From Petal to Essence : Grasse Rose Harvest

I’m drunk on roses. I’m flailing my arms around, making snow angels in the rose petals, and I’m laughing uncontrollably. The experience of sinking into a mass of soft pink petals is an exhilarating sensation, but it’s the scent that thrills me. The fragrance is clinging to my hair, my clothes, my skin. It clings to the rough cement walls in this garage filled with sacks of rose blossoms ready to be processed into essence, and it’s so rich and heady, it feels like a tangible presence. The aroma–linden honey, grated lemon zest, and warm raspberry–will follow me around for days, and even now, as I’m writing with a bowl of dried petals by my side, I can still smell the Provençal sun on them.

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How many steps does it take for a flower to become perfume? I’m in Grasse, a town on the French Riviera, to get a glimpse into the intricate process of harvesting roses for the rose de mai essence. Painters express their vision with colors, but for perfumers and perfume lovers alike, the ideas acquire meaning with aromatics, so the art of making the essence is what we are to discover.

Grasse got its moniker as the perfume capital of the world for its fields of flowers that once spread out like a colorful quilt around the region.  Jasmine, tuberose, lavender, and rose thrive in the valley lying between the sea and the Riviera’s Maritime Alps. Over the past few decades, the fields of Grasse have shrunken dramatically due to real estate development and increasing labor costs, but rose de mai, as rosa centifolia is called in French for its May blooming season, still remains one of the region’s hallmarks. The essence it provides is an irreplaceable ingredient in iconic fragrances like Chanel No. 5 and Jean Patou Joy.

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Chanel partners with the Mul family to secure its rose and jasmine essences, but there are also other producers in the region.  The grower whose fields I’m visiting is one of the small farmers based in Grasse, and he knows more about growing roses than anyone I’ve met. He describes the soil conditions, the varieties and the general state of business, and it’s clear that he loves his work, despite its challenges. If you’re familiar with ornamental roses and their luxurious blossoms, the modest look of rose de mai will take you by surprise. It’s the perfume of the crinkly, soft flowers that will dazzle you.

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The bushes are pruned back sharply both to make it easier for pickers and to increase the yield. 60,000 roses are needed to produce one ounce of rose absolute, but if the pruning is not done correctly, the yield can plummet by as much as 20%. This is a significant difference, especially since rose de mai contains less essential oil than the other variety used in perfumery, rosa damascena.

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As you stand among the neat green hedges dappled with vivid pink, it’s tempting to imagine that picking roses is a romantic job. The colors, scents, textures! Except that the May sun turns blistering as soon as midday approaches, and the monotony of snipping the blossoms one by one soon wears you down, as does the heavy sack holding the flowers. Each picker can collect up to 6 kg of roses per hour, but my fingers are starting to smart from the rough stems, and I’ve barely collected enough to make a pot of rose jam.

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The ladies picking the flowers are from the Roma clan appropriately called “La Fleur” (The Flower), and they’re realistic and unsentimental about their work. Although they grumble about the low pay vis-a-vis the high price of the essence, their wages give them financial independence and security. “We feed our children on roses,” jokes a tall, heavyset brunette in a baseball cap and sleeveless black t-shirt.

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When the sacs are emptied into a weighing room in a technicolor flurry of petals, you get close to being inside The Roses of Heliogabalus painting. Most small farmers in Grasse don’t process their own flowers on site, and before roses are shipped off to the extraction facilities, they are spread out on the floor and left to breathe. A touch of rot or too many wilting petals will ruin the essence, and occasionally the pink carpet is raked and tossed in the air. I can’t resist and jump in, tossing flowers with my hands. The scent of a million roses is intoxicating. I feel something close to absolute happiness.

