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.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I know there are many reasons for reformulation of perfumes, usually attributed to to lowering the manufacturing cost, but they could also be because a material has become banned, prohibitively expensive, hard to get, or no longer available. Lately, I’ve been facing a different dilemma.

It has to do with at least one of the orchid fragrances in my original line. Since I created them, quite a few new and better materials have either become available, or I’ve learned about and tested them. In particular, I think I could reformulate Red Cattleya to be lighter, brighter, and more watery (in the sense that orchid scents are “dewy and moist”, NOT aquatic), and more natural smelling. Additionally, I think reformulation would allow it to hold up better.

I generally go by the philosophy, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but it’s really tempting to try and subtly improve on the existing scent. It wouldn’t be a cheaper formula. In fact, it might actually be more expensive, but that’s OK. I have mixed feelings about changing the formula of an existing perfume. I’m debating whether I should try that, or whether I should just create a new perfume altogether, “Pink Cattleya”, “Lavender Cattleya” or “White Cattleya”, for example?

Dear readers, what do you think about reformulations?
- Yes, they’re OK regardless of reason?
- Yes, but only if it improves the quality of the perfume?
- No way! Just make a new one?

[Painting of alchemist pondering whether to reformulate by Henri-Julien Dumont, 19th century]


  1. Hmmm, I'd either go with "Yes, but only if it improves the quality" or "Just make a new one." I suppose it also depends on personal chemistry; if the new formulation - despite the fact it has better quality materials - doesn't smell as good on someone, that could be upsetting.

    Personally, I'd go for creating a new perfume.

  2. I'm for "Just make a new one". If you wanted to reference the original you could do what the orchid hybridizers do, for example SLC Little Hazel 'Red Jewel' or in the case of the perfume, Red Cattleya 'Reflection' or something that suggests the new dewey, water element. Gail

  3. Gail and Dionne, Thanks for the feedback. I think I'll eventually make a new cattleya fragrance, not specifically based on Red Cattleya, but some other cattleya.