What is the Perfume Project?

This blog is a constantly evolving forum for thoughts on perfume, perfume-making, plants (especially orchids and flora of the Pacific Northwest) and life in general. It started out chronicling the adventures of Olympic Orchids Perfumes, established in July 2010, and has expanded in other directions. A big part of the blog is thinking about the ongoing process of learning and experimentation that leads to new perfumes, the exploration of perfumery materials, the theory and practice of perfume making, the challenges of marketing perfumes and other fragrance products, and random observations on philosophy and society. Spam comments will be marked as such and deleted; any comments that go beyond the boundaries of civil discourse will also be deleted. I am grateful to all of you, the readers, who contribute to the blog by commenting and making this a truly interactive perfume project.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


It's taken me longer than I intended, but I've finally gotten around to posting the winner of the incense drawing. It is LAURIE BROWN.

Please e-mail your complete shipping information to olympicorchids at gmail dot com. Any unclaimed items will be rolled into the next prize package.

[Incense photo from Wikimedia]

Monday, February 6, 2017


Incense has been around so long that no one really knows when, where, or how it originated. It has probably been used almost since humans discovered how to use fire. If you’ve ever sat around a campfire or walked on a winter night when people were burning aromatic wood in their fireplaces or stoves, you might agree that the idea of burning plant materials and resins came from smelling something amazingly good while using a fire for warmth, to cook, or for other purposes. The challenge then would have been to discover what material produced the pleasant odor and isolate it for burning to mask bad odors, for pleasure, or as a ritual. 

I’ve always loved incense, and tend to want to try everything that’s available. As a result, I find that I have some favorites and some I don't like as well. Of the sticks, one of my favorites is Nippon Kodo’s Seiun joss sticks in Chrysanthemum scent. However, I have gone more and more to using raw materials on a burner, especially frankincense - and oud on special occasions. I also like to experiment with all kinds of other “burnables”, from resins through woods and grasses.

With any sort of experimentation, you win some you lose some. However, in this case winning and losing are subjective because what I enjoy is different from what you might enjoy. I have a big incense collection, some of which I’ve tried and will never use. To pare the collection down to a manageable size, this week I’m offering a random drawing and giveaway of a set of several types of manufactured incense sticks. To be entered, just leave a comment saying what type of incense you enjoy.

Unfortunately, incense packages are bulky and would cost more to ship than they're worth, so this is a US-only draw. The winner will be announced early next week. 

[photos are from Wikimedia]

Saturday, February 4, 2017


First, about sabbaticals. Ever since our summer trip to the Bahamas, I’ve been unintentionally keeping a low profile. I didn’t release any perfumes in 2016, I didn’t work much on new ones,  and I hardly posted anything on this blog. Earlier this year I realized that this is Olympic Orchids Perfumes’ seventh year in business, so it seems logical to rationalize this lack of activity by my being on sabbatical this year, which, for Olympic Orchids, starts and ends in July. In academics, sabbaticals are a longstanding tradition that helps protect us from burnouts, gives us an opportunity to try new and risky things, formulate new ideas, and come back with greater-than-ever enthusiasm and creative plans. Now that I’ve officially (in my mind, anyway) declared myself on sabbatical until July 2017, I’ve gotten back into the studio, engaged in a flurry of activity that culminated in mods of several new fragrances that are to be released this year, and will be working mostly behind the scenes to bring some new features to my business websites, which are badly in need of attention.

Now, on to frustration. We were planning to travel to San Francisco this weekend for a trunk show at Tigerlily Perfumery last night, followed by the Taste TV Fragrance Salon today. However, our late morning flight from Seattle to San Francisco was cancelled. The airline rebooked us on an afternoon flight, but when we arrived at the airport the status of that flight was unclear. It was delayed twice, and by the second delay it became clear that we would not arrive in time for the Tigerlily event and highly probably that nothing would be flying out that night. We opted not to spend the night in the airport waiting for the weather to improve, so cancelled everything. 

The airline people were as helpful as they could be under the circumstances. They were upfront about the cancellations and delays and the reasons for them. They tried to rebook us via Oakland, but there was a huge demand due to the problems in San Francisco and we wouldn’t have arrived in time anyway even if we had scored a flight. In the end they were cooperative about cancelling our reservations entirely.

The biggest sources of frustration were our powerlessness in the face of weather issues and the fact that I was looking forward to bringing preliminary versions of three new perfumes to the events. However, I did learn that traveling in winter is not a sure thing in a region where we get severe winter storms and dense fog. The whole experience also renewed my belief that most airline personnel are competent and trying their best.

