Coming Attractions : Osmotheque, Legendary Perfumers and Guerlain

The modern simplicity of the Osmothèque building in Versailles belies the rich treasures that this unique perfume museum and conservatory holds.  The Osmothèque is an independent, non-profit organization. Its mission is to preserve fragrances in their original formulations and to allow anyone to experience the iconic perfumes in their original glory. The Osmothèque also curates some of the rarest publications on perfumery, and until now you had to travel to Versailles to access them. I’m very happy to let you know that the organization has offered to open its archives to the readers of Bois de Jasmin and to share some of its most interesting publications.

vintage-coty-perfume

The articles from the Osmothèque archives that I enjoy the most are the ones written by the perfumers. Robert Bienaimé, Jean Carles, Henri Robert, Edmond Roudnitska, and many other illustrious creators have left not only beautiful perfumes but also a body of writing to inspire a new generation of perfumers.  The articles will be translated into English, and will be published on Bois de Jasmin on a monthly basis as part of the Perfumers on Perfume series.

To accompany each piece, I will describe some of the fragrances from the Osmothèque collection. This way, if you ever get a chance to visit, you will know what to ask for during your tour.

The first article in this series will be published on Monday, December 2nd.  Meanwhile, please take a look at the post my reader Jola wrote about her visit to the Osmothèque last year, Visit to The Osmothèque Perfume Museum in Versailles.

In other pleasant news, please take a look at my updated reviews of Guerlain Chamade and Mitsouko. The newest versions of these perfumes improve on the earlier reformulations and bring both fragrances a touch closer to their original opulence.
Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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81 Comments

  • Cornelia Blimber: Great news! Thank you so much for sharing these articles with us! Truly generous.
    Looking forward to the new Mitsouko, already a big favourite in the current version. It was richer in the past, I hope they will not use again natural civet. As for Chamade, alas I don’t love it. Too much hyacinth. I wished they would bring back Parure instead. November 26, 2013 at 7:22am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: p.s. Also very glad that we will have again your descriptions of perfumes of the past. November 26, 2013 at 7:30am Reply

      • Victoria: I’m happy to talk about them, especially since there are some older perfumes that really set important trends. November 26, 2013 at 10:35am Reply

    • Victoria: The big houses generally don’t use natural civet. It’s only the natural or very small perfume houses that can still afford. Mitsouko now doesn’t have natural animalics, but the vintage versions might still contain them.

      Parure is the one I miss a lot. It’s a bombshell! November 26, 2013 at 10:32am Reply

      • JennyJo: Oh I miss Parure so much! :-( November 27, 2013 at 12:43pm Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: What an exciting news! I’m eagerly looking forward to the new series. Thank you very much for your hard work, Victoria. It’ll be very useful for me as I’m planning a visit to Osmothèque in the near future (hopefully next year).

    Are the reformulated perfumes already available at various retailers? I heard about Mitsouko being reformulated so I asked a SA about it a couple of weeks ago and she had no idea what I was talking about. November 26, 2013 at 7:32am Reply

    • AnnieA: A clued-out SA?! Shocking! November 26, 2013 at 9:32am Reply

    • Victoria: I already know that you will have a wonderful time at the Osmotheque. It’s worth checking their website, because they often have various events in Versailles and Paris, and they cost only around 15-20 euros to attend. And you get to smell rare and interesting perfumes!

      I smelled it at the boutique, and I’m not sure when it might be available at counters worldwide. I suppose that as the stocks retailers carry will dwindle, they will order the new one. Guerlain boutiques tend to receive them faster, I guess. November 26, 2013 at 10:38am Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: Thanks for the tip, V. I should prepare a lot in advance to get the most out of my visit. As for the reformulated perfumes, I’m not in any rush to test them so I guess I’ll wait until next year. November 27, 2013 at 7:05am Reply

        • Victoria: Definitely! There is so much to see and do in Paris that having a good plan is essential. And very important for me is to leave time just to walk around the city and do nothing in particular. :) November 27, 2013 at 11:24am Reply

  • James1051: Is the latest reform of Mitsouko on the market now and if so how can one be sure what is on the shelves is the latest?
    Thank you November 26, 2013 at 7:51am Reply

    • Victoria: I can’t say, James. As I was replying to Anne below, I tried it at the boutique, but when it will come to other counters, I have no idea. The bottle looked the same to me. November 26, 2013 at 10:43am Reply

  • Jillie: I am so excited to hear that Chamade is returning to itself! It was one of my wildy extravagent purchases that I made with my student grant (I was terrible, I know) and for years I have yearned for the beautiful perfume I wore then. None of the recent reformulations have really come near to the original, and I can’t wait to have a sniff of the new incarnation. November 26, 2013 at 7:54am Reply

    • Victoria: :) Granted, Chamade and Mitsouko parfums in their reformulated guise were also very good to me, but the new versions seem richer and opulent. Chamade is especially good.