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Eventually, the roses will be loaded back in burlap sacs and transferred to the processing facility. To maximize the yield of essence and to preserve the characteristic fresh nuance of rose de mai, it’s turned into absolute, rather than hydro-distilled into rose oil. This means that the petals are bathed in an organic solvent, usually hexane, and the resulting extract is then vacuum distilled. The solvent is removed (it can be reused again), while a concrète remains behind. It looks like solidified honey, and it smells good enough to make my mouth water.

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If you think that this is a lot of work for a drop of perfume, just wait. Concrète is only the intermediate step before rose petals can make their way into Annick Goutal Rose Splendide or Diptyque Eau Rose. It now has to be processed with ethanol (alcohol) to separate the liquid substances from the plant waxes. The blend is chilled, and then the solid parts are skimmed off. One more step to filter, and finally, one more distillation step to separate alcohol from the essence, and you have rose de mai absolute. No wonder this is one of the most expensive materials in the perfumer’s palette.

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Rose absolute is the color of Baltic amber, with a green overtone, and it smells thicker, warmer and heavier than freshly picked blossoms. Its complexity is spellbinding, and as I take a whiff off a scented blotter, I can smell it all–the gauzy petals, the dusty rose leaves, the hot soil, the wild rosemary, and even a salty hint of the Mediterranean sea.

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Extra: The video about the rose harvest in Turkey. It also explains the difference between rose oil and rose absolute.

Denyse of Grain de Musc was my accomplice on this rose adventure, and I’m sure you will read her account soon.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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108 Comments

  • Anne of Green Gables: Wow! Thank you so much for the wonderful post, V. It feels as if I’ve experienced the harvest myself. Rose is my favourite floral so it was such a treat. Roses are in full bloom here. I passed by a rose bush on the way to lunch today and I couldn’t help but notice the fragrant aroma. Most roses I buy are not so strongly scented but these flowers were really fragrant! I actually had some yoghurt with rose jelly this morning. It must be a rose day! Too bad that I’m not wearing a rose perfume today. 🙂 May 28, 2014 at 8:20am Reply

    • Victoria: I will also write about fragrances that use rose de mai and some more on roses later, since it was impossible to fit it all in. And rose is such a favorite subject of mine! 🙂

      Rose jam over yogurt is one of my favorite breakfasts! May 28, 2014 at 9:21am Reply

  • Michaela: Excellent article, thank you! Such a dream experience, I’m happy for you! May 28, 2014 at 8:21am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that you liked it! It was such a happy, joyous experience, and a good antidote to the somewhat challenging winter months. May 28, 2014 at 9:24am Reply

      • Mezzogiorno: “Somewhat challenging” is about 8,000 times more polite a phrase than what I would have said about winter, particularly the one we had this year near Boston. 😉 Thank you for this beautiful post! My roses (newly planted last year) are about to bloom and I am particularly excited to smell the damascena for the first time. May 29, 2014 at 2:05pm Reply

        • Victoria: You’ll have your own rose fantasy soon! Rosa damascena smells spicier, more honeyed, and it’s also incredibly strong (even more so than rose de mai). May 30, 2014 at 11:14am Reply

  • Ann: I can smell rose de mai through the screen. What a beautiful story and pictures. May 28, 2014 at 8:22am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Ann! I really wish there was a way to transmit scents through internet. 🙂 May 28, 2014 at 9:24am Reply

  • rainboweyes: You look so happy among all these rose petals, it must be an unforgettable experience!
    Beside fragrant iris, the smell of natural roses, especially the wild varieties, is my favourite fragrance. I have a wild rose bush in my garden (I think it’s a Japanese or dog rose, though) and its smell is gorgeous. So why don’t I like rose-centered perfume? This will remain a conundrum to me… May 28, 2014 at 8:31am Reply

    • Victoria: I was definitely overjoyed, and all of us were squealing and feeling under the rose influence. That scent is incredible, and I have been trying to find something similar in a perfume bottle. Or at least, an approximation. It’s also a humbling experience, because you realize how much work goes into create rose absolute.

