Follow Your Nose, Part 3 : Fragrance Schools, Studying Perfumery at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery (GIP)
2023 . 06 . 15 |
Essencional continues its journey to discover the best perfumery schools and courses for becoming a nose where one can also acquire the skills necessary for other professions related to the world of perfume and smells. This time we went to the Grasse Institute of Perfumery (GIP) where we learned about its importance for the world of perfumery thanks to the Director, Alain Ferro, who personally accompanied us during the visit.
The Grasse Institute of Perfumery (GIP) is one of the world's most renowned and recognized schools. Founded by Prodarom, in 2002, in Grasse, in the heart of the perfume district of Provence, the GIP is famous for its 18-month professional training course - the "International Technical Degree in Fragrance Creation and Sensory Evaluation". Within the institute’s curriculum there are also shorter courses such as the specialization courses on aromas and cosmetics and the highly sought-after summer classes in perfumery, also aimed at enthusiasts.
An historic Provençal-style building from the early 1900s, surrounded by a garden and rolling hills, is the evocative place where international students from all over the world spend their training period. Studying in Grasse means studying in the capital of perfumery in Europe: since 2018 Grasse has been a UNESCO protected world heritage site recognized for the skills in plant cultivation, the knowledge and processing of natural raw materials and the art of perfume composition. It is also home to various companies in the perfumery production chain.
Alain Ferro, Director of the GIP, welcomed us at the entrance of the impressive building and accompanied us on a special visit to the school headquarters. During our guided tour, while we discovered the places where future noses and tomorrow's olfactory professionals are trained, Mr. Ferro told us what it means to study at the GIP.
What kind of courses are offered at GIP?
AF: “The school offers a complete educational offer, made up of long-term, professional courses and shorter courses, focused on specific aspects of the olfactory art. As for professional courses, which are aimed at those who want to learn a trade in the perfumery sector, we have an international technical course, the "International Technical Degree in Fragrance Creation and Sensory Evaluation", which is a complete program for learning the art and technique necessary for the creation of fragrances and their evaluation. Another course, to become a "Technical assistant in Fragrances, Aromas and Cosmetics", will be available for the first time in 2024.
The "International Technical Degree in Fragrance Creation and Sensory Evaluation" course consists of an 18-month educational path during which the student learns the basic skills of perfumery: knowledge of the raw materials and how to use them, learning how to classify and recognize the main groups of fragrances, how to create and compose accords. There are also various in-depth studies necessary for carrying out the profession: international regulations for fragrances and cosmetic products, analysis techniques (gas chromatography and mass spectrometry), the various applications of perfumes in personal hygiene products (shampoo, shower gel, creams, etc) and so on.
During the school year there are several visits to crops of raw materials (violet, mimosa, rose, lavender, jasmine) and then again later to witness the harvest when they are in bloom. These are fundamental moments for building the cultural experience of the nose/evaluator, because they allow students to explore the various types of raw materials, the aspects of cultivation with the producers, as well as the visual and olfactory sensorial aspects: perfume, color, appearance.
The school year ends with a trip: every year the class has the opportunity to go on a journey to discover raw materials abroad; in recent years the class went to Calabria (Italy) to discover Bergamot and to Florence to discover Iris and the Villoresi museum.*
Those who successfully pass the final exam, submit a company work project, and complete a six-month training internship are awarded the certificate of "International technical degree in the creation of fragrances and sensory evaluation".
The shorter courses, on the other hand, are scheduled at various levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced) and explore different themes: we have activated a course on cosmetics and natural fragrances, a course on the production of soaps and candles and a course on olfactory tasting. This last course is aimed at sommeliers and anyone who needs olfactory skills for wine, tea, coffee and chocolate tasting. Then we have some short courses that are held in the summer, between June and September, the "Fragrance Summer Schools" always divided into levels which aim to provide some basic information on the history of perfumery and its vocabulary, and which also include some interesting visits to farms and to the gardens and places where raw materials such as jasmine, lavender, and tuberose are cultivated. These classes are primarily aimed at enthusiasts.”
The classroom training offer is also completed by the "Technical assistant in Fragrances, Aromas and Cosmetics" course targeted to those with a background in chemistry and aimed at deepening the practical analysis of raw materials and aromas."
Going through the various rooms of the building, Alain makes us enter a classroom…without students. Inside, a teacher explains the lesson in front of a webcam, in front of her, a video projector projects the image of her "remote classroom", a group of about ten students who follow the explanations by videoconference and intervene in the lesson with questions. In short, we have a practical and live demonstration of what it means to study in e-learning mode at the GIP.
Is it possible to take the classes remotely, through e-learning?
AF: “During the pandemic, like all training institutions, we have equipped ourselves so as not to stop our teaching activities. While the long-term professional courses and summer classes were designed to be enjoyed face-to-face, to date, we have two courses in e-learning mode: the first, basic level, on raw materials, the second on the creation of fragrances. These courses of approximately 15 hours of lessons are live and are possible thanks to a kit of 50/60 raw materials that is used by the student, who can therefore follow the lesson from home and interact with the teacher and classmates. Thanks to the kit, the student has the opportunity to deepen the study of raw materials and olfactory families. While in the level 2 course, the student learns to reconstruct simple and complex accords and the different olfactory families and to create a fragrance."