      But I don’t think that they’re exactly like the Originals (gosh, how to keep track of all of the changes!), which would be impossible to do, at any rate. November 26, 2013 at 10:46am Reply

  • Persolaise: This is truly exciting!

    It looks like the Osmotheque is going to have its profile raised on quite a few sites in the next few weeks and months… November 26, 2013 at 8:14am Reply

    • Victoria: I hope that the Osmotheque will expand its activities more. The mission of this institution is so admirable, and people who work there do so because they’re really passionate about fragrance. It took 20 years for the Osmotheque to be established in France, so hope that it will continue to grow. November 26, 2013 at 10:48am Reply

  • FearsMice: Good news all around! Looking forward to the articles and to the improved reformulations! November 26, 2013 at 8:28am Reply

    • Victoria: Hope that you will like both the articles and new takes on classics. :) November 26, 2013 at 10:49am Reply

  • Zazie: Thank you so much for the wonderful project with the Osmothèque – I look forward to your upcoming articles!!!
    I am also glad to hear about Mitsy – I was really refraining from enjoying my vintage-ish (’90s) edt because of it’s “when it’s gone, it’s gone” Dodo status.
    For what concerns Chamade I have never tried the vintage version – a few months ago I caved and bought the extrait (I think it wasn’t a 2013 batch, but I’ll check the code) and I surprised myself by using it on a regular basis – almost as often as Shalimar, which is as close as I come to a signature scent. I will try the “updated” version asap – I hope the “green opening” is not too amplified, because I don’t care for that part (shame on me!!!), but love the plush vanillic drydown… Am wearing it today, by coincidence! Feels like having a warm purring cat on my lap…big big love… November 26, 2013 at 8:37am Reply

    • Victoria: Do enjoy it! Perfume doesn’t last forever, and it’s best to enjoy it while it’s still fresh. I know what you mean, though; it’s very hard not to hoard the precious perfumes. But it’s also no fun to open the bottle and discover that the rancidity is setting in. That’s even more heartbreaking.

      The green opening in Chamade does seem richer now, but everything is balanced really well. So, try it at the store and see how it works on you. November 26, 2013 at 10:52am Reply

  • Ariadne: Oh my, this indeed will be a fabulous ‘exclusif’ treat! Jola’s recount of her private visit to the O was wonderful too! November 26, 2013 at 9:17am Reply

    • Victoria: Jola really took me there with her article. It was also so nice of her to share the story with us. November 26, 2013 at 10:52am Reply

  • The Perfumed Veil: When I saw this image, I just loved it! I didn’t even care what the article said: the photo transported me to ancient times of quality perfume and people who knew real style. November 26, 2013 at 9:24am Reply

    • Victoria: I love these old Coty boxes. They’re so charming as are the small bottles. Thank you, I’m happy that you liked the photo. November 26, 2013 at 10:53am Reply

  • Austenfan: Wonderful news about the Guerlains. I may feel obliged to get bottles of these versions as well.

    A visit to the Osmothèque is on my ever growing list of “things to do before I die”.
    I am so looking forward to reading the articles. It’s great that you are sharing this with us, thank you! November 26, 2013 at 9:44am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m very happy that the Osmotheque wanted to share, so really, I’ve done nothing but to provide a venue. November 26, 2013 at 10:54am Reply

      • Austenfan: Whichever way the articles are coming to us, I am pleased. :)

        On another note; do you happen to know whether Indian vetiver essential oil smells very different to Indonesian? I was thinking of ordering some to make the bath salts you’ve posted on.The company I will be ordering from has both kinds, so I am wondering which one will suit me best. November 26, 2013 at 4:50pm Reply

