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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


The new and improved Olympic Orchids Perfumes website is live and open for business. All orders placed through the new website during the first week of January will receive a discount of 20%, so spread the word. The code for the discount is INTRO20.

Getting this website up and running was a barrier to doing a lot of other things publicity-wise, but now that barrier is down and the fun can begin. It’s a great way to start the new year!

Best wishes to everyone out there for much happiness, success, and fragrant fun in 2014!

[Seattle fireworks photo from Wikimedia]

Monday, December 30, 2013


The end of the year is always a time to step back and look at the things we accomplished. My answer is, as usual, not as much as I had planned and way less than I had hoped. However, on the perfume front there was some progress, although a lot of it happened behind the scenes. Here are a few highlights:

The new website: The work on the new Olympic Orchids Perfumes flagship e-store is finally complete. It really didn’t take that long in terms of hours spent, but the problem both for me and for the person helping me, who also has a day job and a life, was finding little blocks of time in which to do it. The good news is that it’s in countdown mode, ready to launch on New Year’s Eve. It will have a link to the old website, which will live on as the Olympic Orchids Original Perfume Boutique. The Boutique will also have a link to the flagship store. The link is hidden, ready to go live on Tuesday night. There will be more about the respective roles of the two sister websites in another post.

The new packaging: A new design and greatly improved custom packaging was a big step forward this year, but is only now starting to trickle out to the public. The 30 ml bottles and their boxes have been in service for about two months, and the 100 ml ones are just about ready to go. The 100 ml boxes are here, I’m waiting for the liners to arrive, and the bottles are in the queue to be printed. I’ve also ordered matching boxes with liners for the original triangular 15 ml screw-top bottles. All that’s left to complete the makeover is a set of boxes for the old-style, square 30 ml bottles, which will remain on sale in the boutique for the fragrances that haven’t (yet?) moved up to the flagship store.

Increased production capacity: Over the past year the number of full bottle orders has increased greatly, and I’ve started to get a few wholesale orders. To fill these, I need plenty of stock on hand. I’m gradually getting better about this, expanding my studio, making concentrate in larger amounts, and filling a big batch of bottles all at one time. I still struggle to keep stock on hand when I get busy with other things, but it’s getting better. 

Plans for 2014 include several new releases, including a couple of exclusive, single-batch formulas, an upgrade in the appearance and organization of the Original Boutique website, and a big push in the publicity department. This past year, I’ve just been coasting on momentum, but next year I’m going to make a big effort to increase awareness of Olympic Orchids Perfumes. 

To celebrate the grand opening of the new e-store, there will be some sort of drawing, to be announced here on New Years Day. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013


It seems to be a customary end-of–the-year ritual for bloggers to make their “best of” lists. I’m not sure I could do that because singling out one thing as “best” automatically relegates a whole host of other equally good things to the category of “second-best” or “not so good”, depending on how you look at it. So this is not my “best of” list, it’s a list of random things in different categories that I enjoyed and/or discovered in 2013.

Fruit: The second crop of Brown Turkey figs (higos) that appeared on our tree this fall by the hundreds. They were the biggest, juiciest, sweetest figs I’ve ever eaten. I highly recommend this variety of fig tree.

Cat: Our Maine Coon cat, Jasper, has just completed his first year with us, and settled in nicely. He has all of the good features of a dog and none of the bad ones. He comes when he’s called, follows us around without being needy, wakes me up in the morning with a gentle mew and pat on the face, and comes and goes as he pleases, occasionally catching a rat or mouse.

Drink: The home-brewed ginger kombucha that one of Michael’s relatives gave us last week. It’s fizzy, it’s tasty, and it’s got to be good for you! I may try brewing some myself.

Tincture: The tincture made with dried fig leaves turned out wonderfully sweet and tonka-like. I'm going to use it in a perfume this year. 

Orchid: Laelia rubescens, with its big snowballs of purple-throated white flowers on crazy long stalks. It’s blooming now, with an interesting fragrance reminiscent of Ben-Gay, a sports rub that contains methyl salicylate. The photo is from a couple of years ago. This year it has two big spikes, each with a dozen flowers. To pollinate or not to pollinate, that is the question. 

Perfume show: The San Francisco Artisan Fragrance Salon sponsored by Taste TV is quickly becoming the premiere perfume event on the West Coast. It’s grown and prospered since its inception at a small art gallery two years ago, and will take place for the third time on March 15, 2014, with nearly two dozen participants, including Olympic Orchids.
Oud: Chinese Exclusive from Ensar Oud. To me, this is the prototype of oud, the ultimate woody fragrance. It’s an indescribable scent to meditate to, sleep on, or just inhale for pure pleasure.

Perfume discovery: A long-neglected and untried sample of Complex by Boadicea the Victorious. For the first few hours I imagined it as being what an ancient, defunct cave-dwelling would smell like, discovered during the clear-cutting of a hillside evergreen forest, complete with the dark mineral scent of the rock walls, the slightly sooty scent of old fires long extinguished, and the pungent smell of mortally wounded trees and herbs all around. A lot of people who post reviews seem to hate it with a passion. All the more reason to love it.

Bird sighting: A few days ago we walked down to the park at the bottom of the hill, where we heard some excited chirping. When I looked down, there were two of the cutest little birds I’ve ever seen, scratching in the leaves. They were a patterned olive color with bright, broad, neon-yellow stripes on their heads. Both birds seemed to have no fear, approaching us as if they were curious to see what we were doing, looking up at us. Back at home I looked them up and discovered that they were golden-crowned kinglets. I don’t recall ever seeing these birds before even though they must be native. 