What distinguished GIP from other perfumery schools?
AF: “The GIP was founded by PRODAROM**, therefore our courses are professional, and even the short ones have an extremely practical approach. Our teachers are all professionals with solid experience in companies in the sector.
We have a very strong connection with the real local producers and our "International Technical Degree in Fragrance Creation and Sensory Evaluation" course is sponsored by companies in the district precisely because it is intended to create profiles with practical professional skills that can be employed in these companies. This allows us to have very high placement percentages after school attendance, also considering that at the end of the course, the students of the class work for a period of time as interns in a company.
The practical approach is also part of the course structure, given that during the 18-month technical course, students work on a final project which will then be presented by the sponsoring company of the year's edition. This allows students to work on some totally real cases, from the brief to the realization. Last year the theme of sustainability was touched on as the students were assigned the task of creating a fragrance and a solid perfume, with attention to sustainable perfumery and the notion of upcycling.
Is it difficult to get into GIP?
Our short courses are open access, but the "International Technical Degree in Fragrance Creation and Sensory Evaluation" is a course limited to 12 students and there is a rigorous selection process which includes CV analysis and admission tests - tests of logic, creativity, recognition of raw materials and an interview by a selection committee. The selections take place on a global scale and it is possible to be screened from offices abroad. This allows us to have a truly international class, with students from all over the world.
The deadline for applying to the International Technical Degree is 31 July 2023.
How much does it cost?
"The International Technical Degree in Fragrance Creation and Sensory Evaluation" costs around EUR 13,300 but scholarships are provided to cover the fee thanks to the sponsorships of companies that collaborate with the school.
The short specialization courses vary in price from 1800 to about 2500 euros.
Not only fragrance but also flavors
After showing us various laboratories equipped with technical instruments and including "libraries" of raw materials and a special practical application laboratory equipped with the perfumer's organ, we leave the main building to reach the garden and enter a separate section of the building .
This section is made up of various rooms, real laboratories, which, in addition to the instruments, include various cabinets containing bottles of raw materials, made of dark glass or aluminum. "This is the section dedicated to food flavourings" which are explored especially in the "Technical assistant in perfumes, aromas and cosmetics" course.
Alain makes us do a real olfactory tasting of various food aromas. Some prove to be immediately recognizable, while others require more attempts and we try to guess them. It's a fun game and we are amazed at the amount of flavors possible that represent most of the foods we know: from coffee, to chocolate, to biscuits, to cheese. It seems almost impossible that smelling a simple blotter card can give us back the crunchy scent of bacon or the intensity of a cup of espresso, as if they were in front of us.
When one thinks of professions related to the world of smell, it is not immediate to think of professions related to the world of natural or artificial flavors used in the food industry. Yet, it is a significant area given that the use of food flavorings is necessary for industrially produced foods, in order to enrich them in terms of taste and smell and also to recover flavors that may have degraded during production or which are better to avoid since loss can occur if the product stays on the shelf for a long time.
At the GIP it is therefore possible to explore the sector of food flavorings, in terms of supply, olfactory and gustatory characteristics, application, evaluation of safety and quality problems.
During our visit we discovered that some of these aromas, the most delicate, are kept at a controlled temperature in the refrigerator. Alain warned us: "This is the refrigerator of the most intense aromas" and suddenly we found ourselves smelling blotters that gave us the smell of gorgonzola, brie and other traditional French cheeses, as if the cheese was a few centimeters from our nose.
We certainly didn't know the richness of these raw materials which left us truly amazed! After having sniffed dozens of raw materials, we had reached olfactory fatigue, and Alain Ferro lead the way up to a wonderful terrace decorated with a few tuberose plants, facing a beautiful view of the hills of Provence.
It was here that Alain told us the latest news from the school: the GIP network is very extensive and there are constant requests from students from all over the world. Ad hoc courses have also been created, in e-learning mode and in Chinese, Taiwanese and Russian.
This school of excellence in the picturesque setting of Grasse is an example of how the richness of the place in terms of plants, industry, and professional competence, has historical and solid origins, but also how it is totally open and connected to the world, operating in an international dimension.
It was a visit that intrigued and fascinated us, in one of the most evocative places in France, but we were left with the desire to smell other raw materials and to further explore the craft of the nose. We just have to plan another visit and return to Grasse to discover new raw materials, local flowers and the activities of the GIP, in the meantime we thank Alain and his collaborators for all the things they have shown us.
*See Essencional article on the Villoresi museum at Museo Lorenzo Villoresi: The Art of Perfume (essencional.com)
** PRODAROM: The French National Union of the perfumery industry which seeks to advise, defend and accompany its members in all the matters related to perfumery.