Grasse – from Leather to Perfume

Perfumed Gloves

Grasse has a wonderful and very full history. In the Middle Ages Grasse specialized in tanning leather. On completion the hides were exported to Pisa or Genoa, although revered for their high quality, their smell was far from sweet. A tanner from Grasse under the name of Galimard came up with the idea of scenting the leather used for producing gloves for royalty and the higher classes. He gifted a pair of his scented creations to Catherine de Medici, she was enchanted by them and soon the demand for scented gloves, this grew leading to a worldwide reputation being established for the production of perfumed gloves from Grasse. The King of France recognised the new corporation of ‘glovers perfumers’ in 1614. Production of the gloves peaked in the 17th century when a mixture of higher taxes on leather and strong competition from Nice resulted in the decline and then cessation of fragranced leather being produced in Grasse. Around this time a number of perfumeries and apothecary businesses had opened their doors in the city and by 1729 official statutes were published by the perfumers firmly establishing Grasse in the perfumery trade. The Galimard perfumery was established in 1747 making it the oldest perfumery in France. Many of the ancient perfumery buildings remain, identifiable by their tall chimneys used as part of the distillation process.

Due to its micro-climate the area around Grasse provides almost perfect growing conditions for some of the more delicate flowers such as rose and jasmine which is thought to have been brought to Grasse by the Moors in the 16th Century. The 19th Century saw raw product being imported from abroad, resulting in flower harvesting in and around Grasse declining sharply in the last 100 years. In 1905 around 600 tonnes were harvested dropping to 30 tonnes at the start of the new millennium.

So let’s follow our noses and find out more about the ancient art of Perfumery …..

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