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, November 10, 2015


I missed my usual Mass-Market Monday post because I spent the entire day putting things away after the weekend’s orchid show, and catching up on shipping orders. I’m still not caught up, but it’s better.

Our hometown fall orchid show is always held at one of the local nurseries, and my tradition is to buy one or more cyclamen plants for the garden. Over the years I’ve collected quite a variety of cyclamens, which seem to have interbred and produced more different leaf and flower designs. They’re really fun to grow because they go dormant and disappear over the summer, but as soon as the rains start in the fall, up pop the flowers or the leaves, in different order depending on the species, and sometimes both flowers and leaves together. Different species bloom at different times, so there are flowers continuously from early fall through winter and spring.

This year I went all-out and bought 4 plants – a pointed-leaf hederifolium, a coum with variegated leaves to offset the silver-leaf ones that have bred like rabbits and gone wild beneath the fig tree, and two gorgeous purpurascens. Most cyclamen species have at least a little fragrance, unlike the big florist hybrids, which are unscented. What I wasn’t expecting was a huge blast of fragrance that rivaled jasmine or fragrant lilies in strength. As I approached the cyclamen bench, I smelled what could have been a fine floral perfume wafting through the air. It didn’t take long to trace it to the Cyclamen purpurascens, which were pumping it out like crazy.  After a lot of sniffing I chose the two most fragrant ones, which, just by chance, have very different leaf designs. They are now happily planted in the front garden under a Japanese maple tree.

If this doesn't make you want to grow cyclamens, I don't know what will. 

[All photos are mine]

Monday, November 2, 2015


Thanks to Azar for another Mass-Market Monday post! Somehow I missed ever smelling this one.
The golden leaves and blustery wet weather make it clear that winter is on its way.  It is time to snuggle up near a warm fire with a good book.  It's also time for couple of generous blasts of my favorite spicy oriental fragrance - vintage Basile by Basile.  I much prefer this warm, Italian mass-market beauty to the more popular (and more expensive) YSL Opium.

The Basile I love is the EdP from the 1980s. This deep amber colored jus resides in a narrow, angular bottle adorned with geometric, black plastic "shoulder pads" - so 80s! As far as I know the newer version of Basile is only available in EdT. While very similar to the original, the reformulation is missing the shoulder pads and seriously skimps on the rich clove, warm ylang-ylang and intense tangerine that are so generously supplied in the earlier version.

Here are the notes listed on Fragrantica: 
Top - tangerine, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, cinnamon, cloves.
Heart - jasmine, tuberose, rose, iris.
Base - sandalwood, patchouli, oakmoss, amber.

I don't always agree with or understand the published breakdown of a fragrance, but vintage Basile evolves exactly as the description above suggests. Sparkling tangerine is spiced with cinnamon and clove and rounded out with the richness of ylang-ylang and orange blossom. The fragrance evolves to a lush rosy, floral and dries after 8 hours (or so) to amber, oakmoss and sandalwood infused with remnants of the initial comforting ylang-ylang and mouthwatering tangerine.

The "mouthwatering tangerine" reminds me that November is the month when the new crops of citrus fruits hit our Pacific Northwest markets.  It is time for me to start nagging the produce managers about just when to expect the new pomelos, tangerines and grapefruits!  When these new crops finally arrive I am invariably treated to fresh cut samples of the latest and greatest from Florida, California, Texas and around the world.  Yum!

I wear the majority of my big, spicy oriental fragrances any time of the year but for some reason I tend to reserve Basile  (which is a little more "subtle" than most) for late fall and early winter.  What is your favorite spicy oriental?  Do you enjoy it year round?   
Azar xx  
Sounds like I need to try this! It looks like you can get a very large bottle of the new version for under $15 on Amazon. 

[Bottle with shoulder pads photo by Azar; new bottle photo from Fragrantica; other images from Wikimedia]


The winner of the book offered in the Dead Department Store Drawing is: