This stray dog was going to be put down.

Posted by jesuslewis on August 13th, 2017

Before I became a perfume devotee a dozen years ago, my lexicon for describing scent was limited to words like “woodsy” or “flowery.” Later I found myself craving the dexterity of language that could match the increasingly complex perfumes arriving at my house in tiny decanted samples.

At the time, perfume blogs and a few books were lifting the veil off a closely guarded industry. I had fallen in love not only with perfume, but also with the deft and curious descriptions of fragrance at the hands of gifted perfume critics, namely Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez who together wrote the vastly entertaining “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.” I felt as though I had discovered two new strains of art — not to mention the most underrated of the five senses.

More recently, I decided to take a deeper look into the fragrance industry and knew there was no better place to do this than Grasse, France, a medieval town in southern Provence known as the perfume capital of the world. In this medieval town and its environs, which are sufficiently inland to be sheltered from the sea air, a confluence of soil, sun and temperature nurtured the rose, jasmine, lavender, myrtle, wild mimosa and other flowers that were the genesis of the French perfume industry in the 17th century. Grasse is especially known for its fragrant May rose, the pale pink flower that blooms in May, and jasmine. Both flowers are at the heart of more than a few famous fragrances, including Chanel’s breathtaking star, No. 5.

The short version of Grasse’s place in the history of perfume is one that begins with a foul odor. In medieval times, the town had a thriving leather business, but the tanning process made for pungent merchandise that didn’t sit well with the gloved nobility. A Grasse tanner presented a pair of scented leather gloves to Catherine de Medici, the queen of France from 1547 until 1559, and an industry was born.

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