At The Osmothèque

Exterior_of_the_OsmothèqueI’d like to introduce you to the world’s largest scent archive and first conservatory of perfumes in history, Osmothèque. The name Osmothèque comes from Greek “osmè” meaning smell and “theke” meaning arrangement. Osmothèque was founded April 26, 1990 by Jean Kerléo and a few other well-known perfumers, Jean-Claude Ellena and Guy Robert. This leading international research institution traces the history of perfumery. The institute is based in Versailles, but has conference center locations in New York City and Paris as well. Osmothèque accepts international responsiblity for the historical authentication, registration, preservation, documentation and reproduction of perfumes. They stock over 3,000 perfumes from the past two millennia, all in their original formulations. The concept of recording and preserving the history of perfumery was proposed to the Société Française des Parfumeurs in 1976 by Kerléo, who presided as head perfumer at Jean Patou. An advisory committee including Jean-François Blayn, Raymond Chaillan, Jean-Claude Ellena, Yuri Gutsatz, Jeannine Mongin, Raymond Pouliquen, Guy Robert and Henri Sebag was assembled.

Jean Kerléo

There were many obstacles to overcome and many reluctant individuals, but Kerléo and his team of experts successfully reproduced the discontinued perfumes of Jean Patou, opening the door of opportunity for his team. The team was then entrusted with the formulas of F. Millot in 1986. Crêpe de Chine by Jean Desprez for F. Millot was among the group’s accomplishments. The catalyst for the proposed scent archive was Kerléo’s reconstitution of this classic, impressing many in the perfume industry. Kerléo’s project won the support of both the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Versailles and the Comité Français du Parfum. A repository facility was provided on the premises of the Institut Supérieur International du Parfum, de la Cosmétique et de l’Aromatique Alimentaire. It was there that the Osmothèque was officially founded on April 26, 1990, with their initial collection of 400 perfumes.

The Osmothèque’s collection includes reconstituted formulas by their internal perfumers, affectionately known as osmocurators, as well as formulas supplied by external perfume houses. On an ongoing basis, the Osmothèque receives supplies of new perfumes produced in France and the rest of the world for their archives. Some of the rare beauties in their collection are François Coty’s Chypre, Paul Parquet’s Fougère Royal by Houbigant and Aimé Guerlain’s Jicky by Guerlain. Osmothèque’s collections also include examples of ancient perfumery like Eau de la reine de Hongrie or the Eau de Cologne made for Napoleon in 1815. While Osmothèque’s collection does contain many amazing examples of historical perfumery, the main body of the collection is focused on modern perfumery, beginning in the late 19th century and includes not only originals, but discontinued or reformulated versions.

Patricia de Nicolaï
Patricia de Nicolaï

The current chief archivist for Osmothèque is someone who might be familiar to you from the world of perfume, Patricia de Nicolaï. De Nicolaï is the great-granddaughter of Pierre Guerlain and the niece of Jean-Paul Guerlain and spent her childhood in the Guerlain family home in Paris. De Nicolaï received the prize of best international perfumer from the Société Française des Parfumeurs in 1989. Continuing in a four-generation family tradition, she started her own perfume house Parfums de Nicolaï, along with her husband Jean-Louise Michau. De Nicolaï is also a member of the technical committee of the Society of French Perfumers. She has occupied the presidential seat for Osmothèque since March 2008.

Regarding the pursuits of perfume education, the Osmothèque maintains a substantial reference library of fragrance bases and aromatic sources. This library includes natural, synthetic, historical and contemporary references. The Osmothèque also maintains a vault filled with historical perfume formulas, unfortunately not accessible to the public. Osmothèque preserves their collection of scents in non-actinic glass flasks, flushed with argon gas, stored in thermally insulated compartments, all maintained at 53.6°F and protected in a large vault. Great care is taken to ensure that the perfumes will remain in good condition, withstanding time.

In the last 25 years, Osmothèque has gone to great extents to catalogue and preserve a collection of perfumes from throughout the world. You certainly don’t have to be a fragrance enthusiast in order to appreciate their dedication and willingness. We are grateful for their assistance in safeguarding these wonderful and unforgettable artistic creations. The Osmothèque’s impressive work affords the opportunity to future generations of experiencing the art and artists of the brilliant world of perfumery.

For more information about the institute, please visit their website at Osmothèque. I have included a short video from Osmothèque worth watching.

Please take the time to check out the following two links about Osmothèque. They are well worth your time. Both are from fellow blogger The Fragrant Man, or better known as Jordan River.




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