Every May, the small town of Grasse, France comes alive in celebration of flowers. It is in this region of the world where the famous Rose Centfolia is grown, harvested and, ultimately, sold to some of the finest fragrance houses in the world. For only two weeks a year, the fields are filled with beautiful pink buds that hold a scent so sweet, it’s difficult not to feel transformed to an other-wordly place. And guess what… I got invited to be a part of it all, from early morning harvesting to watching the roses meet their destiny in the factory.
For my visit to Grasse, I was a guest of Le Labo. This is a fragrance company that has held my heart (and the key to my own “smell”) for the past six years. But, they have captivated the fashion world since opening doors in 2006. Ok, they’ve grabbed more than just the fashionistas of the world, but I do declare this is the one perfumery that is always on the tip of the fashion world’s tongue. We are a world of people obsessed, and with good reason. You can’t beat a Le Labo concoction, and their Rose 31 scent is one of their most popular sellers, and also finds it’s key ingredient from the rose fields of Grasse.
Our adventure started at the Fairmont Monte Carlo, where the hotel’s amenities are all Le Labo’s Rose 31. From hand soap to shampoo, we were given the full experience of the scent the day before we were to take to the fields of Grasse to witness the production of the key ingredient. I’ll just start by admitting that I became one of those people who walk away with all the amenities from the room. I couldn’t leave one bottle or soap of Le Labo behind. It felt wrong. I have a feeling, however, I’m not the only one who does such a thing while staying at the Fairmont Monte Carlo.
The next day we had a very early start on our journey from Monte Carlo to Grasse. We had to, you see, as the pickers of the Rose Centifolia start early in the morning. They have to, in order to capture the roses before the sun drains them of their sweet scent. They walk up and down the rose bushes, picking at a set pace and in a rhythm which is all wildly romantic. I imagined coming here and doing this every May as an occupation, filling burlap sacks full of roses that only come to this earth for such a short and sweet time. Truly – there’s a romance novel in there somewhere.
After watching the ladies pick the roses, we were taken to the factory, which creates the essence of Rose Centifolia. Try this fact on for size. It takes over 60,000 roses to produce just one ounce of the rose oil. Yeah… there’s a reason your rose scented perfume comes with the price tag it does. There is some serious effort that goes into producing that heavenly scent and I’ve left with a whole new appreciation of the process from growth to mixology.
Spending a whole day amongst roses builds quite the appetite. Our hosts Alain Robuffel, owner of the Rose fields, and Xavier Brochet, from the factory Firmenich, anticipated such an event and put on the most fabulous fresh air picnic for us that afternoon, complete with rose wine! The day was most certainly one to remember. And I definitely have a new appreciation for the fine art of fragrance creation.