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Floral Notes: The Ancient Art of Perfumery

Published: Wednesday 11 November 2015

Floral Notes: The Ancient Art of Perfumery

‘Jasmine petals might be petite, but their powerful aroma sparked the birth of a centuries-old perfume industry that still thrives today’.

Country Style Magazine November 2015

The waft of jasmine through my bedroom window on a summer’s evening brings back a myriad of sweet childhood memories growing up in Queensland.

Sensual, warm, sweet, illusive, narcotic, intoxicating…. this delicate white flower is widely considered to be the most exotic and wonderful of all floral scents, its properties central to the perfume industry for centuries. Hence the expression ‘no perfume without jasmine’.

Jasmine flowers

Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt were the first to begin experimenting with the art of perfume making, innocently ignorant to what would ultimately become a US $28 billion dollar a year plus global industry.

The world’s first-recorded chemist cum perfume maker is considered a Macedonian woman named Tapputi. However it was a Persian chemist who discovered the process of floral distillation, using the rose as his muse to create delicate rose water.

Roses Essential Oil Bottle

Rene the Florentine took the art form to a whole new level. In fact the 16th century Italian ‘personal perfumer to the Queen of France’ set up his laboratory with secret passageways to her apartment so no formulae could be stolen en route.

Thanks to demand from the wealthy to mask their stinky body odours, the societal influence of the Queen of France Catherine de’ Medici, and the likes of Rene, France quickly became one of the European centres of perfume manufacture.

Did you Know?

  • Louis XV’s court was called “la cour parfumée” (the perfumed court). King Louis demanded a different fragrance for his apartment every day.
  • Napoleon ordered two quarts of violet cologne to be delivered to him each week, and he is said to have used sixty bottles of double extract of jasmine.
  • Josephine was partial to musk. She used so much that sixty years after her death the scent still lingered in her boudoir.

The use of perfume in France grew steadily. By the 18th century, aromatic plants were being grown in the Grasse region of France to provide the growing perfume industry with raw materials

For three days of every year, the quaint town of Grasse on the French Riviera celebrate the Grasse Jasmine Festival after a tiny fragrant flower that shaped the town’s history.

old postcard of Grasse, picking jasmine

Known as the ‘Perfume Capital of the World’, the fields surrounding Grasse produce some of the most prized raw floral materials in the perfume industry. Expert noses believe the precise aromatic compounds in the flowers grown in Grasse cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Jasmine picking Grasse

The raindrops a rose has collected, the sun it has soaked up, even the time of day it is picked, are all significant to perfumers.


Did you Know?

  • All of the jasmine and May roses that go into Chanel No 5 are grown in protected fields around Grasse. Chanel doesn’t use flowers grown anywhere else.
  • Jasmine is picked at night, right through to morning, when the sun drives the scent from the flowers. This is why it is often called “Queen of the night”.
  • It takes about 7.6 million flowers to product one kilogram of jasmine essential oil
  • It takes 50kg of rose petals to yield around 100g of rose oil, that is a lot of picking.


One day I would love to travel to the Grasse Jasmine Festival and bury my nose in their jasmine. But for now I’ll just stand under my bedroom window and drink in its luscious scent – the floral notes of summer. It may not be good enough for Chanel No 5 but its good enough for me!


  4. Country Style Magazine November 2015


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