(Photo: Alastair Miller/Bloomberg News)

The biggest perfume and cologne archive

Perfume has a long lineage with a strong historical background in France. The Mayor of Versailles, André Damien, discovered a folded piece of paper in an antique desk he acquired in the 1990s and it seemed to be a formula for a perfume.

Upon discovering the presumed perfume formula, Damien took the formula to the founder of the Osmothèque (the world’s only conservatory of perfumes), Jean Kerléo. The Osmothèque is also located in Versailles and looked into finding the owner of the desk to discover the origins of the found formula.

They were able to trace the origin of the acquired desk to the last manservant of Emporer Napoleon, Louis-Etienne Saint-Denis, also known as Mameluke Ali who followed the Emporer into exile on Saint Helena. Napolean was known for his love of eau de cologne and Ali was the one responsible for supplying and creating cologne for Napolean.

Ali created cologne sourcing ingredients from aromatic plants of Saint Helena and alcohol he purchased from a rare passage ship, which is believed to be the formula found by Damien. After discovery, Kerléo worked through the Osmothèque to recreate the eau de cologne and is one of the jewels of the Osmothèque’s collection.

Since establishing the Osmothèque in 1990, its collection features over 4,500 perfumes with hundreds no longer in existence for one of the biggest fragrance archives in the world. The Osmothèque owns the formula for Napoleon’s eau de cologne and is the only one they officially sell as they keep the rest of the secret formulas of other perfumes in a bank vault, known for their discretion in keeping formula secrets.

The founder came up with the idea to found the Osmothèque in response to preserving disappearing fragrances that no one was keeping track of to preserve the legacy of various perfumes and colognes. The Osmothèque also stores the fragrances in conditions that will preserve the best in preventing heat, liquid, and oxygen from altering the fragrances.

Anyone can visit the Osmothèque by appointment and sample their fragrant treasures with some formulas dating back thousands of years, including fragrances from ancient Rome.