Ah, Versailles! All the French kings from Louis the XIII th onward seem to have loved it. Louis had a little hunting lodge there and his son decided to enlarge the hunting lodge until they got… Versailles.
It would be nice to think of the process as organic, similar to that of expanding flowers in water, but the evolution was actually long drawn out, involving casts of thousands. Very impressive are the results: a huge, golden palace radiating avenues like rays of the sun, and these days radiating half mile long lines of Chinese tourists waiting patiently to visit this monument to the glory of France, and in the mean time trailing selfie sticks while posing in front.
As a piece of absurdity on a very grand scale, you can hardly improve upon the palace, and since these days the gilding has been re-done, the blinding bling is enough to attract a good deal of out of town custom. But what do I know? This time out, I never even went inside. My whole reason for visiting Versailles was to donate two rare old bottles of perfume to the Osmotheque
First of all, let me state that I am one of those people who could not find the Osmotheque. My daughter did that. Myself, I’d have walked right past. I was also very late for my appointment. Well, I would be, I had gotten lost in the interim having been directed to the Cour des Senteurs.
As for the bottles they had grown upon my conscience, particularly one bottle, rather like that magic ring which causes so much trouble in The Lord of the Rings. Should a mere mortal possess this thing? You see, we are talking about Ernest Daltroff’s Souvenance, which was a reformulation of his early success L’Infini (not to be confused with the post Daltroff release L’Infini from the 70’s). Ernest Daltroff is one of the three great French perfumers/entrepreneurs of the early twentieth century. The other two were Francois Coty, and Jacques Guerlain. But I digress.
This floral-leather perfume from 1912 smells strange, but also strangely modern. Having worn it on and off guiltily for three years or so, I can say that the carnation leather mixture is slightly similar to Tabac Blond but also is reminiscent of Nuit de Noel. Among modern perfumes, Lancome’s Cuir is a distant cousin. Smelling Souvenance, you can trace forward how Ernest Daltroff, the great self taught perfumer, found a means of working his way towards both of those later perfumes. I began to think that maybe the best place for the bottle was the Osmotheque.
Voeux de Noel was a slightly less obscure perfume and also related to Nuit de Noel. After Ernest Daltroff died in 1940 his successor at Caron Michel Morsetti, seems to have worked on ideas that were left behind in Daltroff’s notes. He also tried to please Daltroff’s heir, Felicie Vanpouille who appears to have adored rose perfumes and who probably wanted a more feminine version of N de N. Vouex de Noel then is a floral oriental which is lighter and more flowery than Nuit de Noel with a delicate lilac featured in its lavish wintry bouquet.
So I suppose you could say that I went to the Osmotheque to ease my sense of owning things that needed a bigger more appreciative audience than me, kind of like modern Versailles and its international tourists. Ever since I dropped them off at Versailles I’ve felt much better. Funny thing, that.