        • Victoria: Indonesian vetiver sometimes tends to be smoky, because of the way it’s processed. Indian is very earthy to me. It’s hard to generalize, since batches from the same producer vary year to year, but I would probably go for the Indonesian variety. In the bath salt mix, a hint of smoke would be nice. November 27, 2013 at 11:06am Reply

          • Austenfan: Thanks, I will let you know how my experiment turns out! November 27, 2013 at 3:46pm Reply

  • AD: How exciting! I can’t wait to read the articles from the Osmotheque.
    Also, great news on Chamade and Mitsouko. Echoing some of the questions from the people above, how do you tell the new batch from the previous ones? Do the perfumes still come in that matte gold box? November 26, 2013 at 10:16am Reply

    • Victoria: If I manage to figure out any differences between boxes or bottles, I will update the reviews. So far, I haven’t noticed any differences in bottles, and I really didn’t ask to see the box. November 26, 2013 at 10:56am Reply

  • Leah: So curious to try the new Mitsouko for myself after reading your review! A friend of mine in Paris tried it recently and was very negative about it. Thrilling news about the Osmotheque articles – way to go Victoria! November 26, 2013 at 10:16am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s not exactly like the original, of course, but it smells better to me than it used to. Better, richer, more opulent. I didn’t have time to compare others, but L’Heure Bleue is high on my list to revisit. November 26, 2013 at 10:24am Reply

  • Thai: Oh how I wish I could have those Guerlain beauties :( November 26, 2013 at 11:06am Reply

  • Amy: Wonderful! Can’t wait to read the articles. November 26, 2013 at 11:12am Reply

    • Victoria: I hope that you will enjoy them. The first one is up on Monday. November 26, 2013 at 11:47am Reply

  • maja: You are wonderful but we already know that. :) Can’t wait for the new series!
    Chamade and Mitsouko are my favorite Guerlains and I am really curious about new Mitsouko edp. When do you think those new bottles will start circulating? Are there any recognizable batch codes? November 26, 2013 at 12:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s the Osmotheque that deserves all credit for wanting to give all of us a glimpse into their archives and share what great perfumers wrote. It’s interesting that many great perfumers were also wonderful writers.

      I guess by next year, but it will depend on individual stores and their stocks. Not really sure, to be honest. Unfortunately, I don’t really know much about barcodes and such things, but if I find out anything, I will definitely update my reviews. November 26, 2013 at 12:57pm Reply

  • Bettye: Thank you so very much! As one who is wildly interested in perfumery but is also a newcomer with much to learn, this is a truly exciting opportunity. Thank you again, Victoria. November 26, 2013 at 12:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure, Bettye. I haven’t read some of the articles the Osmotheque wants to share before–their archives are immense, so it’s a treat for me as well. November 26, 2013 at 12:59pm Reply

  • Lilly: The Osmothèque is a wonderful and most admirable place. I treated myself to a visit there last spring and attended one of their history of perfumes lectures, and of course had the chance to sniff masterpieces of the past. They also organize lectures in Paris and just last Saturday I attended one on the history of the house of Houbigant. Thank goodness there are passionate and devoted people who think it is important to safeguard and preserve what are basically works of art.
    As for the new batch of Chamade and Mitsouko, has it come out recently or does the new formula pertain to the entire production of 2013? You can tell the year of production, just look under the bottle. If the code begins with a 2, it’s from 2012, if it begins with a 3, it’s from 2013.
    Thank you for your wonderful blog, Victoria. It is my number one reference when I want to learn more about a fragrance. November 26, 2013 at 2:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Lily. I will check the bottles next time. What if the code begins with a letter, not a number? One of my older Chamade parfums has a letter and number code.

      I agree on the Osmotheque presentations. They’re fascinating, and they’re often led by the great perfumers. Hearing Jean Kerleo speak on perfume is so special. November 27, 2013 at 10:54am Reply

  • Rachel: I can’t wait to read the articles!!! November 26, 2013 at 2:34pm Reply

  • Natalie: Eeek! This is like Christmas in my email in-box, Victoria. Thank you and the folks at the Osmotheque for making this happen. I can’t wait to read. November 26, 2013 at 3:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so happy to hear it! The personalities in the perfume world are so fascinating, so it’s fun to write about them. November 27, 2013 at 10:58am Reply

  • Amer: This is AMAZING Victoria! Can’t wait to read the first release. Btw, I didn’t know the Osmotheque was open to anyone. November 26, 2013 at 4:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, it is! In Jola’s article she gives the instructions on how to visit. The only thing is that their response when booking a session can sometimes be slow. The organization handles a lot of projects, and being a non-profit institution, there is only so much staff it can afford. The sessions themselves, whether private or group ones, are excellent. November 27, 2013 at 11:01am Reply

  • Annikky: Great news about the articles! Your blog is very difficult to improve in any way, but if anything can do it, this initiative must be it.