      Perhaps, you don’t care for rose perfumes, because many don’t have the full nuances of fresh blooming roses? It has been one of my struggles, although I’ve learned to enjoy roses that way too. May 28, 2014 at 9:30am Reply

  • maja: I can’t stop smiling while reading this and seeing your picture of absolute happiness. It must have been wonderful. So happy for you! 🙂

    I mixed some YR Rose Absolue and Roses Chloe yesterday evening trying to get a fresh pink rose that has some extra sweetness to it. Might Goutal’s Rose Absolue be what I am looking for? May 28, 2014 at 8:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Rose Absolue + Rose Splendide by Goutal might be a combo to try. They are the most natural smelling roses, although Diptyque Eau Rose comes close too.

      All of those roses were intoxicating! 🙂 May 28, 2014 at 9:32am Reply

  • Debbie: I am so happy for you and to see such joy! Thank you for writing the experience. May 28, 2014 at 9:13am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Debbie! It’s my pleasure to share, and I only hope that I could convey even a bit how incredible these rose fields are. I don’t want them to disappear. May 28, 2014 at 9:32am Reply

  • Patricia: Love the picture of you amongst the rose petals! Looks like heaven :). May 28, 2014 at 9:22am Reply

    • Victoria: It was! Heaven must be just an endless carpet of rose petals. 🙂 May 28, 2014 at 9:33am Reply

  • Lauren B: This is such a fascinating process. It’s strange to think of roses as a crop, like cotton or corn, but I suppose that’s exactly what they are – just used for more romantic purposes. When I do finally make it to France, I’ll make sure to include Grasse on my list of stops. Right after a drugstore for some antihistamines, of course. (It’s terrible to love scents when you’re allergic to the things that make them.) May 28, 2014 at 9:30am Reply

    • Victoria: You said what I was thinking too! Perfume material agriculture does have its place, and while it’s very small, it can support whole communities. And of course, it makes such a big difference for us when we shop for scented products, skincare, toothpaste, etc.

      I have to say that my eyes were bothering me terribly after being exposed to some much pollen. First, in Kyiv where every tree was some aromatic blooming kind, then in France where it was all in bloom. But a bit of allergy is nothing next to this experience. May 28, 2014 at 9:36am Reply

  • Heather H: Yeah, Victoria you look like you’re having so much fun! Rose lovers unite! My favorite fresh rose fragrance is Parfums DelRae Coup de Foudre-which uses the Mai rose. May 28, 2014 at 9:31am Reply

    • Victoria: I just found a sample of Coup de Foudre, and I’m about to put it on! 🙂 May 28, 2014 at 9:37am Reply

      • DelRae Roth: Dear Victoria,
        Oh what a wonderful experience!
        I was just going to send you a message how wonderful this post was. these Roses are so stunning….. and just saw that you are wearing coup de foudre! I specified to use rose oil from the Mul family. It is why the perfume dazzles.
        thank you for a very wonderful trip to the south of France ! May 28, 2014 at 9:52am Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you! How great that other perfume makers can also buy the beautiful essences from the Mul family, not just Chanel. May 28, 2014 at 11:36am Reply

      • rainboweyes: Coup de Foudre has been the only one that came close to the real thing so far (a least to me). It’s an outstanding rose fragrance, a masterpiece! Although I’m not a rose fan I really appreciate its beauty. May 28, 2014 at 12:06pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’m enjoying it very much, and I also like Annick Goutal Rose Splendide, which I have on my other arm. It’s more citrusy and green of a rose, but it’s very natural too. May 28, 2014 at 5:35pm Reply

        • Heather H: I found out about Coup de Foudre through you and Patricia. I sampled it, and loved it too. Now it is one of my favorite roses. Thank You! May 28, 2014 at 10:59pm Reply

          • Heather H: Sorry this message is for rainbow eyes. May 28, 2014 at 11:00pm Reply

