Jasmine sings to me, its notes climbing like the vine in my memory.
It was not until I had time to kill beneath a jasmine vine that I felt the tug to go home. The wall on which it climbed was crisscrossed with fissures and it was unclear whether it was holding the vine up or the other way around. I picked one of the small, white flowers with a cluster of stigmas standing bravely at its centre and I removed one petal at a time: he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not…
The Perfume of a Hundred Flowers
I imagine Jasmine pickers in the fields of Grasse. Their hands are fast but gentle in the dawn light as they remove blossoms from the shrub. I see them with baskets in the crook of their arms piled high with the delicate flowers. One props a stool between rows and her face is level with the blooms. She is at once enveloped in the perfume of a hundred flowers. The air is laced with their sweet, sensual aroma and she is so well-practised at this work that she closes her eyes while she picks. I do not know this woman, but I picture her smiling. This is labour-intensive work but the amber-coloured Absolute produced is full-bodied and fabulous.
Purity and Passion
By the evening the scent from the jasmine vine was thick in the air. ‘A gift from God’ is at the root of this plant. It had climbed and spread across the patio with wild abandon and I tried to commit its scent to memory: light, floral, warm and delicate; a gentle aroma whose strength lies in its celebration of purity and passion. It was not, however, the smell of home. It was the aroma of the outsider, the person who tried to fit in a country to which she did not belong. I picked a small posy of petals and tried to remember my homeland scents: honeysuckle and hay; sweet pea on a trellis and freshly cut grass; the hot pavement after rainfall and the smoke of a summer barbecue. It was not exotic, but it was where I needed to be.
I can almost hear the sound of freshly picked jasmine blossoms poured from single baskets into a combined pot. They ripple like laughter as the sun rises higher in the sky and the precious oil content starts to diminish. By midday the fields are deserted and the pickers asleep for the afternoon. The picked blossoms are processed, the oil extracted using solvents, turned into a waxen paste then washed with alcohol. When the alcohol evaporates only the Absolute remains. From the breath of a blossom at dawn to the Jasmine Absolute there is a complex chain of events. However, the essence of the flower is extracted and preserved, ready to be blended with other ingredients to create beautiful scent stories.