The Osmotheque: Versailles: France 2014 Photo Essay

Hey Gang,

I wanted to share the most wonderful photo that was taken of Jean Kerleo, Patricia de Nicolai, Michael and I at the end of our incredible time at the Osmotheque. This is one of my life highlights. Meeting the perfumer, Jean Kerleo, that created 1000 and Sublime for Jean Patou and Knowing for Estee Lauder and Patricia de Nicolai, one of my favourite independent perfumers in a place that keeps many fragrances that have been lost and the memories of how they were produced. I cannot tell you enough how moving and magical the day was.

Jean Kerleo, Patricia de Nicolai M + P Osmotheque 2014


Anyone can book a course at the Osmotheque, we booked an English course (which was very easy to organise) and it was an incredible afternoon. Our contact was Florence Crenn and Florence could not have been more lovely or helpful. We organised to pay cash on the day but there are other ways to do it.

We chose to spend the morning at Versailles Palace and do the Osmotheque in the afternoon. Perfect choice. We caught a train from Paris to Versailles and then a cab from Versailles Palace to the Osmotheque. From the Osmotheque we walked to a different station to catch the train back to Paris, don’t buy a return ticket.

The Osmotheque: Versailles: France 2014

Well, how was our day? What went on? Jean Kerleo, ex Helena Rubenstein and Jean Patou perfumer and founder of the Osmotheque, was our host with the help of his buddy and translator Will. It was completely mind blowing and the work they do at the Osmotheque to archive and house the world’s most famous fragrances in their original formulations is not only extraordinary it is necessary for the continuation of perfumer knowledge. Also, the Osmotheque needs people like you and us to go and do the classes so they have money to continue the great work they are doing.

If you are a French speaker you can buy a ticket to many forum classes with the teachers at the Osmotheque, including Jean Kerleo and Patricia de Nicolai. If you have English you must book a class with an English speaking teacher. We were asked to pick a number of fragrances that we’d like to smell in their original form (L’Origan, Iris Gres, Shocking and Patou Pour Homme were among out favourites today) and your teacher will bring a few others that they think may be of interest (Suprise sniffs included nearly 60 year old deer musk, Crepe de Chine, L’Heure Blue and 1000). You get a 2 hour class and it was just Michael and I. One of the most incredible fragrance experiences of my life.

Michael Osmotheque 2014

Portia Osmotheque 2014

Jean Kerleo Osmotheque 2014

Jean Kerleo, Michael History.

I got the feeling throughout the day that Michael’s incredible ability to smell nuances and notes in fragrance got us so much extra lovely treatment. Jean Kerleo and Michael were really having a great old chat and I was a bit of flotsam eddying in their fragrant streams of consciousness. It was like watching two science geeks talking shop and I think I learned more in that afternoon about smells, scents, perfume and fragrance than in my whole life leading up to it. A lot of it pops back into my head if I am reading something on a blog that has something to do with their conversation. Finally a piece of puzzle will fit or a concept will become clear.

We got a touche wit every fragrance named and individually wrapped in a plastic paper bag. Also we bought an Osmotheque book each which is FULL of interesting and useful history and classification knowledge.

Original Musk Oil Tincture 1950s

Jean Kerleo Back Fridges Osmotheque 2014

Michael, Portia, Drinks 2014

Printemps Guerlain Window

Michael Worn Out Paris 2014

As you can see by the end of the day Michael was completely stuffed. Stuffed, satiated and full of the joys of adventure.

Want to read more about the experience? Bois de Jasmin and Versailles Tourism

The Osmotheque is a must do for any perfume lover. Get in touch with Florence Crenn

Portia xx

52 thoughts on “The Osmotheque: Versailles: France 2014 Photo Essay

    • Scott, you have NO IDEA how amazing this day was. They were absolutely 2000% more fabulous than I was expecting.
      Portia xx


  1. I had no idea you could do a class there, Portia. It sounds even better than I thought a visit would be and I already thought it would be pretty great!

    Thanks for the info.


    • Yes Tara,
      It’s basically a one on one but Michael and I did it as a double, it was better that way because our Q&A bounced off each other. Imagine, an afternoon with one of the worlds great perfumers to answer your questions and show you history through smell. From Fougere Royal to today. It was quite breathtaking.
      Portia xx


    • Yes Smelly Vagabond, it’s 150 Euro per person and you get 2 hours with your tutor. They ask you to pick around 10 or 15 historic fragrances that you’d like to smell and they also provide a few extra on top.
      My advice is to go with someone so you can both ask the right question at the right time.
      Portia xx


      • Hmmm I might just go with the group sessions, which are a lot cheaper at €10! And then hope that no one else is going on that day! I wonder if they’ll allow me to make 2ml samples off them, one can only pray, and wish, and pray, and wish… What I’d do for a sample of Iris Gris!