            • rainboweyes: I’m happy you like it 🙂 May 30, 2014 at 4:03am Reply

  • Allison C.: Reading about your rose experience made my day, thank you! One of my favorite things is sparkling wine with a crystalised rose petal in the glass! May 28, 2014 at 9:41am Reply

    • Victoria: There is a factory in Grasse that makes crystallized fruit and flowers. I bought some candied rose petals, but I wasn’t sure what to do with them. You can’t eat that many. Trying them with something sparkling is a great idea. Thank you! May 28, 2014 at 11:35am Reply

      • Karen: Use them on top of a cake, they are so pretty! May 28, 2014 at 5:29pm Reply

        • Victoria: That’s another great idea. Now, I’m inspired to bake something. 🙂 May 28, 2014 at 5:54pm Reply

          • Karen: I made a lemon cake with rose syrup and lemon curd between the layers, topped with lemon buttercream frosting. It was early spring so I made candied violets but candied rose petals would be equally stunning. The rose syrup went really well with lemon. May 30, 2014 at 5:44am Reply

            • Victoria: Yum! Sounds so delicious, Karen. Rose and citrus are a natural, so I can imagine how well lemon accented the rose. May 30, 2014 at 11:21am Reply

  • Marge Clark: Ah…. blissful start to my morning… of all our Roses the Rose de Mai has always been my favorite. Going to share this with our friends. Thank you, Victoria! May 28, 2014 at 10:08am Reply

    • Victoria: It really smells different from rosa damascena. I love both, but the freshness of rose de mai is special. May 28, 2014 at 11:38am Reply

  • Ferris: Looking at all those piles of Rose petals makes me want to jump in there and make snow angels too! Wow that is such an experience! I must make it to Grasse one day. It is on my bucket list. To inhale the truest essence of Rose there is must be exhilarating! But until then I will settle for gifted perfumers interpretation thereof. I like Annick Goutal’s Ce Soir Ou Jamais which is a beautiful fruity and jammy rose with a green undertone. I also like Égoïste from Chanel although I doubt it has any real rose essence in at all but I like it regardless. But there is nothing like smelling and experiencing the real thing for sure. Excellent article Victoria. Thanks so much for sharing your story and and vibrant photographs! May 28, 2014 at 10:11am Reply

    • Victoria: Grasse itself is not one of my favorite towns in Provence, but the area around it is beautiful. And the place really smells wonderful–a mixture of wild rosemary, lavender, something earthy and sunbaked. May 28, 2014 at 11:40am Reply

  • Andy: I feel like I’m there in Grasse! The pictures looked good enough to smell, which reminded me of a question I’ve had: What are a few of your favorite fruity/citrusy rose perfumes (If anyone has one, feel free to chime in!)? I’m always challenged by rose notes, but I love the real flowers. Especially the ones that smell incredibly lemony or have interesting fruity nuances (raspberry, peach, candied violet). Many thanks! May 28, 2014 at 10:36am Reply

    • Victoria: Fun topic! Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Ete is great as is Un Zest de Rose. I also like Serge Lutens Sa Majeste la Rose, which has a mouthwatering lychee top note. May 28, 2014 at 11:42am Reply

      • Andy: Thank you, for these and your replies below. When it comes down to it, I know of enough rose perfumes but haven’t tested near enough of them. Can’t wait to try some of these! May 28, 2014 at 7:51pm Reply

        • Victoria: You could also try Stella MacCartney Stella, Lancome’s Rose (it keeps changing its name, so worth asking at the counter; it used to be called Mille et Une Rose), and Estee Lauder White Linen flanker in a sheer pink bottle. Easy to find and very good perfumes. May 29, 2014 at 11:27am Reply

    • rainboweyes: Andy, also Coup de Foudre has lemon, bergamot and pink grapefruit in the top notes.
      And Majalis by Parfums de Rosine includes bergamot, mandarin orange, lemon, cinnamon and coriander! May 28, 2014 at 12:15pm Reply

