On a daytrip to Grasse I finally got to see perfume chemistry at work. We visited the Fragonard perfume house and had a tour of their laboratory and workshop. Fragonard is a family run perfume house founded in 1926 by Eugene Fuchs and the tour shows the development of the perfume making process from basic copper distillation tanks to modern glassware and analytical equipment.
What really stands out is the equipment used is recognisable to any KS3 chemistry student – there is fluted filter paper, distillation apparatus ( both old and new) and a separating funnel.
However, my favourite picture is of the desk used by the ‘nose’. To create a perfume, the perfumer will sit at this desk and go through the process of blending multiple perfume oils in an attempt to capture the desired smell specified in the brief for a new perfume.
Becoming a perfumer/ nose is a challenging process. Until recently, professional schools open to the public for training perfumers did not exist, and now there are only three prestigious institutions all based in France. The candidates must endure a demanding entrance examination and must have taken university-level courses in organic chemistry.