History of perfumes

Perfumery,or the art of making perfumes, began in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt but was developed and further refined by the Romans and Persians. Knowledge of perfumery came to Europe as early as the 14th century due partially to the spread of Islam. But it were the Hungarians who ultimately introduced the first modern perfume. Made of scented oils blended in an alcohol solution, the first modern perfume was made in 1370 at the command of Queen Elizabeth of Hungary and was known throughout Europe as Hungary Water. The art of perfumery prospered in Renaissance Italy, and in the 16th century, Italian refinements were taken to France by Catherine de 'Medici's personal perfumer, Rene le Florentin. His laboratory was connected with her apartments by a secret passage way, so that no formulas could be stolen en route.

France quickly became the European center of perfume and cosmetic manufacture. Cultivation of flowers for their perfume essence, which had begun in the 14th century, grew into a major industry in the south of France. During the Renaissance period, perfumes were used primarily by royalty and the wealthy to mask body odors resulting from the sanitary practices of the day. Partly due to this patronage, the western perfumery industry was created.

By the 18th century, aromatic plants were being grown in the Grasse region of France to provide the growing perfume industry with raw materials. Grasse is the center of the modern French perfume industry and is known as the world's perfume capital. Many "noses" are trained or have spent time in Grasse. It produces over two-thirds of France's natural aromas (for perfume and for food flavorings). This industry turns over more than 600 million Euros a year.

Grasse's  particular microclimate encouraged the flower farming industry. It is warm and far enough inland to be sheltered from the sea air. There is an abundance of water, thanks to its situation in the hills and the 1860 construction of the Siagne canal for irrigation purposes. The town is 350m above sea level and 20 km from the Coast (Côte d'Azur).

Jasmine ,a key ingredient of many perfumes, was brought to southern France by the Moors, in the 16th century. Twenty-seven tons of jasmine are now harvested in Grasse every year.
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