      • Victoria: Another great one I’ve just remembered is Annick Goutal Quel Amour!, a blend of rose and pomegranate. May 28, 2014 at 5:36pm Reply

        • Victoria: One more fruity rose I thought of is Parfums de Nicolai Rose Pivoine, which has a touch of lychee and red berries. May 28, 2014 at 5:56pm Reply

      • Andy: Many thanks, rainboweyes! That melange of citrus in Coup de Foudre sounds perfect. May 28, 2014 at 7:52pm Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: Found in my cupboard: a sample of Rose de Cardin. Lovely, fruity rose!
          I wonder if it still exists, sample must be from the 70s or 80s.

          To my nose also Nahema has a fruity note. May 29, 2014 at 6:20am Reply

          • Victoria: I also find Nahema fruity, a rose accented with ripe plums and peaches. May 29, 2014 at 11:34am Reply

  • Jillie: Beautiful = the roses, photos and you! I will definitely be having rose jam on my yoghurt tomorrow.

    I thought I read something the other day about IFRA coming down even harder on rose as an ingredient this year – is that true? And what repercussions will that have for all involved in rose agriculture and perfume lovers? May 28, 2014 at 11:11am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Jillie. Or rose jam on crepes, pancakes, or spread onto Victoria sponge… I’m hungry now! 🙂

      The regulations on the use of rose essence haven’t changed since 2009, I believe. The main problem with using rose essence has to do more with the high price, rather than the regulations. It’s really one of the most expensive perfume materials. May 28, 2014 at 12:26pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Very impressing article. The smell of so many roses must have been overwhelming, almost like a drug! I can’t even imagine how it was.
    My favourite is the rose in Joy, and Une Rose.
    Picking these roses seems to be a responsible job, and a real labour, should be better paid. May 28, 2014 at 11:17am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: I think you were in the neighbourhood of a mighty god: Dionysos. May 28, 2014 at 12:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: We asked the farmer if he could smell the roses, but he said that after a while he gets used to the scent and doesn’t notice it. But of course, the sight of all those petals is amazing.

      I don’t know if the job is really that low-paid for what it is; the ladies only mentioned it vis-a-vis the price of finished oil. I say ladies, because that’s who was picking. There were no male pickers around on this farm. May 28, 2014 at 5:24pm Reply

  • Ashley Anstaett: When I first started reading this, I thought that you were describing one of your dreams. But this is a dream come true! What a wonderful and intoxicating adventure. May 28, 2014 at 11:26am Reply

    • Victoria: At some point it did feel like a dream and a bit surreal! 🙂 May 28, 2014 at 5:25pm Reply

  • Anka: Drunk on roses, laughing uncontrollably – how wonderful and adventurous!!!
    Btw, you look like a character from a Manga comic on this beautiful picture, thanks for sharing. May 28, 2014 at 11:30am Reply

    • Victoria: It was a great experience and I also learned a lot. I will never experience rose the same way in perfume, especially knowing how much hard work goes into making the essence.

      🙂 I had an anime nickname in college. May 28, 2014 at 5:28pm Reply

  • OperaFan: There is nothing like being in the middle of the action, and what a vivid account of the harvest and production process! I’d be grinning ear to ear as you if I had been there. 🙂

    Our roses are just getting set to bloom… about 2 weeks later than normal. On the plus side, they’ve had time to amass a heavier than normal abundance of buds that may continue blooming past my birthday in mid-June. Normally the first (and best) flush would have ended by the time it rolled around.

    Looking forward to your follow up posts. Cheers! May 28, 2014 at 11:31am Reply

    • Victoria: My mom’s roses are also a bit late, but she doesn’t mind for the same reason–the season will be a bit longer. I don’t know what variety she has, but it has a delicious apricot scent. I dream of planting some scented roses for jam.

