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.
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.