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.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


I’m way behind on everything except running double speed to keep from falling horribly behind on the things that have hard deadlines, so the quarter million pageview mark has come and gone while I’ve been busy with those things. However, I still intend to put on a drawing to celebrate all of the wonderful viewers who have lurked in the background as well as those who have come out of the lurking closet to comment over the past few years.

Here’s what I have for you:

The grand prize is the very last brown cardboard box ever – one that I’ve been saving for this purpose - a 30 ml spray bottle of Sonnet XVII perfume.

Runner-up prizes are as follows:

Two 1-ml sample sets of the Peace-Love-Perfume trio.

This is an easy drawing – you don’t have to do anything except leave a comment saying what the weather is like in your part of the world. In Seattle it’s beautiful, clear, sunny, dry, and warm. Look at that blue sky! My tuberoses are finally blooming, so I’m excited. Their fragrance isn’t as strong as I had expected, but it’s lovely, quite a bit different from tuberose absolute. Maybe it will increase as more flowers open, or maybe it changes over the course of a day. I'll have to check it in the morning.

[tuberose pic was taken today in my garden]

Thursday, September 11, 2014


The winner of the latest draw is CYNTHIA MC.

To claim your prize, please contact azarsmith7 at gmail dot com.

There's a new draw coming up soon. Right now I'm just trying to get through the last week and a half of the class I'm teaching!

[gratuitous photo of Adenium obesum flowers is mine.]

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day Reflections - Assisting the Sorceress

Guest post by AZAR

I have no doubt that Olympic Orchids Perfumes are magical.  Ellen Covey's success as an indie perfumer is grounded in her creative spirit and reinforced by her extensive knowledge of fragrance materials, countless hours at the perfume organ, carefully considered artistic marketing and her commitment to the time-consuming and repetitive tasks associated with any successful enterprise. While I have no illusions about my ability to create a fragrance, I do know that I can handle the time-consuming and repetitive.  In my experience even the most glamorous jobs can dull with repetition.  I have also learned that it takes a relatively high level of discipline to successfully perform the same small motor task over and over again without losing focus or precision (both lessons learned from 60 years at the piano).  I am certain that my talent for the tedious could be put to good use on a fragrance sample assembly line. 

Unfortunately, many of today's independent perfumers and niche fragrance houses cannot be bothered to offer samples.  The labor and expense involved in filling, labeling, packaging and posting the samples is not seen as cost effective.  These guys rely on their websites, social media and the blogging community to sell their perfumes.  Why go to all the trouble of offering samples when new customers can be so easily manipulated into blind, full bottle buys?  I have succumbed to this strategy more often than I care to admit. As a result I have come to appreciate and support the perfumers who offer their customers a sniff.

About a month ago I visited my friend Ellen with the express purpose of putting together samples.  Before we began she took me on a tour of her bamboo grove, orchard and gardens.  She opened and shared some newly arrived absolutes and then we headed upstairs to the atelier where we tested (and Ellen tweaked) several soon to be released fragrances.  After all the fun we finally set to work putting together samples of California Chocolate.

I am no stranger to decanting and labeling but have had no previous experience with the solo assembly line.  Ellen gave me the simple tasks of labeling tiny plastic bags, labeling and filling vials and packaging the samples in the bags.  She monitored my progress and gave me helpful suggestions along the way.  A pipette gun with disposable tips and a rack for vials made working the line a lot easier.  My first adventure in serious sample production was rather slow and clumsy but I know, that with practice, my speed and precision will improve.  As a reward for the work, both Brad and I were treated to a fabulous salmon dinner prepared by Ellen and Michael followed by an amazing dessert of ice cream, guava sauce, whipped cream and figs freshly picked from Ellen's garden. "Nice work if you can get it…".

Now for a Belated Labor Day Give-Away:  I have one mixed bag of ten or so niche and indie decants and carded samples that I am offering for a draw.  These are all scents that I enjoy, including, of course, a sample from Olympic Orchids Perfumes.  To be eligible for the draw, reveal (if possible) approximately how many samples you have laying around your house, place of business, in your car, purse wherever.  Have you developed a workable plan to store your samples? Let us hear about it!  Entries will close September 7 and winners will be announced in a subsequent post.  I'm sorry but I have to limit the draw to US addresses this time around.

Azar xx 

[Thank you, Azar! All photos are mine (Ellen's).  I just realized that the photo of my perfume organ was taken a while back when it was younger, smaller, and cuter. I see now how quickly it has grown!]

Saturday, August 30, 2014


I know I said I would post the results of the drawing on Friday, but my fall teaching started this past week and I didn’t have time to do much of anything except “day job” work. This weekend I have a little respite, so the paper scraps have been thoroughly mixed and shaken up, and one grand prize winner has been drawn.

The winner of the full bottle of LIL is NAOMI SCOTT

The runners-up, who win samples of their choice are:



To claim your winnings, all you need to do is send me a PM with your full shipping info. You can e-mail me at olympicorchids at gmail dot com, or leave a PM on Facebook.

Everyone who has entered the last tow drawings in automatically entered in the quarter million pageviews grand prize drawing. If you have not yet entered, there will be a post with an opportunity to enter that one.

[photo of Pandanus odoratissimus, aka kewda, is from Wikimedia. Kewda is one of the notes n Lil.] 

Friday, August 22, 2014


The penultimate drawing of the old brown cardboard boxes is going to be a 30 ml bottle of Lil. The grand finale will be a special drawing to celebrate a quarter million pageviews of the blog, coming up soon.

You can enter by leaving a comment here or on Facebook. All you have to do is say which of the Devil Scents is your favorite or, if you haven’t tried any of them, which one you’d most like to sample.

The winner will be announced on Friday, 29 August. 


But before I announce the winner, let me tell you how the drawing was done. Instead of going all high-tech and using random.org, I always randomize the old-fashioned way by putting everyone’s name on a little piece of paper, folding them up into equal-size wads, shaking thoroughly, and pulling one out of the bag. It doesn’t get much more random than that.

However, this morning Jasper the cat decided that he wanted to get in on the fun. One of his favorite things to do is get up on the table where I’m working, lie down on the stack of orders that I need to fill, and get them all dirty with his big, muddy paws. Today he was fascinated by all of those little wads of paper, so he batted and scrambled them around, doing as good a job as I could have at randomizing them. Then, lo and behold, he picked one up in his mouth and started chewing on it! I figured that was as good a way to draw a name as any, so I opened it up to reveal the winner of the 30 ml bottle of Little Stars ….. 

Who entered on Facebook and had the unexpected honor of being chosen by a cat.

Not to be outdone by a cat, I then drew names of four more people who will get their samples of choice if they contact me with shipping info….

SUZANNE Cb (entered on Facebook)
CHLOE HUBER (entered here on the blog)
LAUREN GONZALEZ (entered on Facebook)
FREDDIE ALBRIGHTON (entered on Facebook)

If you are a winner, please send a PM to olympicorchids at gmail dot com or leave a PM on Facebook. If you're not a winner this time, there's another drawing coming right up. 

[Photo is mine, taken this morning while I was still putting names in the pile. I thought it was cute that he was sitting there quietly supervising, but little did I know that he would be the one doing the drawing.]