron (as you can see)! The very special apron, heavy leather one with gold finishing – made for her in Marroco…thank you, Martine, hope you don’t mind!

I also hope that these photos will speak more than words: this little boutique is certainly a huge plus for the whole city of Grasse.

 

ELENA MEETS ELLENA (CELINE AND JEAN-CLAUDE)

I planned my trip carefully and as soon as I saw announcement for the first Fragonard Conference to be held in Grasse, at la Maison Fragonard – La Fabrique des Fleurs (La Premiere Conference Olfactive: DIALOGUE ET HISTOIRE(S) DE SAVOIR-FAIRE) to be held August 7th, just one day upon my arrival in Grasse – that caught my eye.

When I saw that speakers will be Celina and Jean-Claude Ellena, together for the first time, you can just imagine how thrilled I was! I booked my place immediately!

Before the start of the Conference, all participants attended a guided tour of Fragonard factory, which was an excellent warm-up. Then we moved on to the Conference Room, fully packed.

A lecture followed: Ellenas spoke about the history of their family, the importance of know-how transmission and about changes in the perfume industry.

The conference was in French, of course, and although my spoken French is poor (French always offer me help and tell me that it’s “just fine” – but I know I could do better…), I understood every word Jean-Claude Ellena said.  He speaks beautiful French and his expressions are very poetic. When he speaks, his sentences sound like music.<3

Two generations of Ellena’s. Wow. Mr. Jean-Claude Ellena is a legend, a one of a kind Master Parfumeur. I don’t need to add anything more to this, really.

His set of values is well known: olfactory minimalism (ever since he left big companies), value of creation above commercial influence (the way he speaks about „marketing people“…), the importance of staying always curious, never stopping to explore, creating art for art’s sake and nurturing your olfactive memories.

He also spoke of the importance of terroir, but he also stated clearly that the industry in Grasse should welcome not only the Grassoise: new people bring new ideas, provoke changes, everybody benefits from that.

Celine Ellena told us how it is to be a perfumer when your father is Master Parfumeur.

With a smile, she recalled that when she made up her mind to become a perfumer herself, she thought that she needed a diploma of some kind.

Her father told her: „Then go and study something, get a diploma“. And she did: in psychology and linguistics!

Upon finishing her studies, she continued on her path of becoming a perfumer: first an ISPICA diploma, then apprenticeship at Charabot and Symrise…Now she is independent, working for The Différent Company, Biotherm, and Fragonard.

In 2018. Fragonard is celebrating its signature fragrance: Verveine (Verbena), created by Celine Ellena!

That’s not all: we had a chance to watch both Ellenas show us examples of perfumery magic. Paper strips were handed out – on one, vanilla. On the second one, Isobutil Phenyl Acetate. What do you smell when you take both strips?

Chocolate! The second „experiment“ was a recreation of strawberry scent. The purpose: a practical answer to some questions (again!) about the necessity of synthetic components in perfumery…

One more thing Celine Ellena shared with us: for parfumeurs, Grasse is great. Always has been:

Everything you need is right there. People, know-how, materials… Paris? Yes, of course, Paris is important for business activities, but Grasse? Grasse IS the capital of the perfume world.

I did manage to exhange couple of words with Mr. Jean-Claude Ellena: we laughed because I said „Nice to meet you, Mr. Ellena. My name is Elena.“ He said: „And you are The Plum Girl.“ One of the rare meetings when I didn’t have to explain, he immediately knew why I named my blog The Plum Girl…

I hope I have given you enough reasons to plan your visit to Grasse. I know one thing for sure: I’ll be back! There’s so much more to see, so many people and places to visit.

Elena Cvjetkovic
The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl Private Archive
Diaclaimer

Here I go again, back to Grasse!

The second time in three years, to be exact, spending my vacation there, already feeling a bit like a Grassoise.

What does Grasse smell like? Jasmine, of course. Sprayed above the old medieval streets all day long:

This time we rented an apartment in a lovely old Provencal house on the hill facing Musee International de la Parfumerie (International Perfume Museum), 300 m away from the center of the city.

Which seems fine, the view from our bedroom window was amazing, but…going downhill was like a five-minute walk.

Going back home? Well, let me just say that it took me up to fifteen legs’n’gluteus exercise minutes…

As a perfume lover, of course I stayed in Grasse. I noticed that numerous tourists don’t stay in the town. There are organized tours from all the bigger cities along Cote d’Azur, offering half-day or one-day excursions to Grasse. Meaning that at 10 AM you can quietly sip your coffee or tea on the main square -Place aux Aires, but all of a sudden, buses and trains enter the city and the invasion of one-day tourists begins, ending usually around 5 PM and leaving jasmine sprayed, old cobbled streets empty and quiet again.

I did manage to visit some new perfume shops and boutiques in town, besides the well-known Fragonard-Galimard-Molinard trio (will tell and show you more in one of my next blogs, stay tuned).

I also must say that I do need to return again: there’s so much to see and to do that you cannot possibly cover everything in ten days! And I am talking about Grasse only, let alone all the wonderful and amazing sights and places in Riviera’s Maritime Alps region! I am already making a „must see“ list for my next visit…

Any season is the perfect time to visit Grasse, but I do think that May is probably perfect timing if you need more peace and quiet and days that are not too hot. And Rose Centifolia experience: that divine, fruity, deep, oh! So a special rose!

Summer months of June, July and August are packed with various events in the city! On 3rd, 4th and 5th of August you do not want to miss Fete du Jasmin (on my first day in Grasse) and on August 12th a celebration dedicated to Tuberose took place.