And on to embarrassment. This morning I received an e-mail informing me that this blog had been named one of the “Top 50 Perfume Blogs”, along with a badge to display. I’m not sure how many perfume blogs there are in existence, but at the very least this award indicates that we are on someone’s radar. Those considerations aside, I’m delighted that this blog has achieved a significant level of recognition and grateful for having been chosen to be among so many excellent blogs and online publications.

I will admit that it feels a little embarrassing, given how little I have posted here since last summer. The silver lining is not only the recognition, but also the impetus to work on making the blog even better, and worthy of recognition. Thank you to everyone who has continued reading during my "sabbatical"!

[Bahamas beach photo is mine, fog photos are from Wikimedia, and the award image is from Top 50 Perfume Blogs] 

Sunday, January 29, 2017


So far this year I've been constantly distracted by the political situation, which is by far the most troublesome issue right now, and seeming to escalate every day. On top of that, I've been trying to keep my businesses on track as I deal with a tremendous response to our December free shipping offer on plants, followed by three solid weeks of ridiculously cold weather starting on New Year's Eve. Then, to make matters worse, some plants died or were damaged during the cold, so we've been doing triage, disposal of the dead, and whatever treatment we can to try to revive the ones that are ugly but still alive. On the bright side, the majority of plants came through OK.

Next weekend we'll be in San Francisco, with a trunk show at Tigerlily Perfumery from 5-8PM on Friday, February 3 and a Taste TV Fragrance Salon "pop-up" from 11-5 on Saturday, February 4, along with 9 other perfumers. I've spent the weekend packing the boxes to ship to San Francisco, and am happy to say that it gets easier each time I do it.

The floor next to my work table is paved with orders waiting to go out tomorrow, I just made a kilo of Bat concentrate, and altogether it feels like I'm about as caught up as I can be on short-term business work. Tomorrow I hope I can breathe, think, work on the new fragrances that I'm formulating, and hope that there will be no new distractions.

Part of catch-up work is doing the latest drawing. The winner of the mystery bottle and assorted other goodies is ANNE. Please contact me with your complete shipping info at: olympicorchids at gmail dot com.

Monday, January 16, 2017


In celebration of Martin Luther King Day, I am trying to think positive thoughts about the state of the world, and am taking time to do the easiest blog post possible, another drawing for a bottle of perfume and a group of miscellaneous samples. The bottle is one by a small artisan brand that I shall not name here. It's one that you probably won't find very readily, so if you win, you'll have a "collector's item".

The main prize is in a small "full" spray bottle, but a recent post by Gail on Cafleurebon (along with the odd mixture of evoked comments) made me curious about what sorts of samples people in 2017 like and dislike. I imagine we all agree that none of us like unlabeled sample vials, but other than that the discussion is wide open.

One thing that seemed to get lost in the discussion was the fact that most small perfume companies cannot afford to give away unlimited free samples in any format up to 10 ml (!) spray bottles, with free shipping worldwide. Making samples by hand is a laborious process, and anyone who does it deserves to be compensated for their time and energy. The vials and bottles cost something, as do the labels, which we hope are put on the containers. Packing and shipping materials cost something. I think most (not all) companies sell samples pretty much at or below cost. I know we do. Although we don't make a profit on samples, I don't want our company to go into debt shipping thousands of free samples to anyone and everyone who wants them, so I do expect people to compensate us for the cost so that we can stay in business. The same goes for any other company. That's my soapbox speech for today.

To enter the drawing, just make a comment about what sort of samples you like best. I plan to announce the winner early next week.


The beginning of winter quarter along with an unprecedented number of orchid plant orders and perfume orders has slowed me down, but finally here is the winner of the first in a series of perfume collection clearing-out drawings:

The winner is BECKY!

Please contact me with your shipping address within the next 10 days or the goodies will go back to enrich the jackpot.

[We have been having excessively cold weather ever since the end of December, so I'm on a ski-area webcam photo kick. That's what this photo is.]

Monday, January 2, 2017


I have way more perfumes than I can ever wear, and probably more than I can ever even test. Many items are ones that I acquired back in my swapping days, things that were given to me as gifts, freebies that I received along with something else, or stuff that was ridiculously cheap and tempting even though I didn’t really want or need it. Sound familiar?

In an attempt to slowly reduce the clutter, what I’ll be doing this year is having a giveaway every Monday until further notice. The plan is that there will be some sort of question or prompt that you can write a comment on, and then a drawing to determine the winner of the goods.

This week’s question is what you were most disappointed by in 2016 and what you most look forward to in 2017. It doesn’t have to be about perfume, it’s just a chance to vent a little about anything last year and fantasize about something you’d like to see this coming year.

The prize this week is a small spray bottle of NauticaBermuda Blue (unused, no box) along with some random samples. Comment away!

The drawing will be on Tuesday of next week, January 10.

[Top photo is from Wikimedia, not my much more cluttered collection. Bottom photo is from Fragrantica]