a journey of the senses by FLACONNEUR
Maison Molinard was founded in 1849 by a young chemist named Molinard. Their location is considered the birthplace of the modern perfume industry, the famed Grasse in Provence in southern France. What better place for the genesis of Molinard’s long, fruitful history. Even today, the company prides itself on being an entirely family-run business and the oldest of its kind. Molinard had a modest start producing floral waters and Eaux de Cologne concentrations, which were sold in their shop in Grasse’s town centre. Many a customer has passed through the shop’s doors, including Queen Victoria, who purchased Eaux de Cologne on her visit there in 1891.
In 1860, Molinard began work on a series of new fragrances in soliflore style: Jasmine, Rose, Mimosa and Violette. A soliflore is a fragrance focused on a single flower. Each of these perfumes were presented in beautiful bottles made of Baccarat crystal. Some of these fragrances still hold a place in the line today, including Jasmine, Rose and Violette.
In 1900, Molinard relocated to an old perfume factory. The factory’s distillery structure was designed by none other than Gustave Eiffel. Yes, you heard right, the designer of the famed Eiffel Tower in Paris. The old distillery is the location the company calls home today. Their new location provided ample space for an expansive showroom. Molinard had many English and Russian patrons shopping their newly-displayed wares. The perfumes were not the only things of interest in the showroom. Molinard had a substantial collection of 17th and 18th century furniture to admire as well. Molinard remain the only perfume makers that has decided to keep their production factory intact. Having done so allowed them to provide tours to visitors, allowing people to experience the operations of the Maison Molinard from decades ago.
Two of Molinard’s products that were launched in 1921 are still popularity even today. First, the famous Habanita. This perfume was originally marketed to scent cigarettes, which was a longstanding industry practice at the time. The perfume came in two forms, scented sachets or a liquid that you would apply directly to the cigarettes with a glass rod. The result: a smoky, fruity, floral scented smoke filling the air. In 1924, Habanita acquired the slogan “the most tenacious perfume in the world.” In the same year, Concréta was launched, Molinard’s first solid perfume made with natural flower wax. The process starts by cleaning the botanical ingredients with solvents. The solvents absorb the fragrance, and after decanting and some filtering, the solvents evaporate, leaving a waxy paste behind.
During this period in Molinard’s history, Baccarat continued to product crystal for them, including bottles for 7 Diamonds in the Crown, Christmas Bell, The Perfume Perfume and Diamond. Baccarat got its start by permission of King Louis XV of France in 1734. The company produced window panes, mirrors and stemware up until 1816. It was at this point the company’s first crystal oven went into operation, allowing them to produce commissioned works. There were a few other illustrious master glassmakers producing bottles for Molinard. Viard created many beautiful flacon designs for the company in 1920. René Lalique created the bottles for Golden Islands and Madrigal in 1930 and The Kiss of Fauna in 1932.
World War II was a very difficult period for Molinard, but they made their contribution to the war efforts in the best way they could. The company developed what was referred to as “The Prisoner’s Parcel,” providing a touch of comfort to French soldiers.
1949 was Maison Molinard’s centenary, and in honor of this milestone a brochure was printed by Draeger Brothers. It included fifteen lavish color plate photos presenting the finest bottles made for Molinard by Lalique, Baccarat and many other famous glassmakers of the time.
The company still has some business operations that are performed the old-fashioned way. The Cream Room at Molinard is where the packaging team works. They still apply labels, pumps and tops by hand for each and every Molinard product. Their production team’s efforts supply the company’s products to 1,600 retail outlets in France and 25 other countries.
Since 1981, Molinard has been managed by the fourth generation family member, Jean-Pierre Lerouge-Benard, who started with the company in 1963. His two daughters also contribute to the business, bringing the fifth generation experiences to the table.
You might be interested in trying your own hand at the art of perfumery the next time you visit Molinard. Le Bar des Fragrances at Molinard, founded in 1994, offers you the opportunity to do just that — create you own 30 ml eau de parfum. You will be presented with an array of 90 basic notes, which include fruity, floral, earthy and spicy. From these you select six of your favorites. Half of you selections will compose the top notes and the other half will compose the base notes. The perfumer on hand will blend your final selections, creating a perfume based on your preferences.
Maison Molinard has been an honored member of the Comité Français du Parfum and the Fécération Française de la Parfumerie since its humble beginnings. They are a respected part of the perfumery community, offering quality products as well as providing education and history to its visitors.
Today the Molinard company produces a full array of perfumes, oils, body care products, candles and aromatherapy products. They encourage you to visit them the next time you’re in Grasse, and be treated to their 166-year history and their 67 perfumes in person. Molinard will also provide tours of their museum and the opportunity to learn about the history of perfumery through the exploration of their various workshops.