Fragonard: the historic French house (with THE cutest miniatures)

Fragonard are one of the most beautiful fragrance houses in France, nestled in the heart of Grasse – itself the home of fine perfumery since the 17th Century. Proudly still in the same family, and currently being run by a trio of sisters who mark the fourth generation, Fragonard are something of a fragrant fixture, and well worth getting to know.

The perfumes themselves are simply divine, and the packaging always exquisite – yet we feel this lovely house can often be overlooked. No More! Here, we are thrilled to bring you not one but TWO boxes to indulge in. For yourself to explore, or as a perfect gift to give if you’re not sure what type of fragrance they prefer? Either way, get ready to be blown away by their outstanding character, quality and affordability…

A trio of darling little miniature-sized perfume bottles, holding three of Fragonard’s iconic fragrances, form the perfect way to wear and fall in love with their utterly charming scents. Wonderful for miniature collectors, travelling or keeping in your bag for on-the-go perfume top ups!

Etoile – inspired by the ladies of Provence, who wore broaches known as ‘stars of Digne’ which were regarded as lucky charms – the sparkling  bergamot, apple and ginger top notes blend to a heart filled with gardenia, lily of the valley and jasmine on a base of amber and cedar wood.

Emilie – a bewitching floral composition that blends sumptuous rose petals and jasmine with a more delicate violet note, then wraps them in sandalwood and amber. A fragrance to treasure, conjuring softly blushing shades of pink and mauve.

Diamant – dazzling mysterious, this leaves a luminous trail with mandarin, orange and pepper as top notes, rose, jasmine and plum in the luscious heart, balanced on a rich background of vanilla, patchouli, ethereal musk and caramel.

Fragonard Set of 3 Miniatures £25 for 2 x 5ml + 1 x 6ml

A stand-out collection of heavenly scents in just THE cutest miniature bottles, we invite you to immerse yourself in these joyful droplets of perfume pleasure, and understand for yourself exactly why this perfume house has become a legend.

Grain De Soleil – an alluring fragrance, delicate rose, subtle iris and intoxicating jasmine enhanced by cinnamon, mellow amber, rich vanilla and exotic incense, Grain de Soleil is a true Oriental fragrance.

Soleil – a heady blend of flowers – jasmine and orange blossom, lily and rose, iris and wisteria – off-set by amber, sandalwood and musk. An intensely radiant fragrance that irresistibly evokes the noontide southern sun. This is THE great Fragonard classic.

Diamant – a sweet-Oriental, with mandarin, orange and pepper as top notes, balanced by rose, jasmine and plum as middle notes, on a background of vanilla, patchouli, musk and caramel.

Fragonard – an elegant scent that unites suave white flowers, orange blossom with mellow amber, musk and wood.

Belle De Nuit – a true original, deep rich harmony of flowers and fruit on a warm velvety bottom note of musk. A precious fragrance, as magical as an Arabian night!

Fragonard Miniatures Collection £35 for 5 x 7ml eau de parfum

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Stopping to Smell the Roses

You can actually smell the Anima Vinci roses in Grasse before you see them. I had been driven from Nice airport to the fields by renowned (and now independent) perfumer, Thomas Fontaine, and have to admit that, as we cruised along the motorway with the steeply exotic looking hills of Grasse surrounding us, I felt like I was (as the young people say these days) living my best life. As I opened the car door a wall of fragrance greeted me, an all-pervading scent that at times was tantalisingly sheer, carried away by a sudden breeze; but mostly hovered like an olfactory canopy, a ceiling of scent.

How to describe the fragrance? Centifolia roses are the epitome of dewy freshness, gathered in the early morning before the sun can evaporate the precious oils, and with a delicate ripe raspberry note flickering through a green, graceful core. Probably the best way I can make it manifest is to say they smell like their colour, but nothing can quite do justice to the experience of closing your eyes and breathing in that smell for yourself.

Left-right: perfumer Thomas Fontaine, Nathalie Vinciguerra, Mr. Joubert

We were visiting the rose fields owned by a farmer called Mr Joubert, who looks exactly as you hope a French rose-field farmer would – frayed flannel shirt and skin long-tanned by his lifetime of hard work in those fields. In fact, I later learned that his family had owned them for centuries, his strong, careful hands expertly cupping the pale pink petals and quickly, so-gently, twisting them to come away as a full bloom. The buds are left on the bush and tomorrow, the process repeated until every petal has been safely gathered and taken in hessian sacks to what basically amounts to Mr Joubert’s garage. Piled en-masse, they’re weighed and transported within two hours to the place that processes them in to ‘concrete’, a solid (or sometimes semi-solid) product resulting from solvent extraction. When the concrete is washed with alcohol, it finally becomes what we know as an ‘absolute’.

Incredibly, it takes around 12 tonnes of fresh flowers to produce just one kilogram of rose absolute, the harvest season for Centifolia roses is only a few days – and what has been gathered represents that entire year’s crop. The back-breaking highly skilled work, the sheer amount of petals it takes to produce the final product and the risk of bad weather or disease affecting the quality explains why Centifolia rose absolute is one of the most expensive materials known in perfumery – currently, the price is between 15 000 / 20 000 euros per kilo.

Nathalie’s fingerprints are all over the perfume world – previously Head of Fragrance Development for Penhaligon’s and L’Artisan Parfumeur – but she’d always wanted to start her own business, where she could ensure the quality, authenticity and sustainability through every single stage of a perfume’s production. Every year she makes sure to personally visit the rose fields to assess the quality, to make sure the farmer is happy and to continue to build these vital relationships that, ultimately, shape the way we smell when we purchase that final bottle of perfume.

Wearing it now, I can be transported back to those sun-baked fields in a flash, and really that’s the power of perfume, isn’t it? To capture a moment for eternity, to gift us the experience of travelling back there with every eager spritz, to allow us to dream. But what does the future hold for precious, labour-intensive fragrant crops such as these?

Some farming families in Grasse used to own jasmine fields, too, Nathalie tells me, but the majority were forced to abandon them when companies found they could buy (lesser quality) jasmine far more cheaply, elsewhere. ‘Their children didn’t want to take on such work with such risk – they could make far more money through selling the land for property or even for “glamping”, or you know, they go and work in IT…’ Nathalie tells me.

Visiting these fields – meeting the producers first-hand – cannot help but drum home to anyone with even a fleeting interest in fragrance how vital it is to support these companies who genuinely care about that future. And so, the next time you reach for a bottle of what purports to be a ‘rose perfume’, do you know exactly where those petals grew? I guarantee that if you do, your pleasure at wearing it can only increase…

Anima Vinci Rose Prana £150 for 100ml eau de parfum

Buy it at animavinci.com or Les Senteurs

Written by Suzy Nightingale