        • Ha Ha ha! No samples buddy. Many of these fragrances are the last of their kind. Getting a spritz is beyond incredible.
          Those €10 classes are in French.
          Portia xx


  2. Wow, Portia!
    M. Kerleo et Mlle. Nicolai!!! That’s one for the silver frame. I didn’t know the classes were so accessible. Must go! Your post brought a tear to my eye: so real & precious. J


    • Jackie Rosen,
      It was SO worth it to go and talk to a perfumer, someone who has worked in the industry and been so superbly successful. There aren’t many opportunities like this one, we were very lucky.
      Portia xx


      • The palace kitchen garden is still in business. They’ve a little farm shop open to the public. Let’s get a house, take classes during the day; I’ll cook dinner with the royal veggies! ;^D


        • Not out of the question Jackie,
          Jin is a sparkie and can work anywhere in the world. He is also extremely language gifted.
          I too love to cook.
          Portia xx


  3. What an incredible experience. I’m definitely including that in my trip to Paris in 2015. It so important to encourage more people to do this – I was reading on another blog that the Osmo’s future is very delicately in the balance. They need funds and more importantly, people to carry on the work. I’m making my “to try” list – how will I choose??!!


    • All that you write is true. They do need funds and people, choosing was hard but part of the fun of anticipation. You will love it SallyM.
      Portia xx


  4. One for the silver frame indeed! What are you waving around in your hand? A blotter?

    How wonderful to meet M. Kerleo. I don’t suppose he mentioned any thoughts on the revival going on at Patou ? Apparently he has been assisting with the reformulation of some of their classics. But I suppose you stuck to the business in hand. I’d love smell L’Origan in original form. L’Aimant too.

    It’s wonderful that Patricia de Nicolai takes on the Osmotheque as well as running her business. Speaking of classics, I’ll be wearing her Odalisque to work this week.


    • We did touch on the the reformulations AnnMarie,
      Jean Kerleo was very excited about them but I don’t remember him saying he was involved. We DID smell both of those Coty frags in original form.
      Yes PdN has her hands full and Odalisque will be lovely for work.
      In my hand is a touche with some original fragrance spritz upon it.
      You should go do thies class.
      Portia x


  5. What an incredible day that must have been… I would love to do this, but, like you, I think I’d like to have another person (in my case preferably someone with more perfume experience, or a science geek!) along to ask the questions I probably wouldn’t think of. Thanks for sharing this!


    • Janice,
      The Facebook perfume boards are FULL of clever frag people that you can fly on the coat tails of.
      Portia xx


  6. Wow! I didn’t know they offered so many things for perfume enthusiasts to enjoy. 🙂
    What an incredible experience! Next time I’m in Paris, I’m definitely going. To Versailles as well – last time I only had time for Versailles now I’ll factor in Osmotheque as well. 🙂


    • Ines,
      It’s a fabulous and full day. I’m not lying when I say Michael was wrecked. He was absolutely and utterly flattened.
      I would do it again in a heartbeat.
      Next time I’m in Paris will be 2016, it is already on the itinerary.
      Portia xx


  7. Me – full of envyyyyyyy! Geee, Portia, how could you do so many dreamy things on your trip???
    Great, greater, greatest visit you paid!
    This is pretty useful to me for planning my next Paris visit (let’s hope it’s sooner than I expect it…)
    Michael’s last photo – priceless. It says it all!


    • Hey Lyubov,
      We pack in the good stuff on a trip. there’s SO MUCH to see and do. I have some more Paris posts coming but they are not really frag oriented.
      He He he Michael was like this at the end of most days. We would be eating dinner and his conversation would slow down dramatically.
      Portia xx


  8. Gosh what an amazing experience, Portia! I may never get to the Osmotheque in person but I’d love to get my hands on that book you mentioned. I couldn’t see it on the Osmoteque website. Would you please tell me the title/author etc. of the book so I can do some online sleuthing? Thanks 🙂 Christine


  9. Hello Portia,

    Michael popped into the store this afternoon and we got talking about the Osmotheque and how I had enquired last September but didn’t go because I couldn’t speak French – now speaking to Michael and reading your story I will definitely make it a major focus of my next visit – thank you for sharing – you look like a kid in a candy store – makes me smile



    • Hey Jill,
      Michael was so outrageously excited and Jean Kerleo was his mirror image. They could have talked till the next day.
      You will love it when you go.
      Portia xx


  10. I’ll join others in saying thank you for sharing your experience. But I have a question: was any of the perfumes you smelled so good that you would really-really want to wear it? Not just once or twice, between testing new things and wearing all perfumes from your collection but wear and enjoy it often?


    • Great question Undina,
      Yes, I loved the way Coty’s Chypre and L’Aimant smelled in their original form. There were a couple of the Guerlain’s that Thierry Wasser has recreated from original recipes for the Osmotheque that I would happily pay big money to own. Original Joy is quite different even to my vintage ones and yes I would REALLY love to own some of it to wear regularly.
      More than anything though it was interesting to see how the fragrant landscape has changed and how even some of my best kept gems have changed with time.
      Portia xx


  11. “Hello to all of you, come sit I will make you something to drink.
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  12. What a wonderful treat! This has definitely made it onto my bucket list. Thank you for the write-up and sharing your experience! (and apologies for the late, late, late, late comment!)


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