Wednesday, January 7, 2009

L'Osmotheque, a veritable vault of perfume memory

"The notion arose during the late 1970s, in several minds at once. Why not amass in one place, for safekeeping and delectation, all the perfumes ever created? A wonderful idea, and in time the renowned nez Jean Kerléo brought the collective dream to fruition. The Osmothèque, the only institution of its kind in the world, was inaugurated in 1990. Nowhere else can a perfume lover inhale thousands of fragrances created today, yesterday and even in distant history, including a Royal Perfume of the Roman era and the medieval Eau de la Reine de Hongrie.The experts at this unlikely conservatory, situated on a side street in the city of Versailles, have even reconstituted, from a formula discovered by chance in a drawer, the eau de cologne produced on Saint Helena for the exiled Napoleon.
Hundreds of perfumes once thought to have evaporated into the mists of time have been revived at the Osmothèque. Dabbed onto paper strips called mouillettes, the fragrances transport visitors to the woodland glades of their origin, or the era of their first appearances on the perfume scene: heady Blue Narcissus by Mury (1920), nostalgic Christmas Night* by Caron (1922), Chanel's sensual Russian Leather ** (1924), Millot's opulent Crêpe de Chine (1925), to mention only a few".

Read more about the fragrance vault, L'Osmothèque, in Scents and Sensibility (surely not the most inspired title/pun?) in the article by Franck Ferrand in France Today (hence the pic).

*Nuit de Noel
**Cuir de Russie

The Osmothèque, which is primarily a resource and teaching institution for perfume professionals, is open to the public by reservation only, for two-and-a-half-hour sessions given (in French only) by perfumers. Sessions are held on Wednesday afternoons and some Saturdays, and include discussions, videos and slide shows covering the history of perfume and the profession of the "nose", a presentation of the raw ingredients used in perfumery, and the opportunity to sniff mouillettes of many of the perfumes in the collection. 36 rue du Parc de Clagny, Versailles, €15. Find out more

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: History of Perfumery articles, Press articles on scent
Thanks to SocalWoman/mua for bringing the link to my attention


  1. Anonymous18:46

    Hello! Thanks for the lovely write up. What a coincidence: I was just reading the British Society of Perfumers' visit to the same place! (Although I'm not sure if that tour was given in French, given several quotes are given in English!)

    Oh well, the BSP's account is quite proper: very clear, precise, almost cut-and-dry description of what happened...almost taking the fun and wonder out of the place in some cases IMHO! (Or it's just the green-eyed envy in me...)

  2. Oh to visit this mysterious vault- that is what dreams are made of!

  3. Thank you for the link A!
    I will go catch a glimpse of what they say.
    (I fear that now that Kerleo is retiring it will not be as encyclopedically rich an experience as it had been)

  4. J,

    what else can I say than "wish you all the best for your visit!".
    Happy new year!!


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