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We Visited The Grasse Rose Fields, The Key To Chanel No. 5 Fragrance

It’s 6 a.m when I step out of the car in front of Chanel’s bastide building in Grasse, France. I’ve been up since 4 a.m., hoping to get here in time for golden hour to shoot The Kit’s Chinese Edition‘s cover story with Chinese-Canadian YouTuber, Oh Emma. When we arrive, the sun is shyly rising behind the hillside, a pink haze seeping across the sky.

As we look out into the fields, pops of pink roses are sprinkled here and there and the air is filled with a sweet, almost honeyed scent. “It feels like something out of this world, doesn’t it?” she asks me. I couldn’t have said it better. 

chanel grasse rose fields
May roses at golden hour. Photos: Carlyle Routh

For over 300 years, Grasse has been the epicentre of fragrance. Thanks to the cool wind from the Mediterranean sea and the warmth from the sun, the fertile soil of this Provencal region provides the ideal conditions for growing high-quality flowers. It’s why in 1987, the house of Chanel signed an exclusive partnership with one of the largest flower producers, Joseph Mul and his family, in Pégomas, to guarantee the quality and quantity of the perennial rose, jasmine, iris, geranium and tuberose reserved for Chanel’s fragrances as designed by its nose, Olivier Polge.

chanel grasse rose fields
The Mul family compound, where 50,000 rose bushes grow on 10 hectares of land. After an intensive extraction processes, the harvest yields 600 grams of rose absolue, which is used in Chanel No. 5. Photo: Carlyle Routh

I was here to witness the first big harvest of the year: the May rose. One of the essential extracts used to formulate scents such as Chanel No. 5, the Rosa centifolia (or “hundred petal” rose) blooms once a year for three weeks only—it’s when it’s at its sweetest

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