      Meanwhile, I’m missing the roses here, and I’m compensating with some rose perfumes and splashing rosewater on my face. May 28, 2014 at 5:30pm Reply

      • OperaFan: I’d forgotten that I have rosewater ( thanks to your post on the topic)! Well, May may be the harvest month for Rose de Mai, but I believe June is traditionally dubbed the month for roses? In any case, with a few exceptions I will be wearing rose-centered fragrances for the month, and now I will be adding rosewater to my Skincare routine. May 29, 2014 at 11:38pm Reply

        • Victoria: I didn’t know this, but it makes sense that in the cooler climates roses don’t bloom till later in the spring/early summer. In Ukrainian the word for June has the same root as the word for lindens, but lindens will be competing with my grandmother’s new roses this year. May 30, 2014 at 11:17am Reply

  • Xiu Jing: What a wonderful post! It sounds sooo lovely and heavenly ahh. May 28, 2014 at 11:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! It was one of the most incredible scented experiences for me. May 28, 2014 at 5:31pm Reply

  • rickyrebarco: Wow, thanks for this wonderful story. That’s amazing. I cannot imagine how all those hundreds and thousands of rose petals must smell. Stupendous I imagine! May 28, 2014 at 12:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s overwhelming, intoxicating and dazzling! There is no other way to describe it. 🙂 It’s true that you do get used to the aroma after a while, but at first, it totally knocks your socks off. May 28, 2014 at 5:33pm Reply

  • Annette Reynolds: Fabulous, Victoria! Thank you for all the wonderful photos and descriptions. I have several old roses growing in my Pacific Northwest garden (hard to imagine, I know): they are my favorites and the ones that are fairly carefree. May 28, 2014 at 12:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: I can imagine, because roses here in Brussels bloom well into the late fall! And these days the whole area around me looks like a rose garden. They even plant them in the middle of the boulevards, on the banks separating two sides of the road. May 28, 2014 at 5:37pm Reply

  • Alicia: What a delight, Victoria! Thank you for this gift. Now I await eagerly your coming essai, where I will find out which of my beloved rose perfumes emerge from the rose de mai or the damascene. In my little rose garden in California I have a bush of centifolia. Because most of the bushes are of old roses I learned that each different variety has a distinctive smell. I love them all. Thank you again, Victoria. Your words are full of the joy of roses, and you are a true messenger, an angelos, an angel of the rose. May 28, 2014 at 12:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: How lucky you are to have a rose garden, whatever the size! I have a soft spot for roses, because my great-grandmother use to grow them. She collected different varieties and treated them like her babies. Once she passed away, we couldn’t maintain the roses and they all died off little by little, but one rosa damascena plant remains. My grandmother wanted to cut it down, because it looks a bit messy, but I vetoed the plan. Hope that she will just leave it alone, because I’m anticipating my summer roses very much. May 28, 2014 at 5:40pm Reply

      • Heather H: “The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.
        “You’re not at all like my rose,” he said.
        “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one.
        You’re like my fox when I first knew him.
        He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes.
        But I have made a friend, and now he’s unique in all the world.”
        And the roses were very much embarrassed.
        “You’re beautiful, but you’re empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you.
        To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you
        –the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she’s more important
        than all the hundreds of you other roses:
        because it is she that I have watered;
        because it is she that I have put under the glass globe;
        because it is for her that I’ve killed the caterpillars
        (except the two or three we saved to become butterflies);
        because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled,
        or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing.
        Because she is MY rose.”

        ― Antoine de St. Exupery May 28, 2014 at 10:35pm Reply

        • Heather H: “Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

          “What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

          “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

          “It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

          “Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose . . .”

          The Little Prince May 28, 2014 at 10:36pm Reply

        • Victoria: I love this passage! I was just listening to a recording of the Little Prince on the French radio the other day as I was doing some housework.

