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.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


This is the traditional Day of the Dead, and I have to reflect on how appropriate that is given the number of people who were killed as a result of Sandy’s progress from the Caribbean up through Canada. The first order of business is to remember them and all of the living people who were affected by the storm. Things will get back to “normal” sooner or later, but for some it may take a long time.  For some it will probably change their lives in ways that they could not have imagined a week ago.

We in the Pacific Northwest are lucky to have just had some mild rain this week, as the leaves finally start their descent into fall. As I look out my window, the big leaf maples, hazelnuts, and cottonwoods have mostly turned a bright gold, creating a sunny-hued curtain over the grey of the sky. It’s definitely the time of death – for the leaves, for the tops of the deciduous orchids that will spend the winter as bulbs underground, proliferating and gaining strength for their emergence a few months from now, for the bracken ferns that grow by the path to the woods. From the other window, the grape and blueberry leaves are turning yellow and red, but the rains have stimulated the marigolds to bloom again and the brown turkey fig tree to produce a bumper crop of huge, sweet, juicy, ripe fruit – the second crop this year! Way to go, fig tree!

The rain has also stimulated the cyclamens to bloom early this year, so the ground under the fig tree is a mass of pink flowers. There’s death in some corners, and new life in others. The eternal cycle. 

[Photos from Wikimedia]


  1. I wear my Genda Attar (marigold and sandalwood) from India for the Days of the Dead, or Niki de St. Phalle, as it contains a lot of marigold/tagetes. It's one of my favorite notes, pungent and invigorating. Wish it were used more often, but it is a strange one, that's true.

  2. An end and a new beginning? I was reminded today by Coifan's blog that the end is near for the old world, parisian perfumes and a new day and a new opportunity is dawning for perfumers not subject to EU regulations. Does this mean that the good intentions of IRFA and EU are triumphing over the evils of nature? If so are we ready for the end of the perfume word as we know it?

    On a lighter note, Blake Gopnik's Daily Beast article "NY Museum Stages First 'Scent' Exhibit" targets Chandler Burr's notion of true art vs. "artisanal products". I find this idea of art much too exclusive. An all natural perfume can certainly be true art as your Dev#3 proves.

    Does the new perfume order mean to exclude the natural? I suppose it doesn't really matter to me. My perfume shelter is stocked with the old, the vintage and the natural. I'm ready for the Perfume Apocalypse! Gail

  3. Marla, I need to dig out my genda attar, too, and wear it. I really like tagetes, and used it in Gujarat (not that you could really pick it out from among all the other stuff!)

  4. Gail, If the EU continues in the same way they're going, the final result will be a complete ban of all fragrance. They're not only banning naturals, they're apparently banning (or severely restricting) many commonly used and innocuous synthetics, too. Coifan is a little hard to follow, since he doesn't seem to like to come out and say anything in a straightforward way, but it sounds as if some of the big European perfume manufacturers might plan to move their operations elsewhere to avoid all of the ridiculous bureaucratic restrictions. I wouldn't blame them.

    Of course Chandler Burr's idea that art has to be synthetic is silly, and I think Gopnik did a pretty good job of debunking it. A sculpture made from marble is every bit as much art as one made from plastic.

  5. Yes, this was sure the week of people saying silly things! Gopnik and Burr just cracked me up, I didn't even know how to respond, they were so pretentious and goofy. And I have a degree in Art History! And I wish Octavian would just spit it out sometimes, you know? All that mystery and enigma, when I just want the facts of the case. All I can say is, thank goodness for talented indies like you-- To my favorite indie perfumes, my nose says, "Art? Heck yeah!" Burr and Gopnik can stay in New York....

  6. Yes, this was the week of saying silly, pretentious, goofy things. Just makes you want to go spend some quality time with the succulents.