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, and the challenges of marketing perfumes and other fragrance products. To counter my inherent grumpy tendencies, I try to write about something I appreciate at least once a week. Once in a while I get up on my soapbox and write about things that aren't at all related to perfumery. I am grateful to all of you, the readers, who contribute to the blog by commenting and making this a truly interactive perfume project.

Monday, August 24, 2015


While I was gone, Azar wrote this Monday post. Enjoy!
I know that many of my perfume pals blindly buy full bottles of fragrances, basing their purchases solely on the recommendations of fellow perfumistas.  I have done this many times myself.  Sometimes I go a step further, considering nothing but the price and disregarding what anyone has to say about the jus in the bottle.  For me part of the fun of shopping for perfume is finding an unknown, unsung beauty and securing her for a song!

This quest has led me through various on-line shopping venues, discontinued fragrance bins and has even taken me to the clearance sections of the television home shopping networks.  The fact that I don't watch television or even have a cable or dish connection has not slowed me down.  I just pop over to the websites once every two months or so and see what has landed in clearance. While I have yet to discover any new beauties on these sites I have come across some great deals that have been much appreciated as gifts.

Hoping for another big score I hit the channel sites a couple of weeks ago and discovered a very cheap and unknown (to me) fragrance, Reserve Global by Danny Seo.

Before encountering Reserve Global I had never heard of Danny Seo, the self-proclaimed “prodigy”* entrepreneur and “green” lifestyle guru who has made it big by promoting environmentally friendly products, plant conservation and earth stewardship.  Laudable and lucrative enterprises indeed! His Reserve fragrance line was created in 2013 by Tru Fragrance and Beauty LLC (Willowbrook, IL, USA), the same company responsible for Sex Panther.* As far as I know there are three fragrances in the Reserve line - Reserve Global, Reserve Australia and Reserve America - each supposedly put together from headspace technology analysis of various flowers or localities.

So, was the Reserve Global set I purchased worth the  $14.99 I paid for 50ml of EdP and a 15 ml rollerball?  Well - maybe. Fragrantica lists these notes:  Top - raspberry, mandarin, pink pepper.  Middle - tiara, rose, peony, violet.  Base - vetiver, musk, cedar.

Here is my take on Danny Seo Reserve Global from a review (edited) that I left on HSN:  "From the first sniff it is obvious that not a single living flower or plant was harmed when creating the ingredients for this fragrance!  Nevertheless Danny Seo Reserve Global is a lovely synthetic mélange, opening with a slightly juicy and very familiar citrus/raspberry fantasy fruit reminiscent of a number of contemporary celebrity and designer perfumes.  At about five minutes I perceive what passes for sandalwood sweetened with tiara flower.  On my skin Reserve Global is moderately long lived with pretty good sillage.  The best part is the dry down on clothing - a satisfying combination of musk and fruity sandalwood. I would recommend Reserve Global to fans of celebrity fragrances, but those who love niche, indie and the famous old perfume houses might be disappointed."

There it is, folks - my latest "green", shameless and ever so slightly guilty home shopping experience.  I actually like this stuff enough to wear it. No regrets, no buyers remorse and a bonus - the bottle is quite attractive and makes a lovely dresser top display.  I have a question for you.  Would you ever admit to home shopping for fragrance?

Azar xx

Ellen’s notes: I obviously live in an ivory tower, and must confess that I’d never heard of Danny Seo either. Given that I don’t watch TV, I’d barely heard of the Home Shopping Network. In searching for images to illustrate Azar’s post, I became morbidly fascinated with these bizarre manifestations of sleazy US pop culture. Danny Seo appears to be a male version of Martha Stewart, with a thin spray-coating of “green”. If you go to the website of Reserve Global’s littermate fragranceSex Panther, you see a big black billboard-style page proclaiming “60% of the time it works every time – get some”. Huh? Reading on, the whole thing turns out to be a satire on “manly colognes” taken from the film Anchorman, so it was at least good for a laugh. On Amazon you can even buy a bottle of Sex Panther that growls when you open it. I’m afraid Danny Seo is not so blatantly a satire. Maybe a caricature would be a better description based on his Wikipedia entry, which he must have written himself as a promotional blurb. Come to think of it, it is not that much different in tone from the Sex Panther website, although the laugh it evoked was tinged with a lot more cynicism about the weird society we live in.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Wherever we went in Ireland, everything seemed washed clean by the ubiquitous low clouds and rain. There were sun breaks, and when those occurred the sky was as clear and blue as anywhere, but it never really warmed up. Most telling was Michael’s comment one day that “it would be nice to come back here in the summer”. I had to point out to him that it was summer.

After a surreal return flight that took a total of about 20 hours because of British Airways re-booking our flight on an itinerary that involved an excruciatingly long layover in Heathrow, it was with some relief that I was able to shed the multiple layers of clothing that I’d been wearing and enjoy what’s left of our summer. There’s not a cloud in the sky, but it’s not the bright blue sky that I was expecting.

