Smelling Paris

On Saturday I had a tour of the Fragonard Perfume Museum. I booked this tour in honor of my sister and a close friend, who both love fragrances.

Finding the place was a bit of a hassle. The museum is located on the inside of a square but the outside is lined with about three boutiques of the same name (I later learned they are all connected and even share staff). After going into two of those “outside” boutiques I finally found the museum (and was now a whopping ten minutes late). To my surprise, my tour guide neither notified the museum of my guided tour or showed up. Thankfully the museum staff gives free tours and there were two other ladies waiting for an English tour so I joined them.

Our tour guide, Inés, walked us through several underground rooms where the essence extraction and perfume making process was explained. Did you know that musk notes originally came from animals? Nowadays synthetic musk scents are used in order to protect animals. I also found particularly interesting that Lilly of The Valley, the official flower of France (and one that is given out to everyone on May 1st), requires a special device (pictured below) because it is impossible to extract its essence the traditional way (mashing).

Here are a few other pieces of information I found interesting:

  • Keep your perfumes and fragrances away from the bathroom. Light, temperature and humidity affect how your perfume behaves.
  • Perfume (not Eau du Parfum or away du Toilette) do best when bottled in a metal container. Fragonard does this, still in their original golden design. If your favorite perfume comes in a glass bottle, make sure to store it away from sunlight.
  • Different notes have different “lasting times.” From longest lasting to shortest: base notes (4 to 24 hours), middle or core notes (2 to 4 hours), and top or head notes (up to 2 hours). Since base notes last the longest, make sure you like the smell of the perfume on your skin a few hours after you have sprayed it–keep in mind that how the perfume smells at the boutique is not how it will smell the rest of the day.  A note about notes: depending on your skin’s acidity level (ph), different notes could last shorter or longer than the “standard” times.  Sometimes that fruity or flowery smell you loved so much will only be on your skin for 30 minutes.

These I already knew, but I will leave here for those who maybe had not heard of them before:

  • In order from strongest to lightest: Perfume, Eau du Parfum, Eau du Toilette, Eau du Cologne. Fragonard only makes Parfum and Eau du Toilette.
  • When you apply perfume on your wrists, do not rub! The friction raises the temperature and alters the way the scent behaves on your skin.
  • Perfume can be applied on skin, hair or clothes. The cloud method is best for hair and clothes (note it is better to spray the cloud above you and let it fall instead of in front of you and walking through it because in the latter most particles will fall on the floor and not yourself).
  • When you apply perfume to skin, do so on your wrists, inside elbow, behind the ears or behind the knees. Inés pointed out that–at least in Paris–the latter might send the message of “chase me” so keep that in mind, ladies!

The museum tour also included two sensory activities where you get to smell bottled essences and hard creams and have to guess what they are. Those were fun but I realized I need to learn my flower names properly! In between activities you get to browse a large collection of perfume bottles–I wish we still bottled like we did in the old days. Some of them were so fun, check out a few pictures below!

I am returning home with greater appreciation of my perfume collection and even better knowledge about how to care for them. I did not expect to enjoy this experience as much as I did–thank you M & F for encouraging me to do this!



One Comment Add yours

  1. Judi says:

    So interesting! Beautiful pictures!


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