Make sure to check out events on the list of the International Perfume Museum (MIP): they have a great offer of perfume workshops on a daily basis. I had a difficult time to chose between Accord Aromatique, Poudre, Epice (Les epices de l’Arabie), Musque, Agrume, Boise, Gourmand workshops– one for each day in a week.
You can also make your own perfume there, booking in advance is obligatory and the price is 60 EUR (one adult person, 100ml). Or arrange your private visit or a private event for professionals, book a workshop for children on Friday mornings – they can create their own eau de cologne!

MIP offers tours to MIP Flower gardens on Saturdays (4 EUR): this was a recommendation given to me by Jessica Buchanan of 1000Flowers: you just have to see, touch and feel fields of different flowers, depending upon the season of the year, right here, in Grasse.
The MIP olfactory route in Gardens allows you to discover notes used in perfumery and includes fragrant plants grown in Grasse.
Along the way, you can touch fragrant foliage or smell the flowers near your path.

In the „Conservatory“ you can learn more about the history of the perfume plant industry in Grasse: the first plants were wild orange from Italy, lavender, cassia from the mimosa family, myrtle and pistachio mastic.

From the 17th century onward, these three plants become major ones: jasmine rose and tuberose.

Today, there are not so many rose fields as you might imagine: some rose centifolia is still grown in Grasse through a partnership between Chanel and Mul family in Pégomas, or in Le Labo fields. I asked: it’s not easy to get a job or even volunteer as in rose fields: the collaboration between field owners and pickers is many years long, pretty closed and pickers are usually Gipsies (Gitanes), from a clan called „La Fleur“, so I am told. There are other growers in the region. I will continue to try to find a way to spend one week in May in Grasse, picking roses (I’m perfectly aware there’s nothing romantic about it, don’t worry…)!

When in Rome, pardon Grasse…I decided to book a visit and make my own perfume (again). To make your own perfume in Grasse, the cradle of perfumery? It is educational and so much fun! If you are into perfumes, this is really a must-do!

I love looking at my companions sitting at perfume organs during workshops: a mother, discussing notes with her daughter to make her a perfect birthday present. A couple, mixing and laughing together, creating a bridal perfume (they are getting married as soon as they return to States) and so on!

It’s great to see people trying to learn more about perfumes. They are showing interest and devoting their time – to perfumes, trying to express their creativity in given circumstances and offered possibilities. People attending these workshops have an opportunity to learn the basics of building a perfume structure, smell different notes, blend, use pipettes and experiment with proportions, have a real hands-on experience of perfume making! I think this is simply wonderful and I wish that even more people would want to devote their time and energy to learn more about perfumes! What a wonderful world this would be!

Perfume geeks, like me, doing…well. I’ll tell you, a little later on.

Let me give you basic info first, classics. You can book your “make your own perfume” workshop at:
Galimard. Offering Haute Couture Perfume Creation Workshops in Grasse (and Eze) where you work with their Master Perfumer in her lab. Prices range from 200-800EUR or you can attend the Studio des Fragrances workshop, in small groups, by appointment, 53 EUR per person. (2hrs, 50ml). 127 notes organ.
Fragonard. Perfumer Workshop, 90 minutes, 100 ml. You also receive a pouch for your perfume and an apron. 65 EUR.
Molinard. L’Atelier des Parfums. 60 minutes, 90 bottles organ, 50 ml, 69 EUR. Le Petit Parfumer, for children, too. La Villa du Perfumer is a private perfume creation session.

No matter which house you choose, you will go through a similar process. My choice was Galimard, both times, simply because it is the oldest house and because their organ features 127 notes/accords. Maybe also because you can create a line of products, like body cream and shower gel, too. Next time I visit, I will probably choose Molinard. And then Fragonard. 😀

Your formula stays recorded in their archives and you can always order another bottle – if you really like your creation you can get a refill.

So, there I go again. During a perfume making workshop in Galimard lab, I made my first perfume, three years ago. Pretty, but not exceptional. This time, I came prepared.

You see, I do have ideas about a five to six perfumes (at least) I would like to make or have made for me. These ideas are not expressed by notes or perfume groups, no, I have vivid images in my head. Memories, moments, little bits and pieces of emotions. Some are like paintings on canvas, some are vivid and bright like short movies in glorious Technicolor…

Then I think about these images and try to translate them into notes and accords in perfume language. The keyword is trying. 😀 Don’t expect too much.

Galimard has a very pragmatic approach, as all the others I mentioned/ perfumes and notes are strictly divided in „for her“ and „for him“ groups:

You have 127 notes to play with, which is fine in my opinion for this level of perfume making.

A really lovely young lady helped me with proportions. She told me that she is a student of chemistry in Lyon and that she comes to work at Galimard every summer. I know I might have taken too much of her time at the workshop because I really wanted her to hear my story first, before pushing me to start sniffing and choosing max five top notes or accords…and then other 4-5 middle ones, and 4 base ones…

This young lady was really patient, but the supervising lady approached me a couple of times to warn me that I’m running behind scheduled time in the process and that I should hurry up. I swear I had a feeling that she would be even harsher if I were an apprentice there…

There’s more. At one moment I wanted to add a very specific fruit accord to a leathery tone and received a really scorning gaze: you do not want to do that, kind of look. 😀

Alas, she hasn’t heard my olfactory memory this perfume was supposed to bring back… I think that she didn’t really like my pretty rebellious attitude in the sense of not blindly listening and following her suggestions.

I did pretty well, I think. Not that is exactly what I wanted/imagined/dreamed of, but here it is: „Once Upon a Time“!

Now I have to wait for 3 weeks for it to mature, in a not too dark, not too light, not too humid, not to dry, not too hot and not too cold place.

New blog, part II will follow!

Elena Cvjetkovic
The Plum Girl Blog
Photos: The Plum Girl
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