Smell our forgotten sense
If you were to take the suburban train from Gare Saint-Lazard to Varsailles, Rive Droite, a twenty minute ride, then at the station jump into a taxi and set off down the Avenue du Parc de Clagny, you would see a straight road going uphill and then come across an intersection. On the right would be a pair of villas joined together. They house the ISIPCA. It stands for Institute Superieur International du Perfume, de la Cosmetique et de l’Aromatique Alimentaire, in other words, the Perfume School.
Founded in 1984 in a country so renowned in the perfume market, worldwide, it was the first of its kind.
Before it opened anyone who wanted to be a perfumer joined one of the big fragrance firms, as a technician. Sometimes it took years of weighing mixtures all day, until someone noticed that your talents lay with composing fragrances, and so you clawed your way up the ladder.
The school has produced some of the great contemporary perfumers, but like most educational institutions, some real talent is kept out! For example it requires two year university chemistry prior to entry! Most of the older perfumers, including the greatest ones, cannot tell one end of an aliphatic aldehyde from the other. This chemistry requirement is clearly perverse and of course can exclude some of the artistic talents the world of perfumery so needs.
But the school has a secret. Housed in the basement is The Perfume Museum. I say that because others claim to be as good! But they tend to be about glamorous bottles and distilling equipment. Sadly the difference is The Versailles Osmotheque is not open to the public and is devoted entirely to Smell.