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, July 27, 2015


Here's Azar's post for Mass-Market Monday!

Today's post is about three fragrances: Creed Aventus by Oliver and Erwin Creed, Hedonist by Viktoria Minya, and Ararat for Parfumerie Naturelle by Raphael Haury. Two of these, Hedonist and Ararat, are not mass-marketed fragrances but perfumes created by independent perfumers for their own small businesses. In contrast, Creed Aventus is one of the most famous and popular "manly" colognes. Since its introduction in 2010, Aventus has maintained a huge following of both men and women, many of whom go so far as to test every new batch, reviewing the merits and shortfalls of each production run.  This fragrance may be classified as "niche" in some circles, but its influence and presence feel like mass market.

Aventus Notes: Top - black currant, bergamot, apple, pineapple.
Middle - Rose, dry birch, jasmine, patchouli.  Base - Oakmoss, musk, ambergris, vanilla.

Creed Aventus begins with a fizz of crisp apple, tart berry and sparkling citrus. After only twenty minutes the fragrance loses projection, retreating to a generic, woody floral colored with smoke and vanilla. Aventus makes it way through oakmoss and synthetic pineapple and finishes in two hours with fresh, fruity musk.

Viktoria Minya's 2013 Hedonist, on the other hand, lasts forever.
Notes:  Top - Rum CO2, bergamot, peach.  Middle - Jasmine absolute, orange flower absolute, osmanthus absolute, tobacco.  Base - Vetyver, cedarwood, vanilla.

I love Hedonist's initial boozy rum, peach and osmanthus and am impressed by the high quality orange flower. Hedonist smells rich and luscious, becoming stronger and sweeter as it develops. Sometimes (but not always) it reaches levels of cloying persistence (the tobacco?) that, despite the fine quality of the ingredients, send me rushing for the nearest source of fresh running water. Thankfully this doesn't happen often.

Ararat, created by Raphael Haury in 2010 for his indie house Parfumerie Naturelle, has had little, if any, marketing and is barely visible on the perfume radar screen. I stumbled onto this fragrance in my usual serendipitous fashion when I mistakenly clicked the wrong name on Parfums Raffy's list of available brands. I was intrigued by the single review I found, likening Ararat to the considerably more expensive Aventus. I purchased some samples and was pleasantly surprised.

Notes:  Top - Lemon, apple, cardamom.  Middle - Pineapple, cedar, geranium.  Base - Amber, patchouli, oakmoss, tonka bean.

Ararat opens with a fresh, fruity zest, similar to Aventus but rounder and riper. At about twenty minutes Ararat, like its Creed cousin, loses projection. At this point the two fragrances part ways. While Aventus continues on its woodsy/fruity journey to musk, Ararat does a u-turn, morphing into an uncanny likeness of Hedonist. The apple turns to peach and osmanthus, the pineapple to apricot supported by cedar and vanilla. Ararat never has time to reach the occasional cloying overdose of Hedonist but, like Aventus, quickly fades. Ararat ends abruptly after two hours with amber and oakmoss, leaving me wanting more.

When I wear Ararat I feel like I'm getting both Aventus and Hedonist, two quite expensive perfumes, for less than the price one of them. And Ararat is more than an amalgam of the two. It has its own lovely voice, rounder and riper than Aventus, more transparent and evanescent than Hedonist.

Ararat is available at Parfums Raffy for less than $50 for 100 ml.

Azar xx

[Perfume bottle images from Fragrantica; Garden of the Hesperides paintings by Albert Herter and Ricciardo Meacci, 19th century]. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


One doesn’t immediately think of Arabian perfumes as being “mass-market”, but there are actually a lot of reasons to put many of them in this class. They’re manufactured by large companies and sold at prices that are competitive with the lowest of the Western-perfume discounters, frequently offering excellent value for the price.

Arabian perfumes are not easy to find in the US, but there are a good many sources if you’re willing to search. The problem is that many of the sources come and go, so the place you bookmarked last year may be defunct this year. I’ve listed a few links below, to websites that have been in business for a while, and seem to cater to US customers. I have no connection whatsoever with these companies, and simply list them so that anyone in the US who wants to explore this genre without searching extensively and/or paying international shipping prices can get a few samples or cheap mini bottles and try them out.

