Written by: Gabrielle S. Bates
After a day of heavy rain, the air carries a scent of renewal and refreshment. Petrichor is the combined smell of plant oils, bacteria, and ozone. Our sense of smell can stir up memories, like an event, a childhood candy, or the scent of a grandparent’s house. All of these transport us to a place of nostalgia, comforting us.
The “Osmocurators” posing with fragrance testing strips.
If you have ever been delighted by fragrances, you might be able to understand the passion the “osmocurators” have for what they do. In 1990, Jean Kerléo and a group of perfumer friends began exploring the complexities of perfume. They believe every perfume holds a story. Thus, The Osmothèque was created. The name roughly translates to odor storage. It is the first non-profit perfume archive. Their goal is to protect the history of perfumes and provide education. The collection holds an estimated 4,000 active perfumes and 800 non-active ones. This collection was curated with the help of other perfume makers, perfume companies, and perfume owners. The rights to all formulas remain in the control of the original owner.
The archive consists of raw materials and finished products. To preserve the notes of a fragrance, the ingredients are kept in a particular room dubbed “the cellar”. This space is temperature, light-controlled, and injected with Argon to prevent oxidation. This collection of raw materials allows them to replicate perfumes, including ones that no longer exist. A perfume formula will not be recreated if raw materials are unavailable or no longer exist. Original perfume formulas are considered so valuable that they are stored in a bank safe.
Raw material sample kits for demonstrations and conferences.
The public is welcome to arrange a private tour. The Osmotheque prides itself on education. Their library is available for research purposes. There are a few different ways to support the mission of the Osmotheque; you can become a member, volunteer, donate, or sponsor a perfume for a year. If you are unable to visit France, enjoy this short virtual tour of the archives.