September news: Jasmine & Tuberose

How time flies!  In our last post, we spoke about the roses of May, one of the important ‘Fleurs d’Exception‘ that make Grasse famous.  Now here we are already in September, the season of the Tuberose, and since last month until sometime in October, (depending on the weather), it is also the season of the Jasmine grandiflorum.

Polianthes tuberosa- Tuberose blossoms

These are all highly fragrant flowers, and are used extensively in the fine fragrance industry.  They are considered ‘noble’ raw materials.

These flowers, amongst others,  are still produced in the Grasse region (the Pays de Grasse), and are often picked by teams of Gypsy (Gitane, Roma) women, who arrive early every morning at the farms to pick only the flowers that are newly opened.  For the rose and jasmine, this means every single morning throughout the blooming period. I have picked with these women, and they joke that only they are willing to do this hard work.  They laugh and tell me that the French are not willing to work so hard.  The pickers are paid per kilo, and to give an example, it takes about 800kg of jasmine blossoms to make 1 kilo of absolute- each blossom delicately picked by hand in the early morning before the sun gets too high or too hot.

For the extraction, all is done by solvent (hexane) extraction, to produce a waxy concrete, followed by an alcohol wash, which is then vacuum distilled off, to yield the final purified absolute.   In Bulgaria and Turkey, roses are also steam distilled to yield the precious essential oil, but Grasse is producing for the perfume industry, so absolutes are the most economical and complete extracts.

Next post I will talk about the art of grafting… something that is a big part of the rose and jasmine plants of Grasse.

In other news:  as you know, I have been developing a new collection of fragrances for 1000 Flowers.  Of course, being an independent artisan company, that means wearing the hat for all stages of creation and production.   Even the graphic design is all my own work, since design is my secondary passion, behind perfume creation itself.   So in the lab, in the middle of the old city of Grasse, all stages of the Blue Collection are being developed and refined.

We first spoke about this almost 10 months ago.  At the time, I had become a client of the amazing Biolandes for some of our key natural raw materials for the collection, and had anticipated launching the collection in May.   However, I made the mistake of trying to work with local printing companies for the labels, and, very long story short, lost the whole summer and several hundred euros in being run-around by one local company in particular.  I have learned a very valuable lesson: in France, if you are a small company, working on a shoestring, you will not be taken seriously.    Sadly, the concept of ‘starting small’ is not yet respected or understood here, as it is in Canada or the UK.   In the end, I had to go to the UK for my labels, and these are expected to arrive next week.

The advantage to these delays, is that I have revisited the perfume formulae many times, and as the samples mature, I see what small changes can be made, and how to improve them.  So I suppose, it’s for the best that the project has taken longer than anticipated to realize.  Art can’t be rushed.  :) 

In conclusion, to be a good perfumer, as much as it is very romantic,  is not at all an easy path. It is an exceptionally challenging career, and one that takes an amazing amount of work and sacrifice and perseverance, where one NEVER stops learning and improving.  Sometimes I question having given up everything to be where I am now.   But then I open my cupboard of pure materials, and bring out the precious naturals from the fridge, and dive back into a creation, and realize there is nothing else I would rather be doing…


Roses of May

The beautiful month of May is the season of the Rose in the Grasse region of the south of France.  In the fields of roses, which still exist in the region around the old perfume city, the pickers go out every morning throughout the short season, and harvest the open blossoms.  These are then taken to the factories where primarily solvent extraction takes place to yield the concrete, and then the absolute of rose.  The Rose de Mai is traditionally the Rosa centifolia variety, but there is also some production of Rosa damascena in the area.   In the new collection of perfumes soon to be announced from 1000 Flowers,  we will be featuring an organic Rosa damascena extract sourced from a small producer near Grasse.

In the meantime, here is a lovely report from French TV about the current season of roses.


Spring in Grasse

It’s once again Spring in the south of France.   This year, the various seasonal flowers (such as mimosa)  were all blooming and finishing their blooming cycle about 1 month earlier than usual.  We really didn’t have much of a winter, and the cold part of the season actually happened in March.

However, here we are 2 days before my birthday, and the flowers that always mark this day for me, are opening now, right on cue.  These are the fragrant and graceful purple wisteria with the first roses, that cover many garden walls, and fences, and arbours of the region.  And at the same time, the intoxicating spring jasmine is also now in bloom, tumbling over walls and fences.  So all is well in the world.

