Taxanes form a large family of terpenes comprising over 350 members, the most famous of which is Taxol (paclitaxel), a billion-dollar anticancer drug. Here, we describe the first practical and scalable synthetic entry to these natural products via a concise preparation of (+)-taxa-4(5),11(12)-dien-2-one, which has a suitable functional handle with which to access more oxidized members of its family. This route enables a gram-scale preparation of the 'parent' taxane--taxadiene--which is the largest quantity of this naturally occurring terpene ever isolated or prepared in pure form. The characteristic 6-8-6 tricyclic system of the taxane family, containing a bridgehead alkene, is forged via a vicinal difunctionalization/Diels-Alder strategy. Asymmetry is introduced by means of an enantioselective conjugate addition that forms an all-carbon quaternary centre, from which all other stereocentres are fixed through substrate control. This study lays a critical foundation for a planned access to minimally oxidized taxane analogues and a scalable laboratory preparation of Taxol itself.