Departing the quaint French village of Seillans, my car eased its way through the charming country roads of Provence. Filled with excitement, I was on my way to meet legendary perfumer Aurélien Guichard at his organic rose farm in Grasse. Known for creating iconic fragrances such as Versace Eros , Gucci Guilty, Burberry Hero, to name but a few, Aurélien Guichard is world-renowned for his artistic olfactory creations.
His most recent venture materialised from a conversation between a group of like-minded friends, who with all their perfumery knowledge conjured up a plan to create a niche fragrance house of their own. Following in the footsteps of his grandparents, Aurélien opened an organic rose farm in 2014 and has direct access to his own ingredients, which ignited the idea of this new fragrance house. In 2019 Matière Premiere was born, a contemporary range with each fragrance focusing on a specific highly concentrated raw material. Ever since their release, Matière Premiere has become a staple in my fragrance wardrobe, some of which you would have seen on my previous blogs and social media posts. After visiting their headquarters in Paris last year, I had the opportunity to delve into the brand even further and see how much they have bloomed.
Aurélien Guichard is the only perfumer to own and produce his very own Rose Centifolia, which is used in the production of his remarkable fragrance, Radical Rose. I was invited along to the farm to meet Aurélien, and the team and experience the Rose Centifolia harvest first-hand.
Meandering through to the farm, I caught my first glimpse of the Rose Centifolia, corridors of green foliage exploding with colourful specks of the most beautiful pink flowers. As the car door opened I was completely taken aback by what I could only describe as the perfect sensory moment. As the morning sun glistened upon their dewy petals, a soft summer breeze carried the scent towards me, lacing the air with a delicate, fresh and sweet scent. Here I truly understood as to why Aurélien continued this family tradition, cultivating his own land to produce such exquisite natural ingredients.
As we chatted underneath an ancient tree sipping on a morning coffee, my eagerness to get out in the fields was almost unbearable. To preserve their scent and petals, the harvest has to occur before the heat of the day. Before long, we were wandering through the gently swaying flora ready to start the picking. Armed with a bag around our waist, Aurélien showed us how to softly pluck the flower head from its stalk, which at first was surprisingly difficult. As we got used to the process, there was soon a myriad of snapping sounds in the air. Each of us worked our way down the successions of roses only collecting the flowers that had fully bloomed. Surprisingly the buds bloom so quickly that by next morning there was an array of vibrant blossoms ready to be picked again, a process that is carried on into the first week of June.
As the sun began to dominate the sky, it was time to pack up our harvested roses to protect them from the warm summer rays. Aurélien with his small gator darted around the farm, collecting the filled hessian bags of fragrant petals ready for distillation. Of course, I couldn’t resist a ride myself and sooner rather than later I was whizzing towards the farmhouse with a floral scent trailing behind me. It was lovely to see how involved Aurélien is in the whole process and how dedicated he is to producing the best quality ingredients. Aurélien’s passion and enthusiasm shone through from the moment we met, his sense of pride exuding profusely not only for his farm but for his family heritage and the team he surrounds himself with daily.
It was then time to head to Aurélien’s creative workshop which was located amidst his farm’s lush landscape. On the way I witnessed an ominously splintered tree which had previously been struck by lightning, Aurélien explained that this was the inspiration for creating Versace Eros. We wandered past newly planted Tube Rose fields, harvested in August and used in Matière Premiere’s most recent fragrance, French Flower. A scattering of impressive sculptures created by Aurelien’s mother led the way towards the small rustic building. The workshop was instantly calming, a serene space embellished with white washed walls and filled with the scent of fragrant ingredients. Large panels of glass not only allowed the light to flood the room but took advantage of those stunning surroundings. Rows of Matière Premiere fragrances lined the long wooden table, a proud visual of just how far the brand has grown since its release.
Glass containers, laboratory scales, pipettes and scent strips were laid out on the table. I immediately imagined Aurélien sniffing his way through all of the bottles and conjuring up his next masterpiece and only wished I could spend time there myself. It seemed my wish would come true when he asked me to create my very own fragrance, utilising several ingredients that he had previously prepared. Allowing my nose to take in each of the notes, I instantly got to work measuring out my chosen formulations. I am not going to lie, my hands began to shake knowing a world-renowned perfumer was looking over my shoulder. Now I know how those bake-off contestants feel when Paul Hollywood is around! Nevertheless, the creativity was flowing, and just being able to have this opportunity was my idea of heaven. Using cedarwood as my main ingredient I created ‘Woodland Bloom’ a scent inspired by a walk through the forest in the height of spring. It may not win awards but I left with a fragrance that I love, a scented bookmark in time that will remind me of this experience for years to come.
Sipping a cool glass of Rosé and nibbling on slices of traditional Pissaladiere lovingly made by Aurélien’s mother, we sat under the shade of the grand tree once more. As the rose-filled scent continued to dapple the air, I got the chance to speak to Aurélien on a more personal level. It’s immediately evident that his creativity thrives on the life and experiences of others and you can tell how much he enjoys being surrounded by people. It was here I was filled with utmost gratitude, not only to have been in the company of such an esteemed perfumer but for him to welcome us into his life and to take part in such an important process on the farm. I am so accustomed to only seeing the final product that I sometimes forget the work that goes on behind the scenes of a fragrance. Meeting Aurélien ignited that creativity in me that I had almost forgotten and this experience has given me a newfound respect for the perfumery world and appreciation for the exceptional fragrance house that is Matière Premiere.
Keep your eyes peeled for my interview with Aurélien Guichard where we delve deeper into the world of perfumery and Matière Premiere.
Thank you, Aurélien Guichard, Karine Von Knorring, Caius Von Knorring, Cedric Meiffret and the Matière Premiere team.