Natural sound: The sound of palm-leaves rattling in the wind. It’s somehow disturbing and reassuring at the same time.  

I could keep going all day, so that’s probably enough of a “best-of ” list for one post. What are some random things that you enjoyed in 2013? 

[All photos are mine except for the golden-crowned kinglet, which is adapted from Wikimedia] 

Monday, December 23, 2013


As some of you out there enjoy your farm-raised Christmas trees, here's a thought-provoking post about big, old, wild trees by guest blogger Gail, who also posts elsewhere under the name Azar. 

During the winter holidays we enjoy our cut Christmas trees and evergreen boughs fashioned into wreaths and swags.  Evergreens brighten up the dark winter days, scent the dry air and bring the beauty of the forest into our homes. The City of Issaquah, WA USA, my home for over 35 years, prides itself on its concern for the forests and proudly announces on its website the designation by the Arbor Day Foundation as a "Tree City USA".

The Arbor Day Foundation awards the "Tree City" designation to communities who "meet their core standards of sound urban forestry management". Sadly, preserving old, established urban forests does not seem to figure into The Arbor Day Foundation's idea of urban forest management or into the City of Issaquah's permitting plan that allows for "clear cutting" of established forests within the city limits.

Earlier this year the acre of forest upslope from our home was sold to a developer and a city permit was issued for one large house.  I had seen this developer in action before as he clear-cut another lot in the vicinity.  I was concerned about the forest, potential runoff, and the habitat that would be destroyed.  I approached the city several times with my concerns and was assured that they would be monitoring every step of the process and would preserve as many of the large trees as possible.  HA! 

As the old trees were felled and their roots were ripped out by backhoes. I felt like I was experiencing a personal assault or a physical trauma. The smell of "tree blood" was almost overwhelming. Eventually two large logging trucks hauled away the remains of the huge cedars and firs. What I describe below in a letter to the city is not an isolated incident but has been going on in Issaquah for some time now.  I knew that this "permitted" destruction of forests and habitats was nasty and wrong but I just didn't know how horrible it was until it literally happened "in my own backyard".

[Ellen's note: The following is a letter that Gail sent to the City of Issaquah]

November 7, 2013

Issaquah promotes itself as a "Tree City USA" and posts that information on its website.  I would like to know what it means to be a "Tree City" and wonder how Issaquah can consider itself to be tree friendly.

Over the past three days the acre of old cedars and fir trees adjacent to our property was permitted by the city to be basically "logged off" by a developer.  I'm sure a few of these felled trees were growing here well before our house was built in 1969.  I spoke with the city several times before this happened hoping that, in line with the tree cutting permit process, some of these large, old trees could be preserved. All that the city was able to manage was the preservation of one large fir, several spindly Acer macrophyllum and a couple of small cedars.

Yesterday the air outside was thick with the odor of cedar and fir sap (the smell of tree blood).  Huge piles of logs and limbs were everywhere. A large female bobcat and two almost fully grown kits were running around our yard in fear and climbing our trees, while the backhoe on the adjacent lot ripped the cedar roots from the slope. The day before, a large buck wandered through our property looking frightened and puzzled.  The whole scene reminded me of the destruction depicted in Hayao Miyazaki's animated movie Princess Mononoke.  How can the city of Issaquah consider itself to be environmentally friendly when it allows this kind of habitat destruction?

According to Issaquah's website it looks like, with the loss of this acre of trees, we will now have 13 more tons of dust and gas in the atmosphere.  I know it is too late, that the damage has been done and cannot be repaired, but I think someone on the city staff should come out here and take a look at this mess before the developer hauls it away!   I would like someone on staff to see what the permitting process allows to happen in "Tree City USA".


Gail (AKA Azar)

[All photos are Gail's, top to bottom, my captions and comments: 1) The back acre before, viewed from her yard; 2) Tree blood! 3) The corpses are hauled away; 4) The wasteland. Apparently the logging operation is called "TREPUS". Tree blood turned to tree pus??? Appalling.] 

Sunday, December 22, 2013


A couple of days ago I wrote about reformulating Little Stars, but as I’ve been working on it, it’s quickly morphed into a different genus of white-flowered, night-fragrant orchid, an angraecoid of some sort. Angraecoid orchids are native to East Africa and Madagascar, where they grow in dry forest areas, but smell strangely similar to the South American Brassavola species after which Little Stars was named. I think I'll call the new formula African Orchid - dibs on the name, people! You saw it here first. 

Little Stars has its fans, so I decided not to pull it entirely, just supplement it with a new white night-fragrant orchid scent. Angraecum orchids have a fragrance reminiscent of jasmine, ylang-ylang, carnation, and sometimes root beer. Those main heart notes are combined with my special orchid 17 accord, which gives it a moist, soft, dark, brooding touch, along with a base of high-end musks and light vanilla. 

I’ve tried several iterations of the first mod and am liking it quite a bit. It takes a while for the materials to blend, so there’s a waiting period to see exactly how it will turn out, then more waiting periods as it goes through the initial series of tweaks to get the proportions of everything right and add whatever modifying notes it needs. I already like it better than the original Little Stars, though. It’s lighter and more juicy, less in-your-face woody, less heavy on the ylang-ylang, which can be overpowering, and smoother, with a tiny bit of a fruity accent. It’s actually more like a real, natural orchid fragrance.

I’m going to work on African Orchid over the holidays, as well as a few other new formulas. Testers should finally be getting a package of things to smell in January! With luck, I'll be able to launch it at the San Francisco Fragrance Salon in March. 

[Angraecum sesquipedale photo is mine; East African baobab tree photo adapted from Wikimedia]