    I’m planning a long weekend in Paris very soon and was already excited about visiting the renovated Guerlain flagship store. What you said about the new reformulations has made me look forward to it even more. November 26, 2013 at 5:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Annikky!

      A long weekend in Paris sounds wonderful, and I already look forward to your stories. You might also like to stop by Nose, a newish perfume boutique. Its proximity to Atelier de l’Eclair at 16 Rue Bachaumont makes it an especially appealing scent destination. :) November 27, 2013 at 11:08am Reply

  • Moi: What a treat! I also love the photo that accompanies this entry. I have the same bottle of vintage Emeraude that is featured in the upper right. It is divine—IMHO, one of the all-time great orientals, right up there with Shalimar. November 26, 2013 at 7:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: Coty’s packaging from that time is so lovely. Also, their powder boxes are charming. I don’t have any, but I recently had a good time admiring them at the perfume museum in Barcelona. November 27, 2013 at 11:10am Reply

  • Maren: This is very fun news, and thank you Victoria for sharing these aricles on your blog. It will be a treat to look forward to these monthly articles. November 26, 2013 at 7:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure! I just hope that my notes on the perfumes themselves will do justice to them. November 27, 2013 at 11:11am Reply

  • Lavanya: How wonderful Victoria- thanks for doing this!

    And that is such a coincidence regarding the Mitsouko reformulation. I probably tried/retried Mitsouko parfum in store a few years ago and liked it very much. After that I got a bit of vintage PDT and really liked it. Just the other day I tried a bit of the extrait and was astonished at how lovely it was. It must have been the version you are referring to no? Because I felt quite satisfied with it (though I haven’t sniffed the vintage parfum) and wanted to own it (for the first time). November 26, 2013 at 8:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: As I mentioned to Bettye, I haven’t read some of the articles before, so I’m learning a lot.

      I’m not sure, but Chamade wasn’t badly reformulated before. In the end, if it smells good to you and feels rich and layered, then it’s the only thing that matters. I’m only happy that Guerlain is not just resting on its laurels and continues to improve its classics. The collection is so impressive that it really deserves it. November 27, 2013 at 11:15am Reply

      • Lavanya: Yup exactly. And I was referring to Mitsouko not Chamade..:). November 27, 2013 at 4:33pm Reply

        • Victoria: Oops, sorry! I was replying about Chamade earlier, so it was on my mind. But my comment still holds. Unlike many people, I don’t find the reformulated Mitsouko destroyed. It has a different feel, but it’s still beautiful. Now it’s even more so. November 27, 2013 at 6:14pm Reply

  • leathermountain: Thank you! I can’t wait! November 26, 2013 at 8:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re most welcome! It’s a lot of fun for me too. November 27, 2013 at 11:11am Reply

  • Barbara Herman: Victoria,

    This is such a great thing. Now that more and more people are getting into perfume, it’s wonderful that they’re going to have access to the Osmothèque’s riches — in terms of the museum and its perfumes, and the literature.

    I’m making my first trip there this December. I am beyond excited about it. I hope I get another whiff of Iris Gris and Djedi, both of which I paid about $20 for 1/4 ml to sniff years ago from decant sites! I should figure out what I can get my nose on during this visit…

    Excited to read these perfumers’ writings! November 26, 2013 at 10:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: How exciting, Barbara! Did you already make a list of what you want to smell, or will you go to a group session? November 27, 2013 at 11:15am Reply

  • Belle: Time for a happy dance! Wohoo! Excited about the Osmetheque articles! Glad to see you’ve updated the Mitsy review (: November 27, 2013 at 1:58am Reply

    • Victoria: I suppose that keeping track of perfume reformulations could be a full time job in itself! But I’m happy to revisit some of my favorites and see how they’re doing. :) November 27, 2013 at 11:17am Reply

  • solanace: Thank you, Victoria! I can’t wait to read the perfumers’ articles. And congratulations! As many mentioned above, we all know how talented you are, and it’s nice that the guys at Le Osmothèque can see it too.

