From Petal to Chanel No 5: Centifolia rose Harvest
The harvest of Centifolia rose, a key ingredient in world-famous perfume Chanel Number 5, is in full swing in the town of Grasse, in the south of France.
Every rose that goes into a bottle of Chanel Number 5 is harvested by hand right here at the Mul Family Estate near the town of Grasse, the world's perfume capital.
The harvest of Centifolia rose, a key ingredient in world-famous perfume Chanel Number 5, is in full swing in the town of Grasse, in the south of France.[Photo: AP]
With a delicate yet uniquely poignant scent, the Centifolia rose is a key ingredient in the legendary perfume.
The rose can be cultivated elsewhere in the world, but fragrance experts say that only the unique variety produced in these fields provides the same scent as the original.
Olivier Polge, Chanel's head perfumer, says the fragrance wouldn't be the same were it not for this harvest.
"These flower fields are very important for us, because they're the same ones that provided the ingredients for Number 5 when it was created. Number 5 was made with jasmine and rose grown here, which possess a very special and distinct olfactory quality. This is why over the years we've made sure to keep this quality that contributes to Number 5's hallmark."
Fabrice Bianchi from the Mul Family Estate explains the link between the area's unique micro-climate, its terrain, the local rose production.
"The distinctive feature of the Centifolia rosa grown here on our farm is the soil. There's clearly a very important interaction between the soil, a sandy-silt soil, and the very special climate, which is very mild but that – depending on the winters – can be more marked. During the month of May, weather conditions are usually very similar every year. All this provides a complexity that's important to the flower's olfactory bouquet, and that highlights features impossible to find elsewhere."
Many of the farms near Grasse began to disappear because of encroaching property development that started to take off in the 1980s. The reduction in the number of fields producing raw materials put the future of Chanel Number 5 under threat.
Joseph Mul, a 5th generation flower farmer at the Mul Family Estate, still remembers that crisis well.
"Many small producers were interested in selling their land for property development instead of working the fields. It's at that time, exactly in 1978, that the Chanel house and its head perfumer, Jacques Polge, called "the nose", came to visit us. We were the biggest farm and they said 'Ok, we need your products in order to make Number 5, and to maintain its quality, so if you want we can sign an exclusivity contract'."
Sixty seasonal workers are employed at the Maison Mul fields during the rose harvest. In a small bottle of the most concentrated edition of Number 5, there's the essence of no more than 12 Centifolia roses. But a little goes a long way towards preserving a fragrance legend.