Blog post by Gwen
The mistral, the cold, dry wind that blows from the north/northeast down to the Mediterranean coast, profoundly influences the climate of Provence. Moving through the Rhone valley, it can reach speeds up to ninety kilometres per hour and blow for days making arid land even drier. But here’s my favourite part – the mistral carries the aroma of the fragrant piney shrubs and aromatic herbs it gathers on its journey to the south. This aroma is the signature scent of Provence, especially of the Vaucluse region of the Southern Rhône Valley, and is called garrigue (gah-REEG).
Provence’s hot, dry summers and cold, gusty winters mean vegetation takes a beating from the wind in the winter and the heat of the sun in the summer, so the trees are shorter, chène vert – the oak known for its wind-breaking properties - abound, and woody, aromatic shrubs like thyme, rosemary and juniper, flourish. These plants thrive in the south of France because they have adapted to the climate by giving off fragrant oils that form a protective aura around them. This scented aura repels the harsh rays of the summer sun and is the source of garrigue.
Here’s the thing, garrigue isn’t just in the air. The protective oils make their way into the water and the soil, so they flavour the wine and the region's food. And, once you smell it, garrigue will make its way into your heart, leaving a lasting scent memory of Provence that is like no other. I remember driving through Vaucluse – Oranger and Avignon specifically – and taking big gulps of the garrigue-infused air, drinking its rich, fragrant red wines and eating foods enlivened with aromatic rosemary and thyme. Such an olfactory bounty!
It’s the garrigue that inspired nose Jean-Paul Millet Lage to create Garrigue or Maître Parfumeur at Gantier as part of their Les Aromatiques collection for men.
It opens green and bitter from bergamot, softened by a fresh, citrus note from lemon. This is a fairly standard opening for a man’s fragrance, but lemons are indigenous to the south of France, so they belong here, making the opening less contrived than most. Then, as the opening fades, wild thyme, rosemary and sage come forward. They smell sun-bleached and dry and are lifted with a piney note from juniper berries. Rosewood gives it a lovely sweet note and hints at a woody base of sandalwood smoothed by musk.
The drydown is dry, cool, soft and woody – just like the scent of the air carried by the mistral.
Garrigue is evocative of a place, more than a person or an experience, yet one whiff brings all the memories of times spent in Provence back to me. I have many memory triggers of Provence but sometimes that wild thyme, rosemary, sage and rosewood combo is all I can think about.
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