          “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” May 29, 2014 at 11:31am Reply

  • Nancy A.: OMG!! Not very prosaic on my part, may I add but what more I can comment on this amazing magical tour! And I cannot refrain from mentioning how pretty and childlike you appear as you sit amongst the petals. Thanks for sharing. May 28, 2014 at 1:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much for your nice words! I’m so glad that you and others liked the post. I really wish I could bring this experience closer to you. There is so much to perfume, and the way it’s made is fascinating, starting with the way the plants for perfumery are grown. May 28, 2014 at 5:43pm Reply

  • Kate: Thanks for this lovely post!

    There’s something comforting in the thought that the essences in really good perfume still come from roses and other natural sources, and not simply from some soulless aromachemicals lab on a giant industrial estate – keeps the romance alive, somehow 🙂 May 28, 2014 at 1:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: The best perfumes always contain naturals as well as synthetics (and of course, some perfumers can be excellent things with just naturals too). Many perfumery ingredients are mandmade, but there is a reason why French perfumers call floral absolutes “the noble essences.” The work to make them is really intricate and complicated.
      On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that one needs to look for the ultra-expensive niche perfumes to experience great quality materials. (Sometimes, the opposite is true; too expensive may not mean high-quality.) Even some of Britney Spears’s scents use rose essence in large enough quantities. May 28, 2014 at 5:47pm Reply

  • Mel: THANK YOU! Awesome article. May 28, 2014 at 1:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re welcome! I’m happy to share. 🙂 May 28, 2014 at 5:47pm Reply

  • Domestic Goblin: I would love to visit Grasse one day 🙂 May 28, 2014 at 2:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: Other small towns in the area are even more charming. I can’t say I like Grasse the town that much, but it’s worth visiting if you love perfume, because of the history and the perfume museum. You can do it all in half a day. May 28, 2014 at 5:52pm Reply

  • Snowyowl: Lyrical prose, this is fascinating to me! I have never seen someone more genuinely radiant or happy than that picture of you amidst the rose petals. You look absolutely beautiful! May 28, 2014 at 2:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much. 🙂 I felt a bit tipsy from all of these roses and excitement. May 28, 2014 at 5:53pm Reply

  • Carla: Wonderful! I love the smell of roses. What beauty May 28, 2014 at 4:43pm Reply

    • Victoria: Me too! I’ve been having lots of Andy’s rose tea to start off my day on a rose note. And also I take a bath with rosewater in the evening. May 28, 2014 at 5:54pm Reply

  • annemariec: I’m glad you were able to speak with the pickers. I often feel uneasy about how ethically produced are the perfumes we love. It sounds really hard work. May 28, 2014 at 7:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Raw material agriculture in perfumery usually doesn’t have such thorny issues as some other sectors of agriculture. For one thing, it’s very very small and farming is often controlled by the families rather than huge corporations. Of course, it differs region to region, but in Europe, farming roses is still a small farm business. The farmer I visited was in charge of the whole process himself.

      Also, if you’re an unskilled worker in Europe, you could end up with a much worse job than picking roses. No agricultural work is easy, but at least, these pickers seem to be safe and well-cared for. May 29, 2014 at 11:26am Reply

  • Mals86: What a feast for the senses…

    Looking forward to that post on fragrances focusing on rose de mai, as well. May 29, 2014 at 8:56am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Mals! The trip inspired me to search for more roses, and it’s fascinating where rose de mai is used. And of course, I’ve been inspired to try more rose experiments at home, so I look forward to sharing it all. May 29, 2014 at 11:40am Reply

  • Lucas: So fascinating!
    Some time ago I saw a documentary on orange blossom harvests, another interesting lesson. May 29, 2014 at 10:07am Reply

    • Victoria: I would also swoon smelling the orange blossoms. It’s another heavenly scent. And jasmine. And mimosa… 🙂 May 29, 2014 at 11:41am Reply

  • solanace: This is incredible, Victoria, you look so happy its contagious! Will have to dab some Mohur Extrait before going out today. 🙂 May 30, 2014 at 10:30am Reply

    • Victoria: Now, Mohur will plunge you right into a big pile of roses! That’s one extravagant rose perfume. May 30, 2014 at 11:24am Reply

      • solanace: It is! I am happy I did not get to buy Rose Nacrée, because now it seems too flat compared to Mohur Extrait.

