Florentine orris is one of the hidden connections between perfumery and gin distillation. The highly prized ingredient comes from the dried rhizome of the iris plant, and you can smell its spicy florals and warm, powdery earthiness in Dior Homme and in Chanel No 19.
Orris is also a key botanical in many gins. "It helps to pull the other scents together and bring breadth and texture," a distiller explained to me. Of course, both arts involve creating a disarming blend of fragrances.
Now, one gin distiller is making the link explicit. Comte de Grasse is a luxury-spirit specialist based in the eponymous Provençal town that has long been the perfume centre of France, and its headquarters are an abandoned perfumery that once belonged to Roure.
Taking inspiration from the surrounding flower fields, it produces a very hedonistic gin. It's made using rose (both centifolia and damask), vetiver, jasmine, samphire, lavender, mimosa, orris and juniper - among other aromatics - and by deploying some techniques borrowed from the fragrance industry.
The result is 44°N: a highly perfumed, broad gin that dances heavy florals around a honeyed, musky, peppery base. It's quite unlike any other gin I've tasted, but I like it very much.
You could sip it neat, over ice, or try mixing it with a gentle tonic, such as Fever-Tree Mediterranean, and dressing it with a sliver of citrus zest or even a scattering of rose petals.
44°N is available to buy direct from the distillery for €75 (£64) plus delivery, at comtedegrasse.com
Go to Grasse
Parisians know about it. Sommeliers are on to it. But, for most drinkers, sparkling wine is still one of the Loire's best-kept secrets. The green banks of this mighty river are such good territory for making sparkling wine that some of the champagne companies have been here for decades or longer.