    And thank you for the heart warming Guerlain news. May the perfume gods bless Thierry Wasser. I really enjoy Chamade, but the version I have has no longevity whatsoever in our extreme weather. And my mom will be thrilled about Mitsouko! Now I’m hoping they will do the same with Shalimar. Fingers crossed! November 27, 2013 at 2:18am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much for your nice words! As I mentioned to Austenfan, I take no credit at all–it’s all thanks to the generosity of the Osmotheque in wanting to share. And if I can use it as an excuse to write a bit about vintage perfumes, then I’m happier for it. :) November 27, 2013 at 11:19am Reply

  • kaori: Brava! Victoria!
    A wonderful picture promises the coming series will be great to read.
    Have a wonderful holiday season! November 27, 2013 at 3:14am Reply

    • Victoria: You too, Kaori! Hope that you’ll enjoy a fun celebration. Can you believe that the year is almost over?! November 27, 2013 at 11:20am Reply

  • Villette: Such good news, this post, all of it, starting with the dreamy photograph. But to make sure I find the new re-formulations, I shall wait until I’m in Paris late next year, then go into the Guerlain mothership to test — and buy, no doubt. Alas, some Mitsouko I’ve tried in recent years has been screech-y. I want to fall in love with it — and Chamade — again. November 27, 2013 at 4:33am Reply

    • Victoria: One of the first perfumes I bought in Paris was Chamade. Unfortunately, I don’t have that bottle anymore, but to this day, I smell Chamade and I remember myself walking through the evening streets and admiring the shimmering Eiffel Tower in the distance. November 27, 2013 at 11:22am Reply

  • Rowanhill: Excellent. I look forward to the coming articles. November 27, 2013 at 6:42am Reply

    • Victoria: We start on Monday and then it should be on a monthly basis. November 27, 2013 at 11:23am Reply

  • nozknoz: On Mitsouko, I remember one of LT’s reviews of a Dior that noted it had changed so many times he wished Dior would label the vintages. Seriously, that should be a requirement (plain manufacturing dates on the bottle itself, not just cryptic codes or changing the box).

    I’m so delighted to hear about the collaboration between Bois de Jasmin and the Osmothèque!

    A few years ago, the Embassy of France in Washington, DC, sponsored seminars with Luca Turin, Tanya Sanchez, and Patricia de Nicolaï, who brought samples from the Osmothèque, which we got to sniff on scent strips. It was a peak perfume experience to try early perfumes from Coty, Parfums de Rosine, Iris Gris, and to learn from the speakers. It would be wonderful to visit the Osmothèque, and invaluable to read the upcoming posts from their archives. November 27, 2013 at 7:39am Reply

    • Victoria: Wouldn’t that be cool? I remember someone mentioning in the comments that maybe we should look at perfumes like fine vintages, ie, that year to year they will change slightly. It makes a lot of sense to me, since the materials that go into perfumes don’t smell the same year to year. It’s not the way the perfume industry conditions us to think, though, and it would against the whole “signature” perfume marketing tactic. But these days, the perfumes are really different year to year (sometimes dramatically so) and we’re all confused. November 27, 2013 at 11:27am Reply

  • JennyJo: Could you explain how I can recognize the latest reformulations of the Guerlains? November 27, 2013 at 12:47pm Reply

    • Victoria: Jenny, check out my answers above and also Lily’s comment. This came up several times during the discussion. November 27, 2013 at 1:01pm Reply

      • JennyJo: Thanks @ sorry, my fast reading went a bit to fast. :-) November 27, 2013 at 3:07pm Reply

        • Victoria: No worries! It’s a long thread at any rate. Hope that other Guerlain bottle experts can help us out. November 27, 2013 at 4:23pm Reply

  • Mina: How lovely! Could you please provide links to the original French articles, as well? For those of us who read French:) Looking forward! November 28, 2013 at 1:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: I believe that the Osmotheque might do that! :) November 28, 2013 at 1:27pm Reply

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