Whenever you buy an Arabian perfume, it is a blind buy, or at least a very myopic one. No perfumers are ever named, there are virtually no descriptions of the perfumes or even lists of notes. Most of the hype has to do with the fancy packaging, not what’s inside. A few common perfume names are used by multiple manufacturers for different scents, further adding to the confusion.  On some retailers’ websites, the same text is copied and pasted for every item. I am happy to see that that quite a few Arabian perfumes are now listed on Fragrantica, with reviews, so that’s a start. Here are mini-reviews of a few that I’ve tried.

Swiss Arabian Kashkha
This is an extremely powerful perfume oil with a traditional saffron, citrusy rose and oud scent along with some spicy, woody, and fruity notes. It has mega-sillage, and is very long-lasting. There’s some excellent, animalic musk in the base that starts popping into the sillage from time to time about halfway through the drydown. I have two samples of this, and might actually buy a bottle of it if and when my samples run out. This is one of those fragrances that evokes love at first sniff. 

Tihama Mubakhar (made by Swiss Arabian)
This is a small cheapie roll-on oil, but it’s not bad at all. In fact, it’s quite nice. It starts out as a fruity-floral scent that reminds me of candied papaya. After about an hour it becomes more floral with notes that remind me of lily and a warm musk. Then it turns into a really nice musky amber. It’s something of a shape-shifter, but all phases are good. I could wear this one.

Rasasi Masharaq Al Mas
Strong, wonderfully sweet perfume oil has notes of saffron, a fruit that smells a little like mango, and rose. Excellent fragrance.

Al Haramein Attar Al Kaaba
I had to try this perfume oil on an emergency basis because my cat knocked down a box that contained a number of sample vials, they fell on the floor, I gathered them up but missed this one, and it got stepped on and broken. Fortunately no feet, human or feline, were injured in the process. I gathered up the remains, put them in a plastic baggie, and rubbed some of the oil on my wrist. At first it seems like a typical oud, rose, and saffron combination, but I quickly smelled patchouli, too. Later I think I caught a whiff of sandalwood. It’s a gorgeous scent, and the patchouli is an especially nice touch. I wish I had more, and might look for a small bottle.

A few sources:
Miskshoppe: Attractive website and good source for full bottles.

Talisman Perfumes: Seems to be only source for Madini, a Moroccan company. They’re technically not Arabian, but of the same genre. They have a good sampling program.

Almadina Traders: A good US source for small, inexpensive roll-on bottles. Located in California, they have a big selection of Swiss Arabian, Surrati, and others. They also sell full bottles of a number of mid-level Arabian brands.

[All images were quickly downloaded from Fragrantica because I was feeling guilty about missing Mass-Market Monday and wanted to get this post up today in the limited time that I had.] 

Friday, July 17, 2015


Having two businesses and a day-job provides an opportunity for me to recycle leftovers from one enterprise for use in another. I wrap orchid plants in recycled copies of the student newspaper. I pack perfumes in recycled styrofoam peanuts from my department and from shipments of materials that I receive. I use cut-off paper grocery bags as carry-out boxes for drop-in customers who buy plants from the greenhouse. I shred the ugly advertising flyers that come to our mailbox several times a week to make padding to use in shipping delicate plants.

It recently occurred to me that when I pack perfume boxes in colored tissue paper and trim the ends off to make a neat package, I can save the trimmings and add them to the shredded paper stash that I use to pack the orchids. I drop the shredded tissue in a paper bag, letting it accumulate until the bag is full and then adding it to the shredded advertising flyers. It looks nice and colorful, and keeps the plants safe as they travel.

Little did I know what a treat this bag of shredded paper would be for our big cat, Jasper! He loves to tip the bag over, rake the shredded paper into a comfy bed, and sleep half in, half out of the bag. The more paper there is in the bag, the better he likes it. What could be cuter than a 20-pound cat sleeping in a grocery bag, surrounded by bright-colored paper streamers? I can only imagine what a feeling of luxury it gives him. 

[Photos are mine]