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  “Women in France don’t just love fragrance; they can’t imagine living without it.”

 

As I walk down the street in Paris, I notice that people smell nice.

Not in a heavy or sickeningly sweet or disruptive sort of way, but just a light, seductively fresh and uncomplicated way.

So much so that a few times I have stopped the person, from whom I believe a lovely fragrance was originating, to ask what they are wearing?

Parisian women are only  too happy to tell me, but so far it has always been something that I have never heard of.

French of course.

 

 

 

 

Ever since the launch of the iconic fragrance Chanel No. 5  in the 1920’s , French women of all levels of society have had a passion for perfume.

The fragrance they choose is considered another key element of what defines them.

 

Fragonard Perfume Museum

So I decided to find out more.

I took the Free Tour at the Fragonard Perfume Museum which is tucked away at 3-5 Square de l’Opéra-Louis Jouvet, near the Palais Garnier.

 

 

Antique Perfume Bottles on display at Fragonard Perfume Museum

 

 

Over the next half hour, our guide treated me and a small group of French women to an engaging visual display about the history of perfume, explaining everything from the manufacturing process; the exceptional collection of ancient perfume bottles; to the magic of the master perfumers, also called the “noses.”

 

 

The Scent Challenge

In the first of two interactive activities,  we sniffed canisters of different scents, and then had to match them with the names of ingredients on a  board —  such as, passion fruit, jasmine, rose, green apple and violet.

 

The Scent Challenge

 

 

 

This sounds easier than it was. My “nose” was confused after the third sniff.  It gave me an appreciation for the art  of experimenting with literally thousands of  ingredients to create a winning fragrance.

In the second exercise, we were exposed to some of Fragonard’s own fragrances –with names like, Belle de NuitEtoileIle d’ Amour, Diamont, and Frivole, and we had to guess , again by sniffing, what ingredients made up each fragrance.

 

 

Fragonard Signature Scents in their gold bottles

 

Our guide encouraging us to name as many ingredients as we could in each bottle.

My Perfume Pick?

It has green mandarin, bergamot and lemon with middle notes of jasmine, lily-of-the-valley and peony; base notes of patchouli, iris and musk.

Yes you are right. I did not correctly identify any of these.

I guess I am not cut out for the perfume business, but I do smell nice.

(My pick was Frivole and you can buy it here.)

Perfume Trivia

  1. Do you know what the different concentrations of fragrances are?
  2. Should you keep perfume in the bathroom?
  3. What are three things that will cause perfume to spoil?
  4. Do you know one of the secret places on the body that French women like to dab perfume?
  5. How much of the cost of fragrance is spent on marketing?

Go to Bottom of this Blog to find the Answers

The Perfumers Apprentice Workshop

The other thing I want to try when I go back to the museum is their Apprentice Workshop where you work with a perfumer to can create your own fragrance and of course you get to take it home!

  • The Workshop is open to all from age 12 years upwards
  • Schedule: every Saturday
  • Price: 95 euro
  • Languages: French, English

 

Diana’s Paris Book Club

 

 

 

A related book! I really enjoyed this novel Meet Me In Monaco that combines perfume, romance and Grace Kelly’s Cinderella story!

It is set in the 1950s against the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance and wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Before the couple meet, Grace finds herself hiding from the paparazzi on a trip to Cannes for the film festival. She seeks shelter in a perfume shop owned by struggling perfumer Sophie Duval, the consequences of which are a life-long bond between the two women that also sets off a series of unexpected events for Sophie.

A lovely story  where you will also learn a lot about the perfume industry.  Quite fascinating.

 

Perfume Trivia: Answers

1. Perfume|le parfum has the highest concentration of scent at 24%, Eau de Parfum has 15%, Eau de Toilette, 10%, and Cologne 5%.

2.  Never keep perfume in the bathroom because of the humidity.  It is best kept in a cool dry place.

3. Humidity, heat and light can affect a fragrance’s delicate balance.  That is why clear bottles are not the best.

(Fragonard sells its fragrances in an opaque gold bottle for this reason.)

4. French women like to dab perfume on the back of the neck — so that people will remember them and their scent as they walk away.

I also learned that if you spray some on your wrist, it is best tap it with your other wrist. Do not rub the two wrists in a circular fashion. I am still not sure why.

5.  The perfume industry is ridiculously competitive, so 80% of the cost of fragrance is now spent on marketing.

Note: The EU including France bans thousands of substances and ingredients used in perfume and cosmetics that are linked to allergies etc.  They are much stricter than in North America and elsewhere.  So if you love perfume buy it there!

What is your favourite perfume? Please leave a comment below. 

 

This antique ring held perfume in its band. Circa 19th century. Photo from Fragonard Museum

 

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16 Comments

  1. anna argyris on February 2, 2020 at 9:14 am

    Great post, Diana! I always love perfume but my favorite by far is Chopard.