Since we’ve been back, the sky has been an ugly yellow-brown color due to the big wildfires that are burning east of here. Yesterday the map showed at least a dozen fires, and today there are more. When I go outside this morning, there’s a strong smell of smoke, the intensity of which has increased since last night.  Houses and buildings have burned, and several firefighters have died.

It’s not unusual to have wildfires in the late summer, but the magnitude of the fires this year is unusual due to the drought. The new smell of summer in Seattle seems to be smoke.

[Photos from various news sources. I would take some photos, but can’t download them from my camera or phone until my laptop undergoes some more treatments for what ails it.]

Saturday, August 8, 2015


Every fall when I teach a class of college freshmen, I have them do an exercise in which they spend a 24-hour period without their electronic devices. No phones, no tablets, no laptops, no cheating by going to the library and using a desktop dinosaur. About 10% of them typically report that they enjoyed the freedom of not having to deal with their devices and never realized how much time they had when they weren’t constantly checking social media and texting. The other 90% felt emotions that ranged from lonely to panicked – they all felt like something was missing, as if a part of them had been amputated.  I understand.

Now I’m in the same situation, but for a longer time. Husband Michael and I will be traveling in Ireland, no particular plans, just a basic 2-person walkabout. My US phone won’t work there, at least not without egregious roaming charges, so forget the phone. My laptop is clunky and I just spent almost 9 hours in the Apple store yesterday while it was being rescued from a near-death experience caused by some mishap that occurred during the simple replacement of a bad track pad. It has a new, updated operating system (the old one was destroyed), so some things work and some don’t. I think I’ll leave it at home while I’m gone, continuing the restoration activities once I get back to Seattle. I tend to travel as light as possible, so not taking a laptop or phone with me is pretty much typical anyway. 

I don’t mind missing my university e-mails - after all, it's summer - but my business e-mails are another matter. I don’t like to leave customers hanging for two weeks without a response. In preparation, I have put “vacation” messages on all of my e-mail accounts. I’ve also put discounts for free shipping (or partially free shipping for international packages) on the orchid website and the original boutique perfume website to help compensate for delayed processing of orders. I can’t implement this sort of discount on my Shopify website, which looks nice superficially but lacks a lot of the functionality of my cheap iHost ones. That’s a problem that I’ll deal with eventually, when I get back.

I won’t be posting anything on the blog until after the 20th, when I return to Seattle, but look forward to getting back to regular posting by the last week of August. In the meantime, here’s wishing a happy rest of the summer to everyone!

[All photos of landscapes in the west of Ireland (where we'll be) are from Wikimedia. I won't have any photos of my own until I get home again and replace the utility that I use to download photos from my phone and camera, which isn't working after the repair disaster.]

Thursday, August 6, 2015


Cattleya orchids with flowers in the white-to-green range often have a citrusy scent that’s heavy on lemon notes, so one of my latest challenges has been trying to recreate the scent of a white hybrid cattleya orchid. I’m getting there, but on the way I’ve struggled with the difficulties of using lemon as a perfume note. Unfortunately lemon has been ruined by its gross overuse in functional fragrances for cleaning supplies, almost to the extent that it evokes a conditioned knee-jerk response of “cleaning product” even if it’s in a context that has nothing to do with cleaning, like lemonade, lemon desserts, lemon candies, or lemony colognes. In fact, there are commercial “lemonade” drinks that taste like they’re flavored with the same aroma chemicals that are used in cleaning supplies, further blurring the lines between fruit, food, beverages, detergents, and perfume.

Instead of the standard lemon rind essential oil, I started with an essential oil made from the whole fruit, which has a gentler and sweeter scent, along with a little citron. Natural lemon on its own is a top note, so I added some other materials like lemonile that enhance it and make it last well into the middle section of the scent, if not the end. The goal is for it so smell something like an orchid, so there’s plenty of vanilla in the base. After looking at published analyses of orchid flower fragrances, which are all over the place even for cattleyas, I chose a few materials that are in a lot of flowers’ fragrances, like citronellol, linalool, nerolidol and others. Citronellol and phenylethyl alcohol in particular helped “floralize” the lemon, so the heart of the perfume is not all that lemony, but includes other fruity-floral orchid-type notes. The base also contains some light, high-end musks. Combining lemon with common “laundry musk” would automatically evoke the image of detergent, so the musk component  had to be done some other way, using materials like cosmone, velvione, muscenone, and others of their type.

In analyses of orchid flower headspaces, one commonly encountered substance is beta-ocimene, a simple terpene-type molecule that until now hasn’t been commercially available, at least not to small-scale perfumers. I finally managed to get some, and added it to the white cattleya. It gives the whole composition a very natural, fresh feeling, adding the same kind of sparkle that aldehydes are known for. I’m still working on the formula, but when I return to Seattle on August 20, I’ll send out samples to my testers so that I can get feedback. It’s not quite finished, but it’s getting there. 

[Lemons and Rhyncholaelia digbyana photos from Wikimedia; white hybrid cattleya photo is mine.]