Otherwise, as I have written in recent posts, I have been working for the last several months on the new collection of 4 fragrances called The Blue Collection.  These are taking longer than I anticipated, as I am determined that they will be as close to perfection as I can possibly make them.  This said, as an independent perfumer, working alone in my little lab in Grasse, like the perfume days of the past, 4 great perfumes take longer than 4 weeks to create.   But we are almost there, and have now connected with some amazing designers and printers in Croatia, (ask me for contacts if you are looking for this kind of service), and the labels will go to print next week.  The ribbon must be ordered, and the outer boxes modified and prepped.  And then…. FINALLY, we will launch.   I will keep you posted.

In other news:  we have just launched a travel-size spray (8ml) for the 5 original fragrances, including of course, Reglisse Noire, and they are available in the 1000 Flowers boutique as of today.  They retail for 22CAD each (plus minimal shipping since they are light and compact).  This is a great way to try the fragrances, but also as a purse/pocket travel format, since they are refillable as well.

Also, all 1000 Flowers fragrances are now made with  100% certified organic alcohol.

So, that’s all for now!  Life as an expat perfumer living in Grasse continues!  Please don’t hesitate to write to me if you have any ideas, questions, suggestions comments etc.  I feel far away from my native land and all my wonderful clients sometimes, hidden away in my atelier, so it’s always nice to have some news.

Happy Spring!

Violets in the Wild

The Blue Collection Update

Just a little update to say that we are hard at work designing the packaging for the new fragrance collection.  Here is an image of the latest prototype.  Blue glass, metal clip for the removable spray, silver chain so the clip won’t get lost, elegant ribbon, and the mock up label.  The label will have silver metal to enhance the colours, and to match the silver pump.

Don’t forget that as a small independent business, raising capital can be a challenge. So the Indiegogo platform is what we are utilising to fund this project.  You can find it here.  And once again, thank you!

Other news: we have a guest writer who has just done a tour of the International Museum of Perfumery here in Grasse, and written in detail about the experience.  That article you will see under the Guest Contributor tab to the right.

Wishing you all a very happy week!

Orange Blossom Ganache

The Blue Collection explained

It is an interesting & challenging balancing act to be an independent perfumer and an entrepreneur.    One must wear many hats, and life becomes very full.   This is why some time has passed since the last fragrances were launched from 1000 Flowers.. (Ode for Him and Love is Sweet, Dec 2012).  However. the time has come to talk about a new collection that is soon to be released, called the Blue Collection.

This time, I have chosen to write (in scent) about my surroundings, and that is the Mediterranean region.  I love this place, and it’s been four years that I have lived and worked here full time.  Here, the intensity of the sunshine illuminates everything, the plants and flowers, the blue sky, and the blue sea.  It gets inside the soul, and is like no other place I have ever been.

orange blossoms7

So the new collection of perfumes will talk about the plants and flowers that one finds in the region- like the heady scent of blooming orange trees, the pink pepper berries that one can pick, the smell of ripe fruit in summer at the beach, and wild carrot near the sea, the smell of pine and other conifers in the mountains behind Grasse, and roses and roses and roses…

There will be four fragrances, housed in cobalt blue glass.  The bottles are refillable, and the labels are big, bright and colourful interpretations of Mediterranean tiles.  I have developed connections with some amazing French suppliers, a couple of them artisan distillers, who grow, harvest, and extract essential oils and absolutes.  And since the Mediterranean climate is so perfect for growing everything from jasmine to roses to clary sage, with many wild fragrant plants like labdanum and various herbs, the region is a veritable treasure trove of perfume ingredients.

So with all that at one’s fingertips, it is natural so to speak, to focus on these raw materials in the context of perfumery.  That is not to say that the collection is ‘all natural’. It is not. I do work with a palette of man-made molecules, and as an artist, I really appreciate their importance in perfume creation.  But I do not use polycyclic musks, (non biodegradable molecules that are used extensively in commercial fragrances), or phthalates. And I do adhere to IFRA safety standards.  (You can read here about what IFRA is).

Also this way, you will have precious molecules from Mediterranean plants and flowers, bottled, and delivered to your door….