I’ve just discovered that I have little or no sense of smell. I can’t even distinguish marijuana from whisky in a sniff-off at the smelling tubes in the International Perfume Museum.
It may explain my devil-may-care attitude to applying deodorant and changing socks.
I’m probably not ideally qualified to comment on a town that’s built a thriving tourism business around its fragrances.
The actual perfumeries of Grasse have now been moved out of the town centre; apparently neighbours complained about the stench. But since the 19th century Grasse has advertised itself as the centre of the world’s perfume industry.
What’s left is an attractive old town centre of narrow alleyways and elegant squares with restricted motor traffic. The perfume business still makes its presence smelled in the museums and numerous stores selling underarm charm.
In the above-mentioned International Museum of Perfume we can see ancient perfume bottles, learn a little about the process of converting many tonnes of flowers into sprayable commodities, and put our noses to tubes and press buttons to get a whiff of the results.
That’s where I learned of my olefactory deficiency. My companions had no trouble identifying rose or lemon. I thought I could vaguely smell vanilla and strawberry, but I couldn’t swear to it. Serious professional ‘noses’ are able to identify up to 200 different ingredients in a complicated pong.
While the International Perfume Museum was interesting enough, we preferred our guided tour (in French and English) of Parfumerie Molinard. It was free, though the idea is that you exit via the gift shop, buying very small bottles of liquid on your way out.
They cost quite a lot, at least compared to equivalent quantities of say, beer or wine, though the female members of the party assured me that they were good value.
We liked the idea of the Molinard workshops, in which visitors can mix their own perfume to take away, then order more if they like the results. Wasted on my nose, of course.
I was happy just to wander, camera in hand…