rose de mai: 3 posts

Why This Small French Town Has the World’s Best Roses

Condé Nast Traveller’s April issue has an article about Grasse, a town in the south of France famous for its roses.  Why This Small French Town Has the World’s Best Roses follows Fabrice Penot, co-founder of perfume line Le Labo, around Grasse and explains what makes this place so unique. The article also uses my photography (the second image) from my own visit to Provence last year.

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“When is a rose not just a rose? When it’s Rosa centifolia, an old varietal so highly scented that it makes the florally obsessed downright covetous. “It’s a little fruitier, deeper, and more voluptuous than any other rose,” says Fabrice Penot, co-founder of the New York–based cult perfume line Le Labo, known for its complex yet clean, single note–inspired scents. Centifolia’s allure is heightened by the fact that it’s still grown commercially in relatively few places: The most famous is the small town of Grasse on the French Riviera, where decades of rising real estate prices have shrunk thousands of acres of rose fields to just a few plots. And although the Frenchborn Penot has traveled around the world to find inspiration for his perfumes—including recent trips to Quebec and China—his favorite pilgrimage remains the one he makes to Grasse’s annual Rosa centifolia harvest in May. To continue reading, please click here.”

Extra: From Petal to Essence : Grasse Rose Harvest

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, rose de mai

Searching for Perfect Roses : Financial Times Column

I have a new article in the Financial Times Magazine’s fragrance column, The Best Rose Perfumes. It was inspired by my trip to Grasse, where I harvested rose de mai and learned how a flower ends up in a perfume bottle. One of my most vivid scent memories will always be the moment when I entered the storage facility filled with burlap sacs of rose petals. I could almost feel the texture of that shimmering, warm scent–of pink petals, sticky nectar, dusty pollen, crushed buds, mineral dust, jute ropes and sunbaked earth. I have been searching for something that comes close ever since.

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After several days of being surrounded by roses, I return home to Brussels. The city is overcast and rainy, and all I have to remind me of sunny Provence is the handful of dried roses, still richly scented, in my suitcase. I begin to experience rose-withdrawal symptoms, an affliction I need to address with perfume. My scent shelf contains plenty of beautiful roses, but my quest is for the airy, fresh and citrusy blend that smells of summer and champagne. That’s my idea of rose de mai. Please read the rest by clicking here.

Do you have favorite summery rose fragrances?

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.

Continue reading →

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