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.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


We lucked out on the weather for the orchid show in Seaside, Oregon weekend before last. After a week of record monsoon rains all along the northwest coast, the sun came out and things had a chance to dry a little.

Working an orchid show is like working any other trade show – major stress for a few days before, preparing and packing everything, getting to the venue, and setting up. Once the show opens, it’s having to be constantly “on” for two days, but that’s like a vacation compared to prep, travel, and load-in.

The good thing about the orchid show was that it closed at 4 or 5 o’clock on both days, so we were able to go out and enjoy the beach in the evenings. The first evening it was calm and clear, and the tide was farther out than I’ve ever seen it. In addition to the regular beach there was a good half-kilometer of sand that must usually be underwater. The clammers were out in droves, hunting for little creatures in the sand with shovels and some sort of suction devices.

I was barefoot, and kept thinking that soon I would be wading in the surf as I headed west, but the sand with a thin layer of water just kept going on and on. The low sun shining on the thin water layer gave me the feeling of walking on the surface of the ocean. As the sun set, the film of water reflecting the light looked just like shimmery gold foil. Now I know what it would feel like to walk on water!

Everywhere we looked there were sand dollars washed up, lying on the sand, covered by that shining film of water. Many of them were intact, perfect circles with the 5-petaled design and 5-pointed star in the very center. That evening we collected 48 perfect sand dollars! I was afraid they might stink up our hotel room that night with rotting invertebrate bodies, but they just emitted a pleasant ocean scent of seaweed and salt water, so the little animals that inhabited the shells must have been long gone. 

I think maybe I should make a Seaside perfume and give away a sand dollar with each bottle!  What would Walking on Water (WOW!) smell like? Salt, iodine, fresh seaweed. fresh air, water, and not much else. It would be like the cathartic, clean feeling one gets from walking on the beach, but without any conventional “aquatic” notes, which really don’t smell like water or fresh air. Something to think about. 


  1. Great idea Ellen! The brisk air, that's it!

    And 48 sand dollars! Funny, we had that house in Yachats for ten years and never did find very many sand dollars, even on the long sandy beach near Waldport.

  2. I have no idea what was going on with the sand dollars. My only guess was that the storm that was brewing washed them in from somewhere. The next day at low tide there was not a single sand dollar on the beach, but instead there were giant clam shells everywhere. It seems Seaside washes up the special of the day.

    I don't think I've ever found a completely intact sand dollar before, so this was unusual.

  3. Good idea for a scent, i hope you do create it!
    "the film of water reflecting the light looked just like shimmery gold foil" Theirs your label or a ribbon around the neck. My husband and I tossed a message in a bottle into the ocean almost 30 years ago, professing our love forever.

    1. Patriciacha, I would love to create a light, airy, beach scent. Your idea about gold foil on the bottle is perfect! I wonder if anyone ever found the bottle you launched in the ocean ?

  4. I hope you make this scent! I also don't see ANY reason why ozonic notes are also called "aquatic" notes. To me, they smell awfully synthetic, while the scent of the ocean to me is something teeming with life. It'd be interesting if you could capture a "sandy' aspect in your perfume, because personally I can't see a beach without sand :p

    1. Belle, I really dislike the "ozonic" notes (like calone) because they remind me of chlorine bleach. Maybe people who have more experience with public swimming pools than with the ocean associate water with chlorine, which is supposed to kill all life! Capturing the "sandy" smell would be a challenge, but an interesting one.