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UNESCO Recognizes the Grasse Region’s Perfume Skills

The United Nation’s cultural agency has added the region's methods for cultivating flowers and making fragrances to its list of protected treasures.

PARIS — The skills related to perfume in the Pays de Grasse region of France — considered the birthplace of modern perfumery — has been inscribed in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Specifically, UNESCO has recognized the area’s cultivation of perfume plants, knowledge and processing of natural raw materials, and art of perfume composition. The communities and groups involved in fragrance making there are grouped under the L’Association Patrimoine Vivant du Pays de Grasse, or Living Heritage Association of the Region of Grasse.

Fragrance-makers such as Robertet, Fragonard and Parfumerie Galimard; Molinard’s factory, and Louis Vuitton and Dior’s fragrance workshop site, called Les Fontaines Parfumées, are based in the city of Grasse, which is surrounded by fields of fragrance flowers culled for the art of perfume making. Chanel’s lavender fields are among them.

The practice of growing and processing plants for perfumes and blending them has been rooted in Grasse since at least the 16th century.

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“Perfume plant cultivation involves a wide range of skills and knowledge, for instance pertaining to nature, soil, weather, biology, plant physiology and horticultural practices, as well as specific techniques, such as extraction and hydraulic distillation methods,” UNESCO said in a statement.

“The inhabitants of Grasse have made these techniques their own and helped improve them,” it continued. “In addition to technical skills, the art also calls for imagination, memory and creativity. Perfume forges social bonds and provides an important source of seasonal labor.”

Other elements recently to be inscribed in the list include Egypt’s hand puppetry, Pakistan’s suri jagek sun observance practice and Azerbaijan’s yalli traditional group dances.