Birth of a passion

The story of Emile Noël began on January 1st 1929 in Pont Saint Esprit, in the southern French Department of Gard, between Provence and the Cévennes. “I was born in olive oil – you can’t imagine how good it smelled!” he exclaims, straight from the heart. And we are propelled back into the fragrant, warm-hearted world of the mill where he grew up. Emile Noël’s father, a master miller, had bought the old oil mill a few years before, in 1920. Back then, every village was surrounded by olive groves, and each had its mill.

And so it was that young Emile spent his childhood in olive country, amid the noise of the grindstones and the heady scents emanating from them. Revolving around work, life was humble and happy. “We lived in the mill, where Papa had made everything from wood. We ate and slept there, there was no water or electricity… It was fabulous. We were content,” remembers Emile Noël. “I used to skip around the farmers who came with their horse to deliver their olives.

The mill was a real meeting-place for all the growers. They used to gather around a table of cutlets we baked in the oven, and share the eau de vie. Yes,” he adds with feeling, “I knew that tremendous way of life.”