When Paris met London: a day of vintage perfumes as the Osmothèque comes to town…

A glass of fizz is always a splendid way to begin an afternoon, but most especially when it precedes hours of sniffing glorious vintage fragrances from the world renowned museum of perfumery – the Osmothèque – usually housed in Versailles, but today visiting us here in London.

Fifty guests gathered in the ornate Art-Deco interior of London’s Brasserie Zedel, chattering excitedly we had already spotted many of The Perfume Society‘s VIP Subscribers and a number of new faces besides.

Organised in partnership with the ever-fragrant Odette Toilette, we at The Perfume Society were utterly thrilled the Osmothèque experts had been tempted to come to us – not that we don’t love a jolly jaunt to Paris, but how lovely not to have to grab your passport, stand in queues and be frisked in order to smell some of the most exquisite perfumes ever created…

Odette Toilette says: ‘Housed in Versailles and adjoining one of the most prestigious perfumery schools in France, the Osmothèque (named after Osme, the Greek muse for scent) is the only destination of its kind in the world: a living archive dedicated to preserving great works of perfumery.

Simply put, this is the sole place to sample fragrances otherwise lost forever, painstakingly recreated to their original formulae by the archive’s team of perfumers or ‘osmocurators’ so that they may be kept for posterity.
In their vaults can be found thousands of treasures in their original versions – kept cool and dark and brought out for research purposes.’

After the introductions and an elegant afternoon spread of sandwiches and trays of sweet treats, it was time for the serious sniffing to begin. ‘Osmocurator’ Stephanie Bakouche – an incredibly talented perfumer and apprentice to legendary nose Bertrand Duchaufour – took us on a scented journey through some of the most coveted of fragrances in history. Dating from the birth of modern perfumery in the late 1800’s and all the way up to the 1970’s, she explained each fragrance in detail, with fascinating perfume secrets revealed…

The story of two rival perfumers re-creating each other’s most famous fragrances as a bet had everyone agog… one of them was a reinterpretation of perhaps the most famous perfume in the entire world (can you guess?) and is still available at a particular perfume house to this day, but hardly anyone knows its incredible history… Want to know what it is? You’d better book your ticket for the second-coming of the Osmothèque, then! See below for details of how to book your ticket, but hurry, as this session sold out fast (which is why – due to popular demand – we’re putting on another one…)

During the session, Stephanie focused on the houses of Les Parfums de Rosine from Paul Poiret, Coty and Guerlain. This was a unique opportunity to try the original Chypre from 1917, to breathe in the opulence of the original Shalimar extrait, circa 1921. With twenty five fragrances sampled throughout the afternoon, it was a marathon sniffing session that had sighs of delight and surprise echoing around the room.

All of the fragrances we sniffed were supplied on blotters encased in cellophane sleeves – dipped nearly a week ago, now, they smell as though they have only just been scented with the perfumes, meaning you can re-sniff to your heart’s desire for many days after the event itself.

The Osmothèque will be returning once more to London on June 27 – second chances don’t come along very often in life, so book your tickets here.

Written by Suzy Nightingale

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