        So happy to see life is giving you back what you give us everyday. 🙂 May 31, 2014 at 2:43pm Reply

        • Victoria: I can see that! It’s a different thing altogether and much less dramatic than Mohur Extrait.

          Thank you! Whenever I will feel down, I will only have to imagine that mountain of roses. 🙂 May 31, 2014 at 7:34pm Reply

  • george: That photo! If you were a cat you would be on youtube!:-) May 30, 2014 at 11:17am Reply

    • Victoria: I suppose it’s good I’m not. I do have a little video of me tossing the flowers, but I won’t be posting it online. 🙂 May 30, 2014 at 11:27am Reply

  • MontrealGirl: Victoria, You look divine…and smitten :-)… sitting amongst the roses! Beautiful! As the Muslims say, the garden is the representation on Earth of Paradise in Heaven. So yes, swimming in rose petals would be pretty much heavenly perfection. I was not aware of rose jam so I’ll be going on the hunt for that. I will have to try some of the recommendations. Thanks! May 31, 2014 at 2:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! It really made me feel on cloud nine, and it really made me happy to discover rose in a new way.

      And doesn’t it seem totally right that paradise would be a garden full of flowers and blooming plants! May 31, 2014 at 7:33pm Reply

      • MontrealGirl: Absolutely! June 3, 2014 at 7:42pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Grasse is definitely not my favourite place in the South East, I’ve always found it to be rather run down. This place looks wonderful though and I can’t even begin to imagine the smell. You must have had a wonderful time there!
    Your post reminded me of a rose garden in Normandy I visited years ago. They had loads of fragrant roses as well as ornamental ones. A small town in that area you might care to visit is called Veules-les-Roses. Very pretty with lots of roses. June 1, 2014 at 4:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: If I can, I will visit Veules-les-Roses, if only for the name alone! I also remember that the rose gardens in the Euphrussy-Rotschild’s villa are splendid, and the colors and smells made me feel as if I were in one of my rose fantasies.

      Grasse, on the other hand, has a commercial, touristy feel, but I know many people (perfume lovers) who liked it for the perfume museum and the Fragonard workshops. The surrounding countryside also is incredible. June 3, 2014 at 3:09pm Reply

  • Sherril: Hi I’am visiting Nice at the end of may first week of June 🙂 I would really like to visit Grasse and tour a perfumery. My husband and I are in the cosmetic industry can you recommend a beautiful tour and do you have a contact for the Mul garden ? I would love love to go. your photos looks beautiful! May 17, 2015 at 11:30pm Reply

  • Butch: My family name is Mairose, my Great Grand Father came to the U.S. in the 1860’s from Holzmaden Germany. We were told that our family name came from a flower found in the south of France. This site may prove that to my younger family members. I did have honor of knowing him and living next to him for the 1st 9 years of my life. Glad I found your site, I love it. Butch November 16, 2015 at 8:08am Reply

    • Victoria: I wonder, but what a fascinating story! November 19, 2015 at 2:15pm Reply

  • Surbhi: Thank you for sharing your knowledge ! It was pleasure to read about it. November 18, 2015 at 9:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you. I’m glad you liked it. November 19, 2015 at 2:23pm Reply

  • Issy Burdon: Hi Victoria. What a beautiful article. My mum and I are visiting grasse at the end of June and wanted to visit a rose farm. Will there still be harvests at this time in the year and would you be able to tell me the address of the farm you visited ? Thanks, Issy xx May 21, 2016 at 11:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: It depends on how warm the spring is. Generally, the end of June is too late for rose de mai, but you will find plenty of other fragrant plants in Grasse. Enjoy your trip. May 23, 2016 at 2:07pm Reply

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