    • Diana Bishop on February 5, 2020 at 11:50 pm

      Chopard… that is another one I know but have never tried. On my list dear friend. Thanks Anna for the comment.
      I love hearing from you! Diana

  2. Shardie Stevenson on February 2, 2020 at 9:44 am

    Oh BFF…. as usual , fun to read and informative! I learned so much from your questionnaire! Interesting that the French perfume that you and I bought together is in a clear bottle! ?
    I love just the right amount of a delicate scent and am sad that here, in North America , even this is frowned upon !
    As you know , my fave is Jo Malone , Grapefruit! ❤️

    • Diana Bishop on February 5, 2020 at 11:49 pm

      Yes, that is your trademark scent and it certainly suits you! Diana

  3. Charlene Hobbs on February 2, 2020 at 10:12 am

    Loved this blog! I have already moved my way de parfum out of my bathroom and added another visit to Paris to my bucket list.

    • Diana Bishop on February 5, 2020 at 11:49 pm

      Hi Charlene — me too. I always kept my perfume in the bathroom and in a clear bottle. I am now reformed. Never too late
      to learn something new. Thank you for your comment Charlene!

  4. Margaret Ann Gendreau on February 2, 2020 at 11:56 am

    Loved this Diana! The museum will be on my list for my next trip to “The City of Light”. I remember my Mother wearing “My Sin” by Lanvin. I will have to see if I can find some! I currently wear L’Occitane’s Verveine, light and citrus based, and also Je Reviens by Worth, which has been my favourite for years. I do have to be very careful with scents, they can trigger a headache for me, but miss the days when we wore a scent more often. It has become very taboo in so many places and I get that but still miss it. Thanks for your advice, I just pulled my perfume off the bathroom shelf! I was told years ago to dab perfume, never rub it, as the friction of rubbing is not good for the perfume. Thanks again, loved this.

    • Diana Bishop on February 5, 2020 at 11:48 pm

      Hi Margaret Ann — “My Sin” yes I remember that one too. I really love perfume but I am sensitive to those
      who prefer that we not wear it — especially if we are with people in close quarters. I remember a Montreal radio host
      telling me that he would interview guests in studio and then when they left their perfume remained. If it was a particularly
      heavy scent, it remained for the entire program. Point taken!
      Always great to hear from you — Diana

  5. Trudy Van Buskirk on February 2, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    Another wonderful post! To answer your question, I used to wear Calandre by Paco Rabanne so reading your post once again triggered my memories of the 2 decades that I did. Since I had the stroke in 2005, I don’t wear any perfume so when someone comes to my place wearing perfume I smell it right away!

    • Diana Bishop on February 5, 2020 at 11:45 pm

      I loved Calandre! But I don’t think they make it anymore do they? I do understand that some people are adversed to scent
      and that is why I am becoming more interested in natural fragrance perfumes. Hard to find however! Diana

  6. Lissel Navarro on February 2, 2020 at 3:02 pm

    My favorite perfume is GARDENIA de Chanel.

    Thank you for the tip about the wrist and the suggestion to avoid keeping one’s perfume in the bathroom.

    • Diana Bishop on February 5, 2020 at 11:43 pm

      Lissel — I do not know Gardenia.. I have to look for it. I do love Chanel and have been wearing Gabrielle most recently. Thank you for your comment and please continue to send me your thoughts! Diana

  7. Gabrielle on February 3, 2020 at 5:18 am

    I have a lot of favorites: Un Jardin sur le Toit by Hermès, Samsara by Guerlain, L’Interdit by Givenchy, Joy and J’Adore by Dior, Lolita by Lolita Lempicka, Venezia by Laura Biagiotti, and Fragonard’s Violette. I’ve just started wearing Médie by Cire Trudon. If only they made their Cyrnos candle in perfume format, too!

    My mother taught me the answer to #4: rubbing the perfume breaks down the molecules and makes the scent fade faster.

    • Diana Bishop on February 5, 2020 at 11:41 pm

      Oh I have to try some of these Gabrielle. Un Jardin sur le toit sounds intriguing. Venezia! Where do you buy your perfume?
      Diana

      • Gabrielle on February 8, 2020 at 7:47 am

        I highly recommend trying Un Jardin sur le Toit. It really is striking–I’m just about always asked what it is when I wear it. I buy from a variety of places. I support small local boutiques for Jardin and for the Cire Trudon scents, but also use FragranceNet for the harder-to-find perfumes, such as Venezia.

        • Diana Bishop on February 8, 2020 at 3:07 pm

          Gabrielle — I will certainly try this perfume. Sounds right up my alley. Love the name. Thank you for commenting. Diana

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