Osmotheque, The Perfume Museum

The Osmothèque was founded in 1990 by Jean Kerléo and several French perfumers. The idea was to create a house of perfumes. A fragrance museum. Maybe even a perfume shrine. But definitely a place where perfumers and perfume lovers could meet, discuss, rediscover and recreate perfumes that they have loved and maybe even worn. At the moment 2,500 fragrances have found a home in the Osmothèque which is located on the grounds of the ISIPCA in Versailles. 400 of the archived perfumes are so-called long lost ones and pride and joy of those working on the project of adding more and more perfumes to the fragrant library.

So far the Osmothèque has managed to acquire 170 formulas in order to recreate perfumes that can no longer be found anywhere. Recreating a fragrance that ceased to exist decades ago is a difficult and time-consuming process as some ingredients that were readily available many years ago can no longer be easily obtained. But thanks to Jean Kerléo, the former long-term in-house perfumer of Jean Patou, who kept some of the rarest and most expensive perfume oils, the perfumers' tedious task of getting their hands on rare oils is lessened.

Those rare ingredients, along with the perfume collection, are stored safely in the Osnothèque's cellar which is constantly cooled down to a chilly 12 degrees Celsius (53 degrees Fahrenheit). This is very important as sunlight and high and altering temperatures are the biggest enemies of perfumes and would spoil the fragrant juices in no time. In order to protect the perfumes from enemy number 3, oxygen, the Osmothèque uses argon to keep their perfume bottles, vials and other containers carrying fragrances or oils, safe from oxygen.

Argon is known to halt and even prevent the process of degradation of chemicals and has been used to preserve several manufactured items, e.g. pharmaceutical products, for a long time. On the rare occasion that a perfume does spoil, the Osmothèque will try to replace it. But as funds for the day-to-day running of Osmothèque come from the Société des Amis de l'Osmothèque only, it is important to have solid business relationships with perfume houses from all over the world, explains Patricia de Nicolaï, who is the president of the Osmothèque and a well-known and established perfumer herself.

The aim of the Osmothèque is to have as many perfumes as possible. While they do not focus on limited editions, the perfumers and assistants try to acquire classic and modern perfumes and expensive and budget fragrances alike. Therefore they always keep an eye on the market. With the help of many international brands that send fragrant gifts to the perfume museum, the fragrance library grows constantly and the second site has already been set up!

The New York base of the Osmothèque is run by Christophe Laudamiel. He is currently in possession of a small part of the collection which enables him to perform lectures. Besides recreating fragrances professional lectures are a main part of the Osmothèque's perfumers' jobs. The subjects are as multifaceted as perfume itself. They range from broad overviews of the world of perfume to specific requests like the history of British brands, speeches about fragrance families, materials, noses and simply anything that the listeners are interested in. Only one thing is for sure: Once a lecture on a certain subject is booked, the lecturer will be well prepared!

Some excursions are open for the public as well! The Osmothèque in Versailles welcomes those who are interested in perfumery on Wednesdays and Saturdays. As there is a limit on the number of people that can attend a class, it is necessary that your ticket is booked in advance! On the Osmothèque's web site you will find the dates and times when public excursions take place. In order to book please call the telephone number in France.
On a personal note I would like to thank Patricia de Nicolaï and Sophie d'Auber for a pleasant interview and for providing Fragrantica with all the information. Merci!

Images: Osmothèque's web site, Fragrantica from Esxence, Milano 2011